It’s summertime and art shows have sprung out all over. Every time we go to one we see paintings that might have been done with a computer program. Some of them they are, and they’re often the best in the show.

One artist whose work we liked said she used Ulead PhotoImpact, an old program you can find for about $5 on the web. We like it too and have used it for many years. On the other end of the scale is the new Corel Painter, which sells for $429, for Windows 10 or Mac.

This is the program to get if you want the kind of effects professionals get. You can recreate brush strokes, palette knife smears, colors that drip or wash out — for those special casual watercolor effects, and it’s all digital. Check out examples by Googling the phrase “Corel User Galleries.” The examples are knockouts. You can try out some yourself at, where you can  download a 30-day free trial and paint along.

When you watch painters painting with a computer program, it looks like they are using brushes dripping with paint, but they’re using only a stylus. Painter’s new “thick paint” lets you carve into, scrape, and push around paint using the digital equivalent of palette knives. (The Italian for this scratching technique is “Sgrafitto,” and it’s been around since ancient times; it’s the common technique for decorating ancient Greek vases.) Add thick layers or nubby texture to a two-dimensional picture to make it look three dimensional. You can change the lighting as you paint, to produce effects like parts that seem to be shining. We watched an artist digitally painting on top of a photograph that was showing beneath the surface of his screen. That kinda makes it easier to do someone’s portrait.

Now there will be the usual spontaneous protest demonstrations by purists. And to them we say: Before the 18th century artists mixed their own paints and made their own brushes; now they go to the store. Times change. When Beethoven composed his sonatas and concertos, the piano was a new instrument; the word was short for “piano forte,” meaning it could go either soft or loud, unlike its predecessor, the harpsichord, which has only one level. The piano was the modern synthesizer of its day. Times change; art is up to the artist.

 Find That Phone

One of us (we dasn’t say who) is always misplacing her cell phone. (Oops.) We can call its number from another phone or ask Alexa to do that if we can’t find another phone or are just feeling too lazy to look for one.  But what if the lost phone is off? Aye, there’s the rub.

For Android phones, go to, sign in, and ask your phone to ring. It will ring even if you’ve silenced the ringer. Unfortunately, it won’t work if your battery is dead or the phone is off. Nothing can be done about that; dead phones are dead.

For iPhones, go to and put in your user name and password. Click  “Find my iPhone.” When a map comes up, click “devices” in the upper left, choose your device and click “play sound.” Unfortunately,  you have to have the “Find My iPhone” app set up on your phone first. For instructions on that, go to and search on “How to Use Find My iPhone.”

Safe Travels

A reader pinned us down about a travel router we wrote about recently. To avoid unsafe WiFi networks in hotels, we suggested using the “RavPower FileHub Plus,” to share your phone’s cellular connection with other devices. That turned out to be expensive and well, let’s face it: wrong.

It turns out that the $40 FileHub shares either a WiFi or wired connection, not cellular.  That’s actually a good thing, because a cellular connection gets expensive fast as you eat up data. But it begs the question: Is using a so-called “travel router” any safer than using the hotel’s naked Internet connection? You bet.

Yes, an extra layer of security is added because you’re prompted to use your own password. Hackers are unlikely to be able to listen in, unless you’re one of those people who choose “password” for your password.

But the manual for this thing is a hundred pages long and far too tech-y. Our reader said the real instructions start on page 44 and he wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing — even though he’s a retired Information Technology guy! But the travel router did create a more secure WiFi connection for all of his devices. (Years ago we used to complain about the people who write tech manuals but it was like whistling into the wind and we gave it up.)

Another option is the “Nano Travel Router” from TP-Link, $25 on Amazon. It’s so small, it could fit in your glasses case. (You should get one of those tracker stickers so that later you can find your glasses.) Like the RAVPower, it creates a secure WiFi hotspot so that all of your devices can get on the Internet safely in a hotel or other public environment. The RAVPower FileHub gets higher ratings, possibly because it also stores a lot of movies. But Amazon recommends the one from TP-Link. versus 23andMe

Joy was disappointed when said she had no Cherokee Indian heritage. According to her grandmother, her grandmother’s father was a full Cherokee.  So she sent a DNA sample to  23andMe and got a health report to boot.

Unfortunately, this report also showed zero Native American heritage. The  best explanation she could think of was that some whites were captured by Indians or joined voluntarily and grew up with the tribe. Ben Franklin once complained about the large number of colonists who chose to leave civilization for the life of the tribe. So perhaps Joy’s ancestor lived as a Cherokee but had no Cherokee blood.

The basic 23andMe report is $99, and if you order a health report too, the total is $199.  It’s full of info. Joy’s dad had Parkinson’s disease, so she was happy to learn that she had no genetic variants for Parkinson’s. She has a 30 percent chance of getting Alzheimer’s after age 85, though diet and exercise can prevent it, even when the odds are much higher. The report has dozens of oddball observations as well, such as whether you have the elite athlete’s genes for sprinting. (Joy does not.)  It said she was likely able to handle more caffeine than most people. (Not true.) They also said she was likely to weigh more than the average woman of her height. They said the average American woman who is 5’6″ weighs 167 pounds, but Joy weighs 118. So the bottom line (so to speak) is that the current fashion for having your DNA read does not produce infallible results.


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