an outlet of encouragement, explanation, and exhortation

Category: What am I up to?

Some stuff that I find worth a bit of time and energy and creative juice

My most useful Android apps in January, 2024

As we exit 2023 and enter 2024, I continue to use my Pixel 7 Pro. So far I have not been persuaded that it would be worth upgrading to a Pixel 8 Pro; though perhaps I’m not taking into account the extended software update period of the 8 or the trade-in value of my 7? Why Pixel? Because the Pixel phones receive Android updates sooner than other phones and because I want more of a stock Android experience and less bloatware.

Why Android? Because I started with Apple and their excellent engineering and innovation. Then they lost me with their marketing approach that disregards standards and uses unnecessarily different software and hardware to force customers to buy high-priced Apple products instead of more standard accessories and peripherals. Also, for quite some time it was not easy at all to use an iPhone like a computer, with straightforward file access and transfer! Perhaps this last issue has been mitigated. I don’t much care any longer. The Apple marketing approach remains arrogant and elitist. Just look at the iMessage debacle when it comes to interacting with Android phones. Apple won’t allow others to use iMessage protocols and they won’t use more standard protocols themselves, all in the interest of making Android users look bad to iPhone users to exert social pressure on teens (and others) to get an iPhone.

I don’t mean to say that no one should get an iPhone or a Mac or whatever. The quality of these devices is quite good. My advice is to get whatever sort of devices are used by those to whom you will turn for support – and that you can afford. If your tech-savvy friends all use iPhones and that’s where you’ll go for help, you should get an iPhone. If they all use Android phones, you should also go Android. If you’re an early adopter, trail blazer type, you don’t need me to tell you what to do.

In any case, I thought I’d list not all of the apps on my phone, which would be a lengthy list including apps that I rarely touch, but some of the apps that I really use a lot – and one lament/gripe. I found as I wrote that I also drifted a little into other cloud and computer applications related to my Android usage. For me, my phone is a personal computer and camera and network access device that I carry around with me in my pocket. That it is a phone is kind of incidental! I don’t think I’m particularly unique in this respect.

Oh, and before getting into apps, about charging my phone battery… I try to max it out at 80% or so. Charging that last 20% is bad for the long life of your phone battery. My Pixel 7 Pro will run for a very long time on an 80% charge even if I’m taking lots of photos. I confess that I still feel a bit anxious when the charge gets below 60%; but that’s a personal problem. I have a good charger and cable in the cars I use regularly and carry battery-powered chargers in my camera bag and backpack. I find that I very rarely use the battery-powered chargers now with my Pixel 7 Pro; it lasts. Also, the late versions of Android do a pretty good job of telling you what is sucking the power out of your phone: Settings -> Battery -> Battery Usage. I occasionally use wireless charging because it is convenient. However, it generates more heat while charging which is not good for your battery and uses more power per unit of charge (so if you are trying to be marginally more green…)

On to the apps:

Google Chrome – I continue to use Chrome as my main browser

Nova Launcher – While the Pixel Launcher is good enough that I might just use it and forgo the enhancements of Nova if I was starting now, I’ve invested in creating groupings of apps that I access from icons on the home screens of my phone that are not easily reproduced in the Pixel Launcher – there’s no way to easily export and import between these launchers. I don’t normally recommend that others get Nova unless they are tech nerds. And then I don’t need to recommend. The downside to this is that it makes it less easy to offer support to others who use the Pixel Launcher, such as my dear wife.

Gmail – I continue to use Gmail to access my various email accounts.

Google Photos – This is a good tool for less-than-ideal online backup and for sharing photos with family and friends. The automated gathering of collections that include certain people is very useful. This can be use to turn Nest Displays into picture frames to share photos with geographically distant family. The editing tools are pretty reasonable, too – particularly if you have a Pixel phone. I still like editing in Snapseed for some edits (like fixing white balance), and use ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate and Adobe Photoshop and Premiere products for sophisticated editing on my PC. I only let Google Photos automatically sync my phone pictures to the cloud.

Google Messages – I use this for standard messaging. (I use Signal for secure messaging; but not very often.) I don’t care about the color of bubbles that iPhone users see and I use Google Photos for sharing photos with iPhone users instead of sending photos via messaging. What? They don’t have Google Photos and don’t want it? OK, I’ll send the photo as an email attachment.

Google Meet and such- I use Google Meet to call my Dad on his home display. I use Zoom for meetings. I use FreeConferenceCall with a paid private-to-me phone number for straightforward conference call meetings, audio only. For privacy, consider Signal.

Google Maps – I use Google Maps every day. I tell it to save my location history. I use it as a kind of journal of where I’ve been. I’m not very nefarious, so I don’t worry too much over the potential privacy issues. I don’t share my location with others except temporarily or with close family members.

Pixel Camera – The camera on Pixel phones is a major motivator for my choice of Pixel phone. If the camera was not excellent I would consider other phones. I chose the Pixel 7 Pro over the Pixel 7 purely due to the 5x optical telephoto camera feature that the 7 lacks. Otherwise I’d have gone with the smaller form factor of the 7. Having this phone with good-enough zoom for most stuff means I don’t lug my real camera around nearly so often. I even travel without my real camera most of the time. Convenience! Less shoulder and back strain! But if I want to take a picture of a soaring hawk or an air show, the real camera with a good telephoto lens is a much, much better choice.

Cloud Storage – I use Google Drive quite a lot, and have a Google One subscription. I also have OneDrive through Microsoft that comes with my Office 365 annual subscription. I find OneDrive excessively clumsy to use. But hey, there’s a terabyte of storage for me there. I try to keep it from doing anything automatically because a terabyte isn’t enough for anything automatic with me and OneDrive seems unreliable even when I configure it for background tasks.

Evernote – Sigh. This is my lament. I have appreciated Evernote quite a lot over the years – enough to pay around $30/year to use it. But the new pricing since Evernote was acquired is more like $130/year! That’s too much for what I get out of it. So I’m saving my notes elsewhere. So far, I’ve saved my old notes to OneNote through a complicated process that I am not yet sure was reliable. I still have access to my old notes through the free Evernote account I retain. I find that I’m saving new notes in Google Docs in a designated folder tree. We shall see where this goes – if OneNote can capture my note taking attention or if Google documents prevail. FYI, OneNote uses part of my OneDrive terabyte for what it keeps in the cloud. This is fine by me, since OneDrive isn’t so useful to me otherwise.

Office 365 – This is good software. I like it and use it a lot, particularly Word, Powerpoint, and Excel. I also like Google apps – particularly Google Documents on Google Drive. So far, I’m not a fan of Office trying to push me to OneDrive instead of local storage. I have my local storage system worked out already, thank you, with good backup and sharing solutions in place. I really like that Word in Office 365 online will transcribe audio files. This is very helpful to me since I tend to combine study using audio classes and lectures with exercise.

Weather apps – I have Accuweather, 1Weather, The Weather Channel, Wunderground…. and others. I sort of like Wunderground even though it has never really recovered from being purchased by IBM some years ago. I use Chronus Pro to display weather info on my home screen. Also, I’m checking out the Windy app and find it sometimes useful – the free version only so far.

TV Apps – Pick what you subscribe to, be it Netflix or Britbox or Acorn or AppleTV or…. There’s nothing interesting to see here. They’re all kind of bad at user interaction but adequate for showing TV shows. Some allow downloading for viewing offline. The offline experience is iffy at best for all of them, in my experience. Sometimes it works ok. Other times… Oops, that show is “expired” or it just won’t play. I use VLC for viewing video files and sometimes for listening to audio files from my private library.

Adobe Acrobat – Yeehaw! While there are other good PDF file readers, Acrobat will audibly read your PDF to you. And the Liquid mode, or whatever it is that makes PDF files more readable on a phone screen is kind of nice.

Adobe Scan and Google Photoscan work well for digitizing documents into pictures. I haven’t done a lot of converting scanned images to text, but Google Lens does the trick for me in simple cases I’ve needed.

Google Lens – Speaking of Google Lens, this is a really useful tool for identifying whatever you just took a picture of or extracting text from a picture. You can access it from Google Photos or the Camera app or even Chrome. Google image search is also pretty good at finding the origin of photos on the web.

Travel Apps – It’s generally worth having the app for the airline that you are traveling on and the car rental company that you are renting a car from. The airline apps keep you officially informed and can be used for checking in, digital boarding passes, etc. The car rental apps are often helpful in bypassing the rental counter (and the associated long line) and going directly to your car. For generic flight tracking, I use Flightview Elite in addition to airline apps.

Financial Apps – I use the apps from my Bank and Credit Card companies. When anything is charged to my card anywhere, I get an immediate notification on my phone. I mean, while I’m standing in front of the cash register even and the clerk is processing my payment (whether touchless or by handing over a card), I get a notification that my charge account has been used. And yes, I use GPay (aka Google Pay) so I don’t have to even carry my wallet or hand over a card to a cashier when I can avoid it. Google Wallet is a good way to slim down what you have to carry in your physical wallet.

Bible Software – I use Logos nearly all the time. I also use Bible Gateway occasionally, and also the YouVersion Bible app. The YouVersion Bible app is quite good if you don’t have something like Logos. I am a big fan of the Bible Project; they also have a nice app.

Social Media – Blah, blah, blah. Use what you use; don’t let it use you… too much. I’m not going there, but I will mention Substack and Flickr. Flickr is more of a place to share and curate photos without the ads of that other more popular place.

Pocket Casts – I started using Pocket Casts long ago. Back then they had a lifetime deal on the better pro-like version. Then they were acquired and that wasn’t really honored so now they have a higher cost tier. I’m not paying them any more money but I continue to use the version that doesn’t cost. It’s quite good.

Audio – I pay for a Spotify subscription to avoid commercials and listen to whatever I want to listen to. I also use Amazon Music because I have quite a lot of past purchases of albums that I can listen to online and download to listen to offline with Amazon. And I have an extensive library of MP3’s made to back up my old CD and Vinyl library. There are many apps for listening to MP3’s on your phone. I sometimes use PowerAmp; but it has become cluttered with features. So often I just use VLC for audio. I use Smart Audiobook Player to listen to my downloaded talks, classes, and books that I have saved as MP3 files in the past – things like Regent College classes. I use Audible for audiobooks. LibriVox is pretty good for listening to audiobooks made from stuff that is out of copyright. Sometimes I resort to Patreon to listen to podcasts that are exclusive to paid subscribers. Lectio 365 is a really good audio daily devotional app; there are devotionals for morning and evening with parallel text of what you hear in the audio for reference. Logos also does audio and I should probably make more use of it. I listen to lots of podcasts using Pocket Casts and “Hey Google, play the news” through the Google assistant. Be sure and configure what news sources you want Google Assistant to play.

Video – I use VLC to play my video files. You know, MP4’s and the like. Home video and other non-streaming video. Streaming video needs an app determined by the stream you are watching, like YouTube.

Google Home, Nest, and other Home Automation – I use Google Home and the Google Assistant for smart home stuff. I don’t like that internet connectivity is required for controlling my devices; but Google Home is easy. Sigh. Since Matter came into use, the need for other home automation apps is fading. But I still have the Philips Hue and the Kasa apps on my phone. There are fairly easy ways to get home automation without the cloud using open source software (like Home Assistant). (I am experimenting with Home Assistant on a Raspberry Pi as of March, 2024.)

DuckDuckGo – DuckDuckGo includes a browser that is pretty good for looking at things you don’t want to influence ads and the other things trackers do. They also have software that disables tracking from all apps on your phone. Some apps really don’t like this and stop working, like the ESPN app. For most apps you just stop being tracked. I appreciate being able to throw a wrench into the tracking gears; but I’m not really fanatic about it. The DuckDuckGo anti-tracking software reports the tracking that is undermines. (It is kind of stunning how much tracking Google does through apps that are not Google apps!)

Passport – You need this app to park in some lots and along some streets around Long Beach, CA. Why does it tell me that my parking spot at Seal Beach from months ago is expiring every time my phone is restarted?

Peakfinder – What’s that mountain over there called? This app will tell you. Point your phone at the horizon with the mountain on it. You can set it up to have offline information.

FlightRadar24 – You use this app to find out what that airplane is (or those airplanes are) that are passing overhead – not private airplanes.

BackBlaze – I use Backblaze to back up my PC. The app allows me to access the backed up stuff from my phone. I use client-side encryption.

Brother Print Service, Brother iPrint&Scan – I have been purchasing Brother printers in recent years. They work and are not too expensive to keep in supplies.

Authy and other Authenticators – I use authenticator apps when available for two-factor authentication. I prefer Authy when an authenticator app is needed.

Battery Widget Reborn – I use this widget on my home screen for high-visibility battery level display.

Astro Clock – I like the plethora of location, moon, sun, and planetary information this app squeezes onto one screen! OK, this is for astro-nerds.

Sky Map – there are a lot of apps for helping you identify things in the sky at night. I’ve been using Sky Map, which is usually good enough for me. There are other, more sophisticated apps and apps that will avoid messing up your night sight (and that of others nearby) by using carefully selected colors on your phone display.

Information Apps – There are many apps for specialized information: Tide tables, tying knots, First Aid, trail maps, recommendations for craftsmen. I have some of these. Choose those that tell you what you want to know and avoid excessive ads and costly or unfair marketing strategies. I don’t have much that is interesting to say regarding these apps. I’ll just recommend that we all pay to eliminate ads as appropriate. Programmers deserve compensation like any other laborer.

Technical Information Apps – I’m not really going to get any deeper into my techno-nerd apps here. I have apps for network analyzing, monitoring wifi, mapping wifi coverage, checking what devices are on the LAN, managing my access points and network access, benchmarking connection speeds and processing speed, checking hardware status, etc.

Programmer/Developer Apps – I’m leaving all these out, too because most would not find them of interest. However, I can benchmark Lisp on my phone. Just sayin’. 🙂

Mom (Formally Speaking)

Below is the obituary that I put together for my mother shortly after she passed in early February. It’s not really much in the way of special memories or deep thoughts – though I captured a couple of hers in very brief form. It’s more the formal obituary that one finds in the newspapers. Or used to find in the newspaper and now one finds…. where? Well, here at least.

My sister Janice and my brother John and I called her (unsurprisingly) “Mom.” Mom was the branch for my ancestral Quaker roots, and her father Albert the one through whom much of the lifeblood of the Quaker incarnation of following Jesus flowed to me. Family. Anderson First Friends Church. Mom and Dad began taking in foster kids when I was in middle school, I think. It was just a thing we did…

Services in these strange and tragic times are difficult for family spread across the country and we are still working that out. Well, I said this was the formal part, so below is Mom’s obituary.

Rachael Ann Ginder, 83, of Anderson, passed away on  February 3, 2021, at Community Hospital of Anderson. She was born on December 8, 1937, in Anderson, the daughter of Albert E. and Cicely (Lancaster) Pike. Rachael was a member of First Friends Church in Anderson for much of her life and later attended Madison Park Church of God.

Rachael retired from Gaither Music, Alexandria after several years of service. She served on the board of several non-profit organizations and was a Court-appointed special advocate for a number of years. Her primary life-calling was as a mother to foster and adopted children, many with serious special needs. Over the years, with her husband Ron, she cared for over 200 children. In 1986, she received the Golden Deeds Award given annually by the Exchange clubs. She also received the Foster Parent of the Year Award twice. Featured several times in published interviews, she would emphasize, “My daily goal is to be sure disabled and dying children are not alone. You can find beauty when you allow God to give you the ability to see these little ones as he does.”

Rachael is survived by her loving husband Ronald Ginder, whom she married, July 25, 1953; her children, Joseph (Susan) Ginder, John (Belinda) Ginder; adopted children Susanna Ginder, Rebecca Ginder, and their special sibling, Jana Marie Craig; grandchildren, Laura, Ben, Sam, Brian, Joe, Lara, Monica, Gabriel, and Gene’; and 5 great-grandchildren; her sister Phyllis Van Duyn; and many nieces and nephews.

Rachael was preceded in death by her parents and daughter Janice, and adopted children Michael, Melissa, Elizabeth, Patricia, and Alissa. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.

Memorial contributions may be made to White’s Residential and Family Services, 5233 S. 50 E.,Wabash, IN 46992 (or

Episode 100 of The History of World War II Podcast

I like to listen to history podcasts. One long-running podcast that I use to fill in gaps while awaiting new episodes in others is the History of World War II by Ray Harris Jr. I just heard the 100th episode, in which I received the special treat of hearing an “interview” in which a man who grew up in Hitler’s Germany tells stories about what that was like. Then he tells stories about coming to the United States. It’s about 90 minutes of fascinating storytelling by Henry Niemann, who grew up a Seventh Day Adventist in Germany. He needs little prompting from Ray! It’s one of the best podcast listens ever for me.

You need not listen to the 99 episodes preceding or the 175 or so (to date) since #100. Just listen to #100 and run past Ray’s intro reflections on doing 100 podcasts. (It’s not that the reflections weren’t interesting; it is that they’re likely not interesting to people who haven’t heard episodes #1 through #99.) Then there’s about 90 minutes of Henry Niemann telling Ray stories that are pure gold.

And if you are interested in the history of World War II and into podcast audio, go back and listen from the beginning. Ray Harris Jr starts out new to podcasting and the beginning episodes are a bit rough. Over time, though, he hits is stride and he does a great interesting and meandering-with-a-purpose walk through the people and events surrounding the war. He finds the topics fascinating and conveys that fascination to the listener. In the first 100 episodes, you get a bit of background on the start of the war, the rise of Hitler, the fall of France, the Battle of Britain, a mini sub-podcast on Winston Churchill and even World War I, and a smattering of other episodes around the early years of the war. Then episode 100 is a jewel! He’s at episode 275 about now, which is about the fall of Singapore in 1942! Then there are the members-only episodes that I haven’t even started yet.

Euphorbia tirucalli WARNING

Firestick Pencil Cactus – Euphorbia tirucalli

You might want to get rid of these firestick pencil cactus if you have them. This one nearly sent me to the emergency room last night. Sam Ginder, Nathan, and I were outside playing catch and Nathan was restacking some garden decorations. One of them fell on this plant. It leaked white sap. In the dim light, I touched it to make sure it wasn’t white flies, a garden pest that I have fought before. It was sap instead. I thought nothing of it, but wiped the sap off my finger – just a drip. A few minutes later I went inside and carefully washed my hands with soap and water. A few minutes after that, I inadvertently touched my eye with my hand. And fire broke out! At least that’s what it felt like.

It took me a bit to piece together what had happened and read about this plant. And that was after a desperation shower to attempt to get rid of whatever was burning my eyes! Eventually, several minutes of cold water on my eyes/face made the immediate burning sensation calmer. I was moments from asking Susie to take me to the emergency room. After stopping the eye-burning, I just had a major headache until I was able to go to sleep for the night. This morning I have a blister where the stuff must have touched my arm. I carefully covered up, dug out the three of these I had planted a few months ago (fortunately they were still small) and bagged them. Having grandkids around, I shudder at the thought of one of them getting this toxic sap on their hands and face!

I think there should be a big warning on these plants to read before you buy them. I see them in many public spots around town. Beware of their sap!

Here’s a couple of articles:
If you look, you can find numerous stories worse than mine!

What am I reading and studying? [2012]

I want to record what I am reading and studying weekly or monthly, but since this is a start I’ll probably cover whatever seems recent to me this time. I’m not sure how I define “recent” precisely as a period of time. I’m talking more about my own mindshare, I suppose. It probably matters what day or hour I write, even.

The most prominent reading these days is a re-reading of Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. I’m about 75% of the way through a listen from The reading is by Nadia May and she is quite good as Oruel. The book itself is a novel, retelling the story of Cupid and Psyche in a way that displays the themes of Lewis’ essay on the Four Loves. It has the feel of being very intentional in its construction, though I don’t know if this is so much a sign of planning as hard-won wisdom ingrained in the author’s personality and mind. It works well as an audio book. I greatly love Lewis’ writing and this novel is no exception. I think I’ve read it in print a couple of times, at least – but decades past now!

I’m slowly working through Eugene Peterson’s memoir The Pastor, in print. It’s not a book to be hurried through, a trait in common with much of Peterson’s writing. I am appreciating this book more than my average for Peterson. Being a very focused person, I tend to read things all at once, consuming and being consumed by them. That’s not really a style that fits Peterson. This book is no exception. It’s a good discipline to read it over time. And the content is priceless for one called to pastoral ministry.

I am working through the audio of a class taught by Gordon Fee at Regent College on Second Corinthians. It’s about 24 hours of audio that winds itself through the Greek text of what Fee believes are two letters making up our one book of Second Corinthians. After studying Fee’s commentary on First Corinthians in the New International Commentary series in print, this is an intense pass through an even more difficult book of the Bible. Upon beginning this course, I realized I was not prepared to start that Second Corinthians preaching series I had planned to start in late January. [Note: This was written in 2012; I’ve since done this series.] As with all the classes I’ve “audio audited” at Regent College, this one is excellent. I wish I knew more Greek at times, but I’m able to get by. Or maybe I don’t know what I’m missing?

I recently listened to Rikk Watts short series called “It’s About Life: A Biblical Journey.” The first lectures were fantastic; the remainder quite good. I think I shall plan to transcribe them as another step in working through the concepts. Time, time?

In that vein, a set of lectures given by Iain Provan recently in Australia are another gold mine. I intend to transcribe at least some of them, too. Here’s what I said about them on google+: I want to highly recommend a set of lectures by Iain Provan that are free online. Look for all the audio by Iain Provan at, but particularly the second one, “Who is God?”. I suggest listening in order but the second one was just excellent. Thanks to Lou Huesmann for the recommendation to listen to these lectures!

Lastly, I continue listening to the podcasts The History of Rome and Planet Money. Mars Hill Audio Journal is another audio pleasure. I finished Norman Centuries over a couple of trips to the gym after 12 Byzantine Rulers, both by Lars Brownworth. A couple of recent episodes of This American Life, 455 and 456 also captured my attention.

You may wonder how I manage to get this much audio fitted into life. I found working out to be about the most extraordinarily boring activity on the planet. And yet, it is needed. Playing basketball is logistically more difficult (other players needed) and I am old enough to be more injury-prone. My knees are bad and I take longer to recover now! So, I hit upon the idea of combining exercise with audio and sometimes video learning opportunities. Suddenly a boring activity combined with a somewhat guilty pleasure became one of my thrice-weekly highlights! I walk to the gym, do an hour on the elliptical, move a bit of iron around, and then walk home and shower – a couple of hours total, three times per week. I also listen when I drive and when I shave and when I prepare food and eat alone… times like that. My Galaxy S II phone does many more hours as an audio player, kindle, and web browser than as a phone. So there you go.

Periodicals I read pretty thoroughly include Books & Culture, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, First Things (except I’ve started skimming past some of the really Roman Catholic stuff), The Atlantic, and Mission Frontiers.