12.24.16

“The Possum Story”

Posted in Random Personal Nonsense at 8:05 AM

In 2006, a weird thing happened at our house. I included the story on my former eponymous podcast, in the middle of an episode called Mystery Sinus Theater. The photo also made the local paper as part of one of those sights and sounds of Christmas photo thingies. Front page, baby!

I subsequently made a Facebook post that I share each Christmas Eve. Because I’m not as good at social media as I think I am, the story hasn’t hit this blog. For your reading and hearing pleasure, here’s the original podcast audio (just the story), with caveats about old-timey audio quality and my snot-impaired vocal condition.

the ugliest ornament ever!

a possum in the Christmas tree

12.11.16

I Did Not Buy a MacBook Pro

Posted in New Media and Tech, Random Personal Nonsense at 11:27 PM

Update: Now with a dramatic reading, as heard on NosillaCast #606, at about the 30 minute mark. Thanks to Allison for the opportunity to relive high school poetry interp competition. 

Lots and lots of people have asked if I bought a new MacBook Pro; the one with the dongles and the touch bar. And then, I couldn’t sleep. So I wrote a poem.

I Did Not Buy a MacBook Pro

When I’m on a podcast show,
To talk the tech with friends I know,
I cannot share their Apple glow,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

At coffee shops I seem low rent,
At least my money’s not all spent,
I can afford a latte though,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

No touch bar tops my keyboard tray,
Below the Space my wrists must stay,
Escape is pretty easy, though,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

Adapters, dongles, I know not,
Just Ethernet and SD slot,
Old USB is not so slow,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

It makes me seem a low-tech lass,
And not so upper-middle-class,
To type on something three years old,
I did not buy a MacBook Pro.

But my curiosity does grow,
So I’ll brave the Texas ice and snow,
And to the Apple Store I’ll go,
To gaze upon the MacBook Pro.

05.10.16

Try, Try Again

Posted in Classic Film, Random Personal Nonsense at 1:02 PM

I have always intended this blog to be a place to collect the work, and other creative projects I make. I created categories and design elements that would make it possible for someone who shares my interest in accessibility, podcasting, or cocktails, to follow just the posts and plugs for those topics. But some projects got more attention from me than others, and a few simply taunt me from the sidebar. Now i’m enlisting you in my effort to broaden and deepen my involvement in what the mashed up there calls long tails. To cut to the chase, your job is to hold me accountable in whatever way you wish to. Spam comments do not count.

Here’s where we’ll start. I read blogs about classic film every day, and watch one or two fabulous old movies a week Last week, I put the #TCMFF hashtag into my Tweetdeck, raptly watching the comings and goings of bloggers I follow. But wishing I’d been in LA for the TCM Classic Film Fesival, or even wishing I’d created a classic film blog or podcast has generated zero results. If I’m going to earn the Classic Film category I made for the blog, I’m gonna have to write.

First project is Noir City Austin, the local imprint of the Film Noir Foundation’s festival of classic, dark movies. I have tickets to five of the seven double features, and I’m committing to at least two posts; either reviews of individual films, or appreciations of the Noir City event itself. 

Next on the calendar, and this is one where promising a contribution to a group project injects an element of personal responsibility, I’ve signed up to participate in a blogathon that goes live in July. In the film blogging world, blogathons are a thing. An organizer sets a theme, and people who want to write about that theme sign up to participate. The organizer posts links to everyone’s work on the appointed day, and voluminous Web traffic results. Or it should result. I’ll announce the actual blogathon later, but I will say that I’m writing about the 1932 Walter Huston film, American Madness

Stay tuned, and, if you’re so inclined, help keep me honest.

07.17.15

The One iPod Touch Fangirl

Posted in New Media and Tech, Random Personal Nonsense at 11:09 AM

This week’s announcement of faster, more colorful versions of the iPod Touch was met with:

  • a) rapture
  • b) sophisticated market analysis
  • c) indifference

Actually, the answer is d) scorn.

You see, the lowly (that one always hurts) iPod Touch is not perceived as an aperitif for those wishing to sample the iOS menu. Nor is it the logical landing place for someone who prizes small, elegant things. It is also not a cost-effective way to get onto the Internet without all the carpel tunnel. No, dear readers, the iPod Touch kind of makes people crazy. Crazy the way reality TV makes me crazy. I mean, the existence of totally made up skits featuring surgically-enhanced blonde people doesn’t affect my life, but the very idea that they exist on a TV screen is kind of irritating. So it is in the brains of the iPod Touch skeptics, who outnumber me by the millions.

An iPod Touch hater has three modes: first, he or she, probably an iPhone/Apple Watch fan person, must be unimpressed. “It’s been so long since I thought about the iPod.” Next, it is good to be a prophet of doom. “I don’t think there’s much life left in that thing.” Finally, convert that one naife you know who secretly carries an iPod, into a cultural outsider. “I can see how you might get one for a five-year-old.”

And so the iPod Touch is an obsolete, doomed, toy. Case closed!

As I’m sure you have surmised, I beg to differ.

I got my iPod Touch in 2013, when I needed a test device for the first edition of my iOS accessibility book. I justified the purchase by promising myself to sell the underpowered thing once the book was done. But like so many Apple products before, my Touch, whose name is Sea Lion, burrowed its way into my life. Soon, it had become my primary podcast listening device, text message checker, and Kodi remote.

My case for the iPod Touch is a personal one: while the disdain in which it is held by the world at large is weird, I don’t suggest that everyone take a Touch to the prom. Chances are that if you don’t have one, you have arranged your life in such a way that the Touch would be redundant. But I use the thing every day, far more than my phone. With every fiber of my being, I am fighting the urge to anthropomorphize the little bugger.

Time for the bullet points. Here’s why I am The iPod Touch Fangirl:

  • Thin n lite: Apple is thin-obsessed, as are many of its customers. You can’t beat the iPod Touch for thinness and lightness. It fits into any pocket or purse, and can be balanced between two of my small fingers for easy reading or button-tapping. Wrist strain is for iPhone users, myself included. I’ve never considered burdening the Touch with a case. I’m not sure how you could design a lighter, thinner Internet device that also includes a screen of useful size.
  • Luxuriously long battery life: Because there’s no cellular radio to drain the battery, this thing is an Energizer, doing my bidding all day without complaint. I can’t say that of any iPhone I’ve owned, especially when I navigate with GPS, listen with VoiceOver, and/or make calls. Since I work from home where the wi-fi is fast and plentiful, the Touch doesn’t need a radio. When I leave the house, it’s full of podcasts and books, none of which make many demands on the battery. The phone’s job is to tell me when the next bus will arrive, and to take calls from my mom. Carrying two devices may seem a bit awkward, but it feels more like having a 16 Gb, wi-fi-enabled Mophie for my phone.
  • Perfect podcast and audiobook machine: I know that music is all about streaming these days, and plenty of people stream podcasts, too. I use Overcast to do this crazy thing called downloading. On the go, it’s quick and easy to pull the tiny iPod from my outside purse pocket, should I need to switch from tech podcasts to something lighter. The phone slumbers on, in the inner pocket, dreaming of SMS and signal bars.
  • Um, I sleep with mine: I suffer from bouts of insomnia, but even when I turn out the lights, I like to curl up with a good audiobook. The Touch is a far more congenial bedmate than my iPhone 6, with its bulky case and large, bright screen. I’ll confess that I’ve dropped the phone onto my face while manipulating the Audible app. This is a personal coordination issue, but whatever! I’ve never seen this tested in a lab, but I assure you that an iPod Touch to the nose hurts less than an iPhone 6 does.
  • Internet for kids: Finally! Something we can all agree on. Nope. Here’s where I make someone mad. If your kid is under the age of 14 or so, he or she shouldn’t have a smartphone. And if he or she is under the age of 10, an Internet device of one’s own is too much. So yes, the iPod Touch is a perfect tween machine. If Apple stopped making the iPod Touch tomorrow, would you give your 11-year-old his or her own iPhone? I know that passing an old phone on to your kids is among the best justifications for getting yourself a new one. And without the iPod Touch in the lineup, you can continue to do that. That’s right, mom and dad. I’m calling you out! Be honest about your own gadget desires. Give the kid an iPod Touch and let him or her grow into a phone when puberty hits. You’ll save money, if that’s a thing in your house.
  • Low stakes in unclean places: My husband is the kind of guy who does not call a plumber or electrician when something goes wrong at our house. He’s also the kind of guy who built our pavestone driveway and a french drain, and who is currently digging for a retaining wall between our house and the next. Take that, y’all who need an app to turn off the lights at night! Wait, come back, I have a larger point to make. So Frank spends a lot of time out in the yard with shovels and wheelbarrows and stuff. He picked up the audiobook bug from me, and likes to listen while he’s toting that barge and lifting that bale. He also likes his phone to stay clean and dry, and inside the house. Entertainment while digging holes, along with no calls from your large family, is kind of a perfect use case for an iPod Touch, or even an iPod Nano. Cheap these gadgets are not, but replacing a lifeless one is simpler and quicker than performing the same maneuver when phone carriers are involved.
  • Lower cost/no contract: Phone companies are evil. Can we all agree on that? You hate phone calls? Can we agree there, too? It’s unlikely that you would feel comfortable not having a device that can exchange calls on the telephone network, but your Phone app probably gets less use than Messages, Mail, or maybe even FaceTime. Therein lies the genius of Apple’s broad suite of communication tools. The iPod Touch costs 250 actual dollars, not 250 subsidized, we-own-your-ass-for-two-years dollars. I’ve heard half a dozen people say “95 percent of my calls and texts are with other iOS users.” I think most of them are exaggerating grievously, and my numbers are nothing like that either. But still! the iPod Touch can do everything a phone can do that doesn’t involve a cellular connection to the Internet, and making an old-school phone call. When I’m at home, I pick up whichever device is nearest. Sometimes, that’s my iMac, which is actually kind of heavy, and I plan to stop picking it up.
  • Watch schmatch: Since April of this year, people really hate pulling their phones out of their pockets. It’s a bloody nightmare! Hence, they’ve invested $400 or more in a tiny screen that sits atop their wrists. Is it just me, or is “complication” a counter-intuitive name for something that’s supposed to make your mobile life easier? When I’m home, the battery-chewing iPhone 6 sits on a bar in the center of my house, continuously drinking the sweet nectar of electricity. When I get a text or Twitter notification, or need to dash off a quick email, Sea Lion is usually in my pocket. I possess just enough strength to pull it out. From there, I view the entire tweet or text on a single screen, and dictate or type a grammatically correct and people-pleasing email without need of contorting both arms to read and write on a tiny wrist screen. Did I mention that it’s half the price of the watch?

I haven’t placed an order for the faster, more colorful, camera-rific iPod Touch. The same stubborn, cheap streak in me that allows me to love the unlovable also keeps me from buying new gadgets right before vacation. I do have a birthday coming up, though.

04.17.15

Wag a Long Tail: Pondering How to Write about Old Movies

Posted in Classic Film, General Store, Random Personal Nonsense at 9:43 AM

A few weeks ago, I updated the categories on my little blog. I wanted to give some love to the various long tails referenced up there in the tagline. OK, so write something, already!

I’ve loved classic film since high school, when I…that’s a blog post I’ll write later. Suffice it to say, old movies have been an obsession of mine for EVER. And, like most hobbies, or fandoms, or relic-worship topics, the Internet has been very good to classic film fans like me. My RSS reader is full of blogs about it, and they inspire me. But I continue to struggle with finding a focus for the writing I want to do. Some people review films. Others write profiles of actors and directors. A few film historians place the movies they love in the context of film history. Genres including film noir and pre-codes have their own blogs, too. 

My first film-writing project will be the second annual Noir City Austin festival, coming to town in May. It’s 12 movies in one weekend, all based on the writing of Cornell Woolrich. He, by the way, figures prominently in the detective and suspense dramas of old-time radio. There’s another long tail for the category list! 

03.20.13

Me on the Tech Doctor Podcast

Posted in Access and Disability, Announcements, New Media and Tech, Podcast Appearances, Random Personal Nonsense at 2:13 PM

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of being a guest on Robert Carter’s Tech Doctor Podcast. It’s a weekly show focused on technology and blindness. I’ve corresponded with Robert before. Turns out he is a listener to Shelly’s Podcast, and a fellow Texan. It was nice to finally meet him. Along with his co-host, Allison Hartley, Robert and I had a wide-ranging discussion of my career, low vision, the Macintosh/iOS, and the book I’m writing.

I was surprised how much ground we covered. And on reflection, I realize that I’ve never discussed many of these topics before on a podcast, or even with most of my friends and colleagues in the tech world. If you want to know what it was and is like to make a career in tech journalism as a low vision person, give it a listen. I want to thank Robert and Allison for inviting me on. And now I am subscribed to one more really great podcast about technology and blindness. Have I mentioned how many great podcasts you’ll find in that category? I oughtta do a post about that sometime.

03.04.13

Your SXSW 2013 Sampler Links

Posted in General Store, Random Personal Nonsense at 1:38 PM

Each year’s SXSW conference turns my hometown into a giant carnival of music, food, and strangers from strange lands. You can’t turn a corner, or order a cup of coffee without tripping over a guitar player. Which is only a bad thing if the guitar player and his band are in line in front of you.

My contribution to SXSW coverage is a listing of free music downloads and samplers, featuring bands who will be in or near Austin next week. They’re listed in the order I located them. I’ll add more as I find out about them. If you have links to suggest, leave them in the comments.

Enjoy!

01.24.13

Pack Rat

Posted in General Store, New Media and Tech, Podcasting, Random Personal Nonsense at 8:49 PM

People talk a lot about hoarding nowadays. I’m told by multiple sources that there is a reality TV show featuring people who do it to the extent that their houses and lives are destroyed. Sounds super-entertaining, huh? That’s another subject, and one on which you probably wouldn’t like my opinion. But whether it’s inspired by basic cable or not, the word “hoarder” comes up all the time when people need a word to describe their inability to unburden themselves of the objects they have accumulated. Is it a different thing when you need to carry the objects with you?

Before I go on a trip, I feel compelled to stockpile things that I might need; electronic equipment, cables, batteries, and bar tools have all ben stuffed into roll-y bags for trips both long and short. Lately though, what with iPads and phones, and tiny audio recorders, I don’t carry so much excess heavy stuff. All of my pre-travel pack ratting is digital.

To wit:

I’m about to go to San Francisco for five days. I expect my days and evenings to be packed with events, and that I will tumble exhausted into my bed at ridiculous times of night. And yet, my iPad Mini, iPhone, and iPod Nano are each stuffed to the gills with movies, music, podcasts, and audiobooks. Why? Because I detest the thought of reaching for a digital entertainment and finding that I don’t have it.

I need a movie for the plane ride. Better take four, in case film noir seems more appealing than a musical once I’m in the air. But wait! About half the time, plane cabins on morning flights are too bright to watch a movie, and I scroll through podcasts to find a Fresh Air interview, or a friend’s vacation story show. And what of those late nights when I fall into bed and grope for the device charging next to me? I’ll need some audio drama, or the latest episode of my favorite hometown radio show–until I fall asleep after 20 minutes.

Speaking of that radio show, though, it needs to be on the iPhone, along with the New York Times audio digest I listen to first thing every morning. I must be able to download the new shows while I’m gone, even though I packed gigabytes to take with me on the trip. I will dutifully fire up the slow hotel wi-fi just when everyone else is getting up too, impatiently checking to see that my newspaper has made it onto my iGadget when I exit the shower.

Music? This is the thing I am least likely to consume. I listen to podcasts when I walk or ride public transportation conveyances. Music is for writing time, or as a salve for bouts of insomnia at home. But wait! I might not be able to sleep in the hotel. Better take 4000 or so songs with me.

There’s one more media type clogging up my gigabytes: despite the fact that the average audiobook is at least eight hours long (many are far longer), I have loaded up 11 (ELEVEN) fiction and non-fiction titles. Because, like, how do I know whether I’ll be in the mood for World War II era spy novel, or a critique of the modern military general staff? Maybe it will be a book about how the British interacted with the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War. That’s on standby in case the Tom Perrotta novel with the great reviews seems boring. In any case, there is no chance at all that I will finish any single book during my trip.

Why do I do it? Why, when confronted with one of the greatest cities in the world, and both business and pleasure reasons for visiting, would I go to such lengths to make sure that I can entertain my ears in four or more different ways, on three machines? I don’t know, but TSA hasn’t regulated the digital heft of our iDevices (so far), and disk space continues to be of inconsequential cost. So I might as well, right?

01.08.13

Best Music of 2012, sez me

Posted in General Store, Random Personal Nonsense at 11:15 AM

Right up front, I feel compelled to admit that peer pressure has brought me to this open window in MarsEdit, and to the playlist that’s running behind it in iTunes. My friend Dana Nordaune, whose musical taste I respect and adore, posted a thoughtful, well-documented Ten Best Recordings of 2012 on her Facebook page. I loved it, and immediately set about listening to the songs and artists I hadn’t heard. But I also came face to face with my own self-perceived inadequacy.

You see, I used to make annual mix discs for friends, distributed with clever labels and nice artwork, and often wrapped in Christmas paper. They weren’t retrospectives of the current year’s releases, just a bunch songs I happened to be digging at the time, occasionally on a theme. People liked them. People complimented me. People popped the discs in at holiday parties. We need not dwell on that one time when a friend started playing one of my mixes, only to be over-ruled by her guests, who hated it.

So, yeah. Dana’s list-making got to me, and I quickly tried to assemble a mental retrospective of 2012. The first thing I realized was that I’ve been listening to a lot of “old” music. I seemed to be focused on favorite artists; either playing familiar stuff as comfort food, or digging into their back catalog for gems I had somehow missed. I spent quality time with Eleni Mandell, Calexico, Guster, The Nields, and Old 97s, to name a few. I also laid some unexpected nostalgia on the next generation, building a playlist for my nieces and nephews called Music Education. Its shocking reliance on early 80s awesomeness from The B-52s, The Cars, The Romantics, The Clash, Queen, etc. surprised even me. But hey, the kids loved it and it builds strong bones. And maybe mohawks.

The final non-2012 element of my musical year was discovery (thanks to friends) of great 2011 music. (I hate when that happens.) See Neko Case soundalike Lydia Loveless, Dengue Fever, Fleshtones (listened to, but not loved until this year), and the latest from faves Nathan Hamilton and Michael Fracasso.

(When is she getting to the Best of 2012?)

SOON!

Owing to my late start and lack of previous focus on the idea, I used automation to gather up all of the 2012-released music I had acquired. This seems, even to me, like a cheater’s way, but it does at least point out where my head was at during the various moments last year when I was adding new music to my life. From there, I did a lot of memory-jogging, and also a bit of analysis of what tracks had ended up on playlists I had made throughout the year. And I noted which albums I acquired because they seemed cool, but turned out disappointing. There were a surprising number of those.

I freely admit that this is more a geek’s method of finding gold than an art critic’s. For this, I’m sorry. I can only work to do better next year.

Having gone on at such length, I’ll forego detailed descriptions or praises of albums, songs, and artists. I will say, looking at the list, that half of it seems to reflect continued love for favorite artists (Caroline Herring, Calexico, Buddy Miller, Lucy Kaplansky), while another few tracks reflect new discoveries (Oppenheimer, Laura Gibson, and especially April March). and while some tracks are here to represent great albums (Kathleen Edwards, The Heavy) there are others (Imperial Teen, the dBs) that came to me one song at a time. You’ll have to work out for yourself whether the albums are any good, as I will over the next few weeks.

OK. GO!

Track Artist Album
Chick Habit April March Chick Habit
Candy The Men Open Your Heart
Fireflies Caroline Herring Camilla
Sidecar Kathleen Edwards Voyageur
Can’t Play Dead The Heavy The Glorious Dead
Runaway Imperial Teen Feel the Sound
That Time Is Gone The dB’s Falling Off the Sky
Stay Useless Cloud Nothings Attack On Memory
Vampire Girl Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale Buddy and Jim
La Grande Laura Gibson La Grande
Song For G Oppenheimer The Racket Takes Its Toll
Epic Calexico Algiers
Sleep Well Lucy Kaplansky Reunion

*Listed in the order I would play them for you, not by preference or alphanumeric precision

11.19.09

How I Read Now

Posted in General Store, New Media and Tech, Random Personal Nonsense at 9:27 AM

Just now, I had a brainstorm. The 20-page PDF files I’ve been studying on my computer screen, as I work my way through an online learning program, could easily be transferred to my iPhone. From there, I will be able to sit in my most comfortable chair and hold the device at a most comfortable distance, with the text zoomed to a most comfortable size. I raced to my computer to affect the transfer.

This from a woman who devours audio books, and gazes worshipfully at the shelves full of old paper books I have acquired an read throughout my adult life. I love to read, and I love books.

What I’ve realized here is that the situational reading format,not the ereader, is the most exciting thing going for readers. Just as TV fans demand their shows appear on a computer screen AND on the living room HD AND on the smartphone AND, though the thought horrifies me, on the DVD players in their cars, book readers like me are finding it possible to hope (if not demand, just yet) that text appear wherever and whenever. It hasn’t all come together in our minds the way it has for video addicts, but perhaps we’ll get there. Perhaps the cave-in to publishers that prevented Amazon’s Kindle from offering universal text-to-speech conversion will one day seem as laughable as an artist not providing digital versions of his or her music. Maybe my beloved old books; the novels I love to read in paper form, can coexist with the cocktail books and other recipe texts that should, in a just world, all be available via ereader. A girl can dream, can’t she?