A Fantastic and Refreshing Take On The Vampire Genre!

What happens to you as a person when vampires kidnap your little brother and you are the only witness to the crime? For Alex, his life was never the same. Feeling somewhat responsible for not having done more, he spends his life seeking out the vampires who broke his family.

In order to do so, Alex must infiltrate the dangerousBlood Under Will by Justin Wu vampire society that will allow him access to what he’s looking for. Alex assumes the identity of an 18th century vampire, Cagliostro, who mysteriously disappeared in 1789, and this is where the adventure begins.

Justin Wu is an author with a wonderfully refreshing writing style. He is well-versed and well-researched. Writes compelling storylines on the occult and magic. His characters are dominant and well-developed, exhibiting complex and rich personalities.

Blood Under Will was a real pleasure to read. It isn’t often that one gets the chance to immerse his/herself in a book that goes above and beyond the traditional writings of this genre. I truly enjoyed reading this novel and highly recommend it to anyone who wants a break from the same old vampire storylines, and enjoy something much richer and unique. For these reasons and more, I give this book five stars.

Thank you, Justin, for a wonderful story!

Graymalkin Editing

To Do List

It seems that our daily ‘To Do’ lists are endless. We’re always pressed for time, overwhelmed with responsibilities, deliverables, and overall things that need completing. It used to be that simple, To Do lists were enough to help us track our daily requirements and create a plan of action. But what if there was another way to put our time to better use and accomplish our tasks in a more productive manner? Enter ‘Time-Blocking’.

Time-blocking is the concept of organizing your time in blocks, or cycles, that allow you to dedicate a preset amount of time toward completing certain tasks. For example, say you have a number of small tasks that can be accomplished rather effortlessly and also have some more time-consuming ones that will need more of your energy. If you set aside a block of time for exclusively completing the easier and faster tasks that are consuming your list, you would know to focus your efforts during the time block (or cycle) to knocking off as many of the easier items from your list as possible.

Likewise, you could block out ‘x’ amount of time for working on the longer tasks that require more of your concentration. By arranging your day into time-blocks, you become more efficient at managing your time, as you schedule the right amount of time for tasks that make more sense–grouping smaller tasks together and tackling the harder things during longer stretches of time.

As with everything, consistency is key. Instead of concentrating on a list of ‘To Dos’, give this method a try and discipline yourself to working in blocks of time, thereby looking at your day in a different manner.


What are good time block cycles to begin with?

Take a look at your day. Break up your ‘time blocks’ into periods of time where you know that you can work uninterruptedly, allowing for the harder, longer tasks to be scheduled for the quietest times of your day, and scheduling shorter (say 30 minute bursts of time) time blocks for moments that will require more flexibility or slack on your end.

Some common sense tactics for using this method include avoiding scheduling the more difficult, time-consuming tasks to the time in your day when you are least likely to work peacefully, as well as when your energy and focus levels tend to wean.

For example, if you’re job requires you to have a mid-morning meeting, then it would be best to avoid time-blocking yourself for working on the more intense tasks either before or immediately after the meeting’s time. Why? Because you will most likely not be productive immediately before or after a meeting anyway, as things sometimes come up or follow-up may be required immediately after a meeting.

Likewise, most of us hit a mid-afternoon slump, so it would be a bit more difficult to stick to a time-block cycle that would require more energy or focus around the time when we usually lag. Common sense would dictate to avoid scheduling the more difficult things when it is realistically not feasible.

Be mindful of your needs, your body’s behavior throughout the day, and give yourself enough leeway to make time-block modifications as needed. If on a given day you find yourself being more productive in two, small 1-hour cycles with a small break in between, instead of one long 2-hour cycle, then be sure to adjust your expectations and revise your schedule accordingly.

To Do List2

Here’s a quick checklist I put together to help you work on this time-blocking method:

  1. Look at the items you need to accomplish in your day.
  2. Group them into a more time-consuming and less time-consuming category.
  3. Look at your workday and realistically determine the amount of time you have available or are willing to give yourself for working on these tasks.
  4. For starters and until you get the hang of the concept, block work cycles in 30-minute, 1-hour, and 2-hour increments for working on the less time-consuming and more time-consuming tasks; be sure to give yourself a few breaks in between time-block cycles.
  5. Be consistent and disciplined, and stick with the time blocks you’ve allotted yourself. If you find yourself needing more time in a block, refrain from running into your next scheduled time-block cycle, and take that into consideration for the following day’s time-block scheduling.
  6. At the end of the day, review your progress and note the things that were not completed (if any) so they become first on your list the following day. Review the tasks that were completed and take note of the reasons why that time cycle worked best for you. Perhaps you’re most productive at a specific time of the day. Perhaps you’re more productive working in smaller bursts of time with breaks in between. Listen to your body and be mindful of the way in which it responds to different time cycles and get to know what works best for you.

The overall goal of this method is to look at the day in a different manner, organize your work time in cycles that bring about the most productive side of you, and be flexible enough to know when something is or is not working so you can change things around and remain as efficient at accomplishing your tasks as possible. So don’t be surprised to find that you’ve accomplished so much more in a day, and have a better time sleeping at night because you are less stressed!

I hope this method works well for you as it has for me, and feel free to let me know what you’ve discovered about yourself during this process!

A personal blog offering a dose of inspiration, motivation, and awesome book reviews!

Uber’s Leading-Edge Autonomous Vehicle Testing in Pittsburgh

There are a lot of advancements being made over autonomous vehicles’ ability to share the road with driver-assisted vehicles. This insightful article by National Public Radio (NPR) highlights the testing process that Uber is undertaking in Pittsburg, to record the manner in which autonomous-led vehicles are behaving while on the road.

Uber assigns two drivers for each unmanned vehicle it uses on the road. The drivers accomplish two tasks while there: one driver has the possibility of taking over control of the vehicle (should the need arise) while the other driver reviews the programming of the autonomous technology, and makes changes as needed.

But how does it feel to ride in an autonomous-driven vehicle?  NPR took a ride in one of the autonomous-tested vehicles and described the experience as being a safe one: “…the car behaved like a very cautious driver, stopping for a full three seconds at stop signs and never going above the speed limit.” So with this in mind, it seems like driverless vehicles have at least one positive thing going for it–safety.

Yet another benefit to Uber’s project has come from bicyclists in the city. According to Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh, “[bicyclists] feel a lot more comfortable around autonomous vehicles than human drivers.” They are programmed to drive safely and “maintain a four-foot distance from bikes.” Both of these benefits seem promising in our society, where vehicle accidents occur in much too great numbers.

Uber is making headway in its testing and programming of self-directed vehicle technology in the Pittsburgh market. By doing so, it is also injecting beaucoup dollars in the economy, making the market more attractive for other businesses to invest in. This has been a great help to the city and its much needed retention of Carnegie Mellon graduates, who tend to leave for other, more lucrative opportunities in more successful markets.

Is this technology too good to be true? I believe that we’re headed in the right direction when it comes to laying out the foundation for safer driving in society. How we’re going to get from driver-controlled vehicles to autonomous ones, is the challenge that we will no doubt need to overcome. It might be a long time off before most drivers are willing to give up control, but the safety benefits surely outweigh the growing pains that come from this advancement.

For more details on this article, visit Pittsburgh Offers Driving Lessons for Uber’s Autonomous Cars.


Marianna Maguire
A personal blog offering a daily dose of inspiration, motivation, and awesome book reviews!

Health Ambition


How To Lose Weight Fast: 5 Evidence-Based Steps

Have you ever struggled with your weight or weight-loss plan? Do you lose the motivation to stick with a diet if you don’t see the results quickly? You are not alone, I promise! Helen Sanders at Health Ambition published an article that speaks to everyone’s struggles with achieving successful weight-loss, and proposes a 5-step process that will let us see results soon, without starvation (say what?!), while keeping us motivated too.

We all know that quick-fix diets don’t work, but we can surely gain momentum to stick with a diet and exercise plan if we received an initial weight-loss boost that we could see and feel. So what do we do in order to drop some quick ‘lbs’ and prepare our body and metabolism for more weight loss?

Weight Loss - Measure 1

How to Lose Weight Fast: 5 Evidence Based Steps Anyone Can Follow recommends making a few changes to your diet and integrating High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) along with strength training, to ensure successful and fast weight loss. The HIIT concept has been around for a while now and promotes performing cycles of a high-intensity exercise, followed by a short period of rest, and a repeat of the high-intensity exercise. The training continues until you’ve completed a handful of exercises in the day’s routine. According to Sanders, “HIIT workouts push your body to its limits in a shorter period of time. This means you achieve better results faster.” That, coupled with strength training (which allows you to burn more fat and build lean muscle) will keep you burning calories long after you’ve completed your workout.

The best part of the 5-step process? These weight loss and dietary strategies have been tested and are proven to work! So let’s give this a try. What do we have to lose other than a little bit of ourselves? (Ha!)

Be sure to come back and let me know how the weight-loss boost worked for you!

– Marianna

(About the source: Health Ambition is a wonderful, informational blog focused on providing honest, sound advice about healthy eating habits and an overall healthy lifestyle.)

Bloomberg Technology

Oh my goodness. As if there wasn’t enough excitement surrounding autonomous cars taking over your driving responsibility, California has now relaxed a few rules requiring autonomous cars to have a driver present. Instead, the rules make it acceptable for autonomous cars to be in full control of the driving experience without the use of an operator. Talk about not having much of a safety net! Autonomous technology is very exciting and is the wave of the future, but I’d be lying if I said that this particular lax in the rules doesn’t freak me out just a bit. To make matters a little more intimidating, the DMV in CA further relaxed a rule that required autonomous cars to have “a steering wheel or pedals for the operator to take back control.”

Anyone remember high school driver’s ed? Well, our driving instructor had access to a second steering wheel and pedals just in case we got ourselves in a precarious position. So who’s to save us from a possible collision if there are no steering wheels or pedals with which to take back control?!?!?  I’m normally in favor of all technological advances but this particular one is one giant step that leaves me uneasy. I like contingency plans and try to have a back-up plan for most scenarios, but this one is a bit unnerving, especially when you take away all the power or control from an operator’s hands.

To read more about the interesting direction that autonomous cars are heading in, visit Bloomberg Technology’s California Says Autonomous Cars Don’t Need Human Drivers.

Android Police Logo

Attention Android users: After Chrome released its latest version, Chrome 57 for desktop users, it pushed out the latest updates to Android users as well. The new version contains custom tab features that allow you to (1) open up web pages without restarting the browser, (2) search content within the page of a website, and (3) better control the video or audio you’re playing by allowing you play that in the background and still control other apps you’re using. There are more features available in this new version so be sure to update your Chrome application and pick up Chrome’s new Tab features. For more details, visit Android Police’s Chrome 57 Adds Custom Tabs….

The Verge logo

For those of you who do a lot of shopping on Amazon, be aware that as of April 1st Amazon will start collecting sales tax on all purchases consumers make through its website. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure sad to see this happen. With the exception of groceries, I do nearly all of my shopping on Amazon. At least I try to. What more of a convenience is there than placing an order and having it delivered within two days? Well, it was certainly nice while it lasted. For more information, visit The Verge’s Amazon Will Start Collecting Sales Tax Nationwide Starting April 1st.