It seems like a lot of the people we meet want to be writers. And they have a great subject for a novel: it’s about them. A good start might be finding an agent. Nowadays, you can find them online. lists over 1500 literary agents, with brief information about each. It’s free to sign up, and the site can keep track of how many pitch letters you’ve sent, where they went and when. This could prevent some embarrassing moments, like sending the same letter to the same agent several times.

Click on any agent’s name to find out the kinds of authors they represent. Some prefer pitch letters by email, others ask you to fill out a form online.  Click on “success stories” to see some sample pitch letters and other strategies. We read about a novelist who sent 120 pitch letters before nabbing an agent.

Bob noticed that all of the success stories were about women. Is this an oddity or a trend? Certainly, women use more words than men to describe people and situations and this could be an advantage in stretching a story to novel length. The road to publication is still long and hard however; J.K. Rowling’s book about a young boy learning to be a magician was rejected by 12 publishers. We wonder if it ever had any success.


  • 12 Life-changing Challenges You Can Try as 30 Day Projects” has an article from  One challenge is to doodle every day. Another is to drop a bad habit for 30 days. Or watch 30 documentaries. Or go outside.
  • The most disproportionately well-paying jobs in each state” has an interesting map showing which jobs make the most money compared to the national average for that job. Waiters make more in Vermont. Tile and marble setters make more in Massachusetts. Teachers make more in Rhode Island. Judges make more in California. Prison wardens make more in New Jersey. (Understandable.) Dentists make more in Ohio. There are four states where coaches and talent scouts do well.
  • claims to have 79,811 coupons at 11,950 stores. Some are better than others. We clicked on “TJ Maxx” but it took us to the home page of the website. Same thing happened with Vera Bradley. At SwimSpot, the coupon was dead on arrival and they wanted $40 to ship a tiny one-piece bathing suit. We finally hit pay dirt at Kohls with 20 percent off. This coupon stuff is hard work. We hope the readers share their favorite coupon sites.

The Numbers Report

  • Podcasts are listened to by 67 million people each month, according to Zephoria Inc, a marketing firm. Smartphones are the new radio for millennials18 to 34. There are over 300,000 podcasts, on subjects as diverse as woodworking and politics. The top podcasts – which can draw hundreds of thousands of downloads – attract advertisers.
  • One quarter of all U.S. households have “cut the cord,” as they say, and no longer pay for cable TV. The numbers are growing; our guess is the industry is not.

Facebook Porn

A reader says she’s been plagued by offensive ads on Facebook, even after deleting her account three times. Sounds like a virus. We, for example, have never seen an offensive ad on Facebook.

To get rid of a virus, you can run your anti-virus software or download a free program such as Avast or Avira. Also run the free MalwareBytes, from

If you’re still getting annoying Facebook ads, here’s what to do. Click the upper right corner of the ad and choose “hide ad.” If you never want to see those ads for stewed prunes again, you won’t.

Our reader was also bothered by robo-calls on her cell phone. Who isn’t? We got rid of ours with “TrueCaller,” a free app. It stores those junky phone numbers on its database of caller IDs. It has such a long list of spam callers, we only had to add another one once; the other spam calls were blocked automatically.

Free Games

Bob is fond of the simple computer game “Little Brick Out,” or sometimes “Breakout.” (Actually this is an historically important game, since Steve Wozniak, designer of the Apple computer, also liked it, and made the Apple have a color display so he could play it.)

You can go to and type “Atari Breakout” to play a standard version or click here. The game comes right up, ready to play.

Type “PacMan” or “Solitaire” in the Google search box to play two more of the most addictive games ever. Other things to try searching for:  “Do a barrel roll”, “askew”, “<blink>“, “roll a die,” “timer,” and “flip a coin.” (With the barrel roll, it’s your screen that does it, not you.)

Pop-Ups versus Notifications

We’re not bothered by pop-ups when we use Google Chrome, the leading web browser, ahead of Firefox, Safari and others. But we have been  bedeviled by “notifications.” A website called “LiveScience,” for example, popped up with alerts every few seconds. (They also provided misinformation, like telling us gasoline was heavier than water, which it is not.) Here’s how to get rid of those and others.

On your computer, click the three vertical dots in the upper right of your Chrome browser window. Click “Settings.” Click “Advanced Settings.” Scroll down till you get to the “Privacy” area. Click “Content Settings.” Now look at “Pop-ups” and make sure they’re disabled. Then scroll to “Notifications.” Click “Manage Exceptions” and click to disable any that you don’t want popping up.

On your phone, tap the three vertical dots in the Chrome browser and look at the “Privacy” settings. Disable anything you don’t want popping up.



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