Sister Act.

It’s amazing, the things that come to mind at times. Whenever it’s time to recite The Lord’s Prayer during a church service, I sing it to myself. I never knew there was a video to accompany this Top 40 hit from the early 1970s.

Here’s Sister Janet Mead with “The Lord’s Prayer”.

Get Up, Stand Up.

This is still one of my favorite dance tracks of all time, and I find Brandi Emma quite endearing.

Here’s Stellar Project with “Get Up, Stand Up”.

Upgrade.

I’m upgraded the monitor in my home office. After staring at two 24-inch Dell monitors that were provided by the office I went ahead and made the decision to move to a single monitor. Chris was selling one of two 31-inch monitors he had and this E series 31-inch curved monitor from Philips is a beauty.

I can fit all the windows I need to do my job on this monitor and still leave a little breathing room between the windows. This helps reduce my stress just a little bit. No more turning back and forth between two monitors with a low resolution and fuzzy fonts.

Interestingly, my Mac Mini runs a heck of a lot cooler with one monitor at 3840×2160 resolution than it did with two monitors running at 1920×1080.

I’m a very happy geek with this purchase.

Shear Madness.

Photo courtesy of NewCityStage.com

It’s been a little over 30 years since I first saw “Shear Madness” in the Theatre District, back in the day when I lived in Boston. My first experience with the show was a solo adventure. I remember being enthralled with the idea of a stage show having a variable ending and being so up-to-the-minute with current event references in the dialog. I’ve seen the show a few times since, the most recent being the late 1990s in the same theatre in Boston.

“Shear Madness” is playing at the Mercury Theater around the corner from us here in Chicago. The four of us enjoyed the show very much and all of us were laughing throughout.

There are several important ingredients in this show, the most vital being an ensemble that works well together, and the performers in tonight’s production worked the stage wonderfully as a team.

The production, the set, the approach, all echoed the productions I saw back in Boston, mind you with all the Beantown references removed and replaced with Chicagoisms. Part scripted production, part improv, part stand-up, all of the performers were up to the task of a great performance. Not to give too much away, but there’s a part of the performance where the audience participates (“Big deal, I took a whole place setting.” “Not now, MA!”*). The four of us all contributed (not that there was a test or anything) and even outside of the audience participation portion, I still felt quite engaged with the show.

I’d like to give a special shoutout to Brittany D Parker as Barbara DeMarco and Mary Robin Roth as Mrs. Schubert. The whole cast was very good.

If you get the chance I highly recommend seeing “Shear Madness”. It’s a great escape and a fun time for all.

* Props to those who get that reference from another whodunit scenario.

Innocence.

Truman has been a bit wild today. During my lunch break he decided to completely rearrange the cushions on the couch and make himself a nice little fort. He then proceeded to pull pillows out of the cushions.

By the way, my grandmother had a different name for the couch or sofa. She called it “the Davenport”. It always sounded so regal to me.

I think Truman was sensing the changes in barometric pressure as the latest storm system moved in. I poked fun at meteorologists on Twitter this morning because they’ve been screeching and hooting and hollering about the incoming snow storm but one change of so many inches and the predicted foot of snow becomes an inch of snow.

Let’s face it, Mother Nature will do what she wants to do and that’s all there is to it.

And Truman will do the same.

Tuned In.

Obscure photo from the interwebs.

Just to give you an idea of how random my brain can be, here is a picture of a set-top cable box identical to the one my city grandparents had in the mid-late 1970s.

Sing with me if you know it, “Eleven! Eleven ALIVE!”

That was the jingle for WPIX out of New York. One of several “superstations” they received through this analog box. Others included WGN-TV out of Chicago and WTBS-TV from Atlanta. My uncle would fall asleep on the floor in the wee hours of the night watching movies on “Home Box”. We now call that HBO.

The stuff I remember. Whew.

Oh, and the television tuner was always tuned to Channel 4, because in Syracuse we already had channel 3 and that would conflict with the signal coming from the cable tuner.

Down.

The first escalator I remember riding was at the Woolworth’s in Watertown, New York. The escalator took shoppers down to a lower level where you would find a selection of small shops, sort of like a mini-mall. I remember riding the escalator down and then back up and then being told by my mom that one ride was enough. We then ate lunch in the Harvest House restaurant.

My husband and I did a little bit of shopping today. One of our stops was at a recently opened Menard’s (insert banjo music, “Save big money at Menard’s!). I was a little tickled to see it was a two story building, with bridges across a big opening and nifty escalators that could accommodate carts and wheelchairs and everything.

At the top of the escalator was a woman playing a grand piano. I kind of thought she should have been playing banjo music but the grand piano was a nice touch.

Recycle. Reuse.

The guest room closet was getting clogged up with unused computer equipment. A 2009 iMac, a 2007 Apple Cinema Display. These things would have to be removed to get the luggage out for our trips. Truman delighted himself by hiding behind the equipment until we shut the door, then he’d climb up and knock something off the shelf to let us know he was trapped in the closet.

We’d then find him in there and he’d come running out with an innocent look on his face.

I decided to finally get rid of our excess computer equipment. Instead of putting it in the building’s recycling room I decided it needed to find a new home, so we donated the equipment to FreeGeek Chicago.

A while back I purchased a used laptop from this shop in the basement of storefront on Milwaukee and Diversy. I really like what they do; they take old computer equipment, make whatever they can functional by cleaning it up, making sure it works, and installing Linux Mint, and then sell the computers to breathe new life into old equipment. Instead of cluttering up landfills with older equipment that still has lots of life in it, FreeGeek finds new homes for this equipment. This helps save the environment, it reduces waste, and it spreads some Linux love around the area.

I really like this approach.

FreeGeek Chicago also refurbishes Apple computers and other devices and sells them for continued use. In addition, FreeGeek also offers educational services around the world of Linux and other open source software.

It’s a great organization and I hope to become a volunteer there one day. I hope the new owners of our iMac and Cinema Display enjoy them as much as I did.

At least they’re not sitting in a landfill.

Subscriptions.

Photo courtesy of apple.com

I was flicking through my subscriptions list on my iPhone the other night when I said out loud to myself, “what in the blue blazes are you doing”? I realized I had way too many active subscriptions on my iCloud account and I was barely using most of them.

It was then that I realized that Apple was really smart when they got into the credit card game. By offering an Apple credit card, with promises of 3% cash back on purchases from Apple, it was just the little nudge that suckers like me needed to justify the purchase of yet another app or subscription from the Apple eco-system.

There’s a huge number of developers out there building beautiful apps that make our lives better. There’s no doubt about that. But there’s also a lot of crud available out there. And with this new paradigm of software where “you don’t own it, you just pay to use it”, pockets get emptied. Quickly.

Apple News+. US$9.99/month. Apple advertised a magazine browsing experience on your favorite iDevice that would transcend the likes of Harry Potter’s moving photos and paintings and Hogwarts. In reality, most of the magazines are PDFs of the printed copy and are chopped off at the bottom of the screen on my iPad.

Apple Music. “Hey Siri, turn on the buffet”, referring to the Philips Hue Light strip we have lighting up the dining room buffet. The response? “Sure, here’s Phoebe Buffay and the Hair Balls with ‘Smelly Cat'”. I ask Siri to play “some nice dinner music” from Apple Music and it plays Metallica. “Play some instrumental background music”. A woman immediately starts singing. Anything I want on Apple Music is more easily obtained from Spotify, which we already pay for.

iCloud. Apple now offers to storage plans that are on either side of what we need, either 200 GB (not enough) or 2 TB (approximately 2000 GB, way too much). It’s easier to just store my files on a hard drive in my office attached to a Raspberry Pi. And it’s probably more secure.

When we start heaping on the TV streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access, etc) to replace cable it ends up that it’d probably be cheaper to just get cable.

I’m all for developers and service providers getting the money they deserve, but at some point one has to choose what’s important and what’s extra frosting left on the spoon.

I’ve culled the subscriptions down substantially and I’m committed to sticking to a manifesto I wrote around software and hardware purchases, and determining which services deserve cash and which do not.

Let’s hope it’s a good first step to not wearing out my credit card.

Interface.

Photo from TrekMovie.com

I know producers of science fiction movie and television like to make their production look at futuristic. One of the things I’ve always loved about the various incarnations of Star Trek, at least up until recently, was they depicted the future in a positive, hopeful way. Additionally, most of the time they also made the future tech seemingly achievable. How many times has someone from Apple mentioned they took an inspiration from Star Trek and came up with something like the iPad or the iPhone?

In Star Trek: The Next Generation and related series, we were introduced to the PADD, or Personal Access Display Device. While it looks a little clunky (think more along the lines of a modified Palm Pilot), it’s basically doing what your iPhone or Android device does today.

You hold it in your hands, you inter with it with your fingers or a stylus, and you carry it around with you.

The LCARS interfaces, or Library Computer Access and Retrieval System interfaces, allows the user to sit down and interact with a computer through a fully customizable touch interface. They’re built into walls, they’re built into consoles, and they’re built into desks in both vertical and horizontal orientation.

You know, much like an iPad or the upcoming Microsoft Neo.

Natural evolution of tech, especially the way we interact with technology, is awesome because we growth with it. We have adapted typewriter keyboards into the fastest way to input text into a computer. We develop touch interfaces so we can interact with the objects on the screen. We feel comfortable with using screens because our eyes allow us to focus on something as if we were reading a book. Our eyes have a target. We have something to look at.

A holographic project into mid-air does not give us something to focus on.

If you’re technically inclined and have a Mac (I don’t know if you can do this on windows), open a Terminal window. Go into Preferences and turn the opacity of your Terminal window down to 50%.

Now, start interacting through the keyboard interface. Type ls’ a bunch of times and try reading the screen. Force your eyes to focus on the letters in the terminal window and do your best to ignore the rest of your desktop coming through behind the lists of files displayed in the window.

Fatiguing, isn’t it?

I know holograms looks all flashy and futurey and make some viewers go wow and make other graphic designers get all tingly in their nether regions, but the fact of the matter is, folks aren’t going to enjoy trying to focus on words and pictures floating in the air. Human eyes aren’t designed for that. And they’re sure not going to like swiping and grabbing and flailing thin air. Flapping around like a chicken to do a Google search is not on the short list of efficient interface design.

I like future technology depicted when it makes sense. The flailing and swiping made little sense in “Minority Report” (though it was cool to look at), and it certainly doesn’t belong in Star Trek’s 23rd or 24th centuries.

Do we see Wolf Blitzer still interacting with holograms on CNN? He did it for one presidential election and it never came back. They now wow us with magic boards that work most of the time.

We want the future. We want technology to grow and do amazing things and solve insolvable problems. We want to see the stars and we want to meet other sentient beings throughout the universe.

We don’t need to have floating holograms when a simple console with touch interface will suffice.