Thursday, 12 January 2012

How To Convert Text To an E-Book

Question: My father has written several books about his time as a game warden. How can I convert these to e-books?

Answer: Start with a converter program like Calibre. It can turn TXT, ODT and PDF files into common e-book formats. You could also use an e-book-creation programs like Sigil. To create an e-book for the Kindle, use Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing service. Visit to find links to all these programs and services.

Q: I'm trying to print some photos from a friend's Facebook account. They keep turning out blurry. What can I do to make them clearer?

A: The photos you're printing are probably low resolution. In other words, they have a low number of pixels or color units. Trying to blow them up to a normal photo size makes the pixels larger and causes blurring. You'll want to contact your friend and see if he or she has high-resolution originals you can download. That should give you better prints.

Q: I accidentally set my OS X user account image to a goofy photo I took. How can I change it to something else?

A: To exile the goofy self-portrait, go to System Preferences, then to Accounts. Click on the photo, and you'll be able to replace it with the generic art there or a better self-portrait. Your iPhone and other Apple gadget will grab the Account Picture from your home computer and put it in your Contacts file whenever you sync the device (to get new music or an operating system update). Deleting or replacing the Contacts picture is as simple as tapping on it.

Q: I was trying to tell someone to type a "/" over the phone. Then I realized I didn't know what the symbol is called. Can you shed some light on it?

A: Certainly. That is called a forward slash. Other keyboard symbols you might need to know are # (number sign, pound or hash mark), > (less than and greater than), (caret), ~ (tilde) and \ (back slash). You'll see the - (hyphen or minus), _ (underscore), | (pipe), [ ] (square brackets) and { } (curly brackets). You probably already know * (star or asterisk), % (percent), and ! (exclamation point).

Q: I'm trying to remove the background from a photo. I know you can do it in Photoshop, but I can't spend the money. Is there another program you can recommend?

A: Photoshop is a very powerful program, but it's very expensive. For a similar programs that's truly free, I recommend GIMP. You can use GIMP's select tools to separate your subject from the background. In many cases, it won't be simple, but I have the steps for you at

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

How to Keep Parenthood From Making Your Marriage Miserable

Contemporary depictions of marriage would have you believe that a baby will push your spouse away, but that isn't necessarily the case

Must parenthood make your marriage miserable? Contemporary depictions in the press and popular culture might make you think so. Jennifer Senior's much discussed New York magazine piece, "Why Parents Hate Parenting," last year documented the apparent legions of affluent urban parents who find themselves with everything they dreamed of -- an educated, attractive spouse; fulfilling careers for wife and husband; and one or two healthy children -- who nevertheless experience parenting as a burdensome chore and a profound obstacle to a happy marriage. "Why Parents Hate Parenting" was replete with art photos of a beautiful young wife and handsome, shirtless husband in a retro-chic home with their healthy infant twin boys ... and everyone looking miserable in every shot. Similar depictions can be found of the challenges of combining marriage and parenthood can be found on television shows like Up All Night and movies like Flirting With Disaster.

Some women apparently decide that parenthood and a happy marriage are so incompatible they would rather strike out on their own as a single mother rather than settle for a hum-drum marriage and family life. Lori Gottleib's opening salvo several years ago on the pages of this magazine declaring that having a baby with no man underfoot solves the dilemma of late-thirty-something professional womanhood was one contribution to the evolving narrative that a baby is a woman's reward after decades of dedicating herself to a career, that adult relationships are often unstable or unappealing, and that marriage need not precede motherhood. In a recent Slate piece, single mother of two Katie Roiphe writes of sensing jealousy among her academic colleagues because she has managed to achieve the blessing of two children without having to "pay ... the usual price [of] ... Thai food and a video with your husband on a Saturday night." Recent movies like The Back-Up Plan starring Jennifer Lopez and The Switch starring Jennifer Aniston lend plausibility to the idea that it is easier to go it alone as a parent.

A substantial minority -- about 35 percent -- of husbands and wives do not experience parenthood as an obstacle to marital happiness.

These modern day portraits of parenthood raise vital questions: Do women and men today experience parenthood differently depending on whether they are married or unmarried? And, if they are married, is parenthood itself an obstacle to a good marriage?

In a new report "When Baby Makes Three: How Parenthood Makes Life Meaningful and How Marriage Makes Parenthood Bearable" (PDF), just published in the latest issue of the State of Our Unions, we examined nationally-representative survey data, including a new, nationally-representative study of more than 1,400 married couples (18-46), to respond to these questions.

Contrary to the celebratory pieces on voluntary single motherhood by journalists like Roiphe, we found that married parents generally do experience more happiness and less depression than parents who are unmarried. For instance, among women, 50 percent of married mothers report that they are "very happy" with life, compared to 39 percent of cohabiting mothers and 25 percent of single mothers, even after controlling for differences in education, income, and race/ethnicity. The transition to parenthood is hard, but being married helps soften the blow.

We also found that the impact of parenthood is not negative on outcomes such as marital stability or whether one perceives one's life to have meaning. In fact, married parents -- especially women -- are significantly more likely to report that their "life has an important purpose," compared to their childless peers. For instance, 57 percent of married mothers reported high levels of a sense of purpose, compared to 40 percent of childless wives.

Yet the picture is somewhat more complex than that. Readers may be familiar with recent debates among scholars and in the media about whether having children negatively impacts the quality of marriage. Much was made of Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert's book, Stumbling on Happiness, published in 2006, which concluded, based on a review of recent studies, that "marital satisfaction decreases dramatically after the birth of the first child -- and increases only when the last child has left home." In 2009, at the New York Times' Motherlode blog reporter Lisa Belkin shared a British researcher's summary of existing studies in the U.S. and Europe which found, on average, that parents have lower levels of happiness, life satisfaction, marital satisfaction, and mental well-being, compared to non-parents. Likewise, we also found that parenthood is typically associated with lower levels of marital happiness among contemporary couples.

But we also found something that surprised us. A substantial minority -- about 35 percent -- of husbands and wives do not experience parenthood as an obstacle to marital happiness. These couples seem to navigate the shoals of parenthood without succumbing to comparatively low levels of marital happiness. What is their secret? We identified ten aspects of contemporary social life and relationships -- such as marital generosity, good sex, religious faith, thrift, shared housework, and more -- that seem to boost women's and men's odds of successfully combining marriage and parenthood.

Our findings go beyond the tired, old debates about gender roles and marriage. In the 1960s and '70s, in part as a consequence of the feminist movement and the therapeutic revolution, many wives understandably rejected what was then a heavily-gendered ethic of marital sacrifice and instead took a more individualistic approach to marriage, focused on meeting their own needs. But if the 1970s divorce revolution taught us anything, it was that heavy doses of individualism and a good marriage aren't very compatible.

Our report suggests, in contrast, that in today's marriages both wives and husbands benefit when they embrace an ethic of marital generosity that puts the welfare of their spouse first. That is, both are happier in their marriages when they make a regular effort to serve their spouse in small ways -- from making them a cup of coffee, to giving them a back rub after a long day, to going out of their way to be affectionate or forgiving. So the lesson here is not for wives now to throw off an other-centered ethic as a relic of an ancient era, but rather for contemporary husbands to embrace this ethic for themselves and their families.

Today, a growing proportion of young adults in the United States worry that having both a good marriage and a happy family life with children is unattainable. And their worries are mirrored in much of the commentary, television shows, and movies that dwell on relationships and family life in America.

But we have good news for these young people. By embracing some new values -- like date nights, shared housework, and an ethic of marital generosity -- and some old values -- like commitment, thrift, and a shared faith -- it appears that today's parents can dramatically increase their odds of forging a stable and happy marriage. This means that couples need not despair after the arrival of a baby. If one-third of today's married parents can successfully combine marriage and parenthood, surely many more can flourish when baby makes three.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

How To Get Holiday Glow

Somewhere between making your list and checking it twice, hair and makeup get lost in the shuffle. Who has time to worry about either when there are cookies to bake, trees to trim and gifts to wrap? Take another sip of eggnog, and try these beauty shortcuts on for size. They'll keep you looking chic well into the new year.

1. Glow with the flow: When strategically placed, shimmer creates a flawless, can't-put-their-finger-on-it radiance. Swipe a liquid highlighter (MAC Strobe Cream, $15) on your brow bones or cheekbones for a light-reflecting lift. Treat imperfections and pastiness on exposed limbs to tinted moisturizer like Miracle Skin Transformer Body ($34), or mix a bit of bronzer with your favorite lotion.

2. Ride the crimson tide: The poster child for party makeup, red lipstick can take you from office drab to soiree fab in seconds. But it's so high-maintenance. To keep your scarlet pucker in place, not on your champagne flute, Julie Swenson of St. Paul Beauty Lounge (612-741-0288) recommends applying foundation to your lips first, then lining with a nude pencil.

3. Bun your braids: Try this five-minute (yes, five) twist on the braid from Charlie Brackney, founder and creative director at HAUS Salon in Minneapolis. Step one: Braid dry hair into four large braids, two in the front and two in the back. Step two: Gently pull the braids apart with your fingers. "Don't be afraid if they get a little fuzzy, say Brackney. "That's texture, and texture is modern!" Step three: Gather the braids into a loose formation at the nape of your neck - either centered or off to the side - and start pinning. Voila! Effortless glamour for any occasion.

4. Blot, spray and go: Instead of adding another layer of makeup, bring what's left back to life by blotting away shine with Tatcha blotting papers ($12), then misting skin with a hydrating toner like Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater ($7). Give locks a lift with a spritz of dry shampoo at the roots to sop up scalp oil and add volume. Try Batiste Dry Shampoo ($8).

5. Get cheeky: There's nothing like flushed cheeks to brighten up your entire face. "If you only have time for one change, choose your cheeks," says Emily Koski of Emily J Hair & Makeup (612-590-8174). "Use a cream blush for a more dramatic look, and blend well into the apples of your cheeks." Koski likes Nars the Multiple in Orgasm ($39), which can also be used on eyes and lips.

6. Take a smoky eye shortcut: They're glamorous to be sure, but smoky eyes present a major time and technique barrier. Swenson prefers a modified smoky eye: Simply smudge a dark charcoal shadow into top and bottom lash lines using your finger or a brush. That's it! Try Laura Mercier Sequin Eye Color in Black Ice, $22.

7. Get balmed: Moisturizing, smoothing and portable, balms are the ultimate multi-tasker. Tame frizzy, flyaway hair; groom unruly brows; add gleam to eyelids, shins and cheekbones, and soften lips and cuticles. The possibilities are endless, and can be executed while slipping on your party shoes. For best results, choose a balm containing natural waxes and plant oils, such as Josie Maran Argan Oil Moisturizing Stick ($22).

8. Don't do your hair: For festive tresses without the intricate updo or complicated curls, just add one of the season's vintage-inspired hair accessories. "A slim jeweled headband will instantly dress up your look," says Koski. "If you don't own one, rifle through your grandmother's jewelry box for costume jewelry that could be pinned or tucked into a hair band."

9. Nail it in one step: Manicure? In your dreams! Local manicurist Rhonda Hansford's one-trick pony: Apply Smith's Rosebud Salve ($6) to your lips, then massage any remaining product into clean nails and cuticles for a just-buffed shine. If you still want polish, paint on one coat of the season's blingy gold or silver shades - the only accessory you'll need for that LBD.

10. Hire a pro: If you have a little more time to spare, have the pros come to you. Jon Charles Salon (612-724-2444 or 952-767-9977) will pull up in an Airstream and give you and your besties blow-outs ($75 hourly/five-person minimum). Koski's team will do your hair and makeup while you lounge in a robe (from $60; group discounts available). When a cocktail dress calls for a bit of color, Glow (952-500-0458) mobile airbrush tanning can customize a sunless tan or help you host a "Tantini" party ($45 and up).

(Minneapolis-based lifestyle writer Elizabeth Dehn is the founder of

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