I don’t know if it’s cool or sad to have a guiding principle in your life based off of a (very) minor character in a Salinger book. Sorenson’s fate in Franny and Zooey led me to reorient my view of people’s purpose in life. His ended up being a way to have some insight into another minor character. He didn’t change anything, he didn’t really register as a character to me until my 6th or 7th reading of the book. Still, the creator of that world thought he was important enough to have a name and to have a speaking part.
The thought struck me, what if I’m Sorenson? What if I were put here not for my contribution to the narrative as such, but simply in order to bring out thoughts and personality in someone else? What if I was simply there in order to highlight some negatives in those things? Sorenson affected Laine. And while Laine was a minor character, he had a big impact on one of the stars of the book. Sorenson is part of that chain, where am I on it? It’s a humbling thought and it can make you reevaluate how we all fit into each other’s lives.
I still like to think that I can be a positive influence on people. Maybe I’m misguided but I’ll cling on to that idea as it makes my view of myself more palatable. There’s no telling what the thing is that I will do that will have the biggest impact. Maybe something I say to them, or something I do to them, or near them triggers something in them. Maybe that leads that person to do great things, or maybe it leads them to do something that leads someone else to do great things. Maybe I’m just here to make someone hope the train arrives quickly so they can see their girlfriend and it turns out that she is a main character. Any complaint I have about Rilke can end up being the most important thing I ever do. If I want to be a positive force in this world, I’m well served by treating every interaction as a chance to improve things.
I find this to be a really rich way of approaching life. My current career is in retail, a job that most people see as soul destroying. It can certainly be that if you approach it in terms of what you will get out of it. If you approach it instead as how can I help the next person, it’s actually quite fulfilling. When you extend it to the rest of your life, every interaction can be meaningful. If nothing else, it keeps you on your toes. And oddly enough, by concentrating on the person in front of you, you could be influencing the rest of the world. So here I go, changing the world one person at a time.
I am always on the lookout for what I consider the perfect charity. Most people want to know that the money they donate is used well, but few wonder what kind of negative effect their well intentioned donations can have. Many well meaning charities do things like give away clothes, food, or other things. After all, what better way to help a poor person than to give them stuff? That is completely appropriate and works well for relief aid after disasters. The folks in the Philippines could use just about anything right now. On the other hand, giving that kind of aid to people in order to alleviate ongoing poverty can lead to some big problems.
The biggest of the problems are creating dependance on free goods or money and the ensuing disruption to the local economy. It is far too common for a village or area to be made worse off by well intentioned charities. One of the stories I heard was of a church that decided to donate eggs to a village. Free food, what could be wrong with that? The villagers liked it of course but the ones that were trying to sell eggs were promptly put out of business. When the church inevitably decided to end the program, the chickens had long since been eaten and the village was left without a way to get eggs. It’s one example, but you can get a feel for how free goods screws up the local systems and economies. It’s easy to forget that businesses, no matter how small, fill needs and serve the community. When you eliminate local businesses with unsustainable substitutes, bad things will eventually happen.
So when I look for charities, I am looking for ones that can have a big impact on the lives that are touched by it. I also look for ones that do not create dependance. After all, I’m hardly wealthy man, I might have to stop donating at any moment! The easiest ways to avoid dependance is to explicitly limit the time frame, concentrate on boosting growth, or achieve a specific, non repeating task. I’ve found three charities that meet these criteria and I think they’re really good ones.
Poverty Cure is an organization run by the Acton Institute, a Catholic organization that emphasizes commerce and business activity as a way of eliminating poverty. Not only that, they recognize the dignity and desire of people to better themselves through work and business. It is a humanizing force. Instead of looking at the poor as victims, as someone to pity and help, Poverty Cure recognizes that the poor are the solution to their own problems. A central part of their promotional materials asks, “Can you relate to the poor as partners?” When efforts are put towards helping people to create wealth, the entire approach changes. Both the folks from Poverty Cure and the recipients understand that looking for ways to make money is a far more sustainable and empowering approach than distributing aid ever could be. It’s a wonderful organization. There is no dependency created as self sufficiency is the goal. They do tend to disrupt things, but only in the best way possible:)
I’ve talked about Give Directly before. A handful of economists came up with some general rules for what they thought would be the most effective type of charitable giving. The ones they came up with were to give money, not goods, have no strings attached to the gift, surprise people with the money, and make it a lump sum or of a short duration. Economists have always known that a pure cash infusion is always a better way to help people than so called gift in kind donations. The people that receive food stamps can only use them for one thing, cash can be put to any use. The recipient will know what their most pressing needs are. It might be food, but it might be something else. Trusting them to do what is best for themselves is not only the most charitable thing to do, it is also the most effective. That was the theory and now they have independent research showing that the process works very well. Because the recipients are chosen without knowing that they could get money, there is no gaming the system. And because it is usually a lump sum, they can’t depend on more money coming. I encourage you to check the link and read up on Give Directly, they are doing great work.
I am especially happy to have found Liberty in North Korea (LINK). The day to day life of people living in North Korea is brutal and short. The most repressive government in the world makes its citizens life like serfs while the elites live well. Who wouldn’t want to escape that? It isn’t easy to do though. Some manage to get into China, but their hardships have just begun. If they are found by the Chinese government, they will be deported back to the DPRK. There they will usually find themselves in work camps, prison, or possibly even executed. Like every immigrant that is in a new country illegally, the North Koreans in China resort to black market labor. For women, this frequently means the sex trade. It’s brutal and they have very few chances or choices. LINK runs a kind of underground railroad to help refugees from North Korea get out of China and into a country that allows them to move somewhere they don’t have to worry about being sent back. Usually that means South Korea or the US. LINK says that the cost of doing this is about $2000 a person. That includes placement in a host country. I can’t imagine what kind of courage and desperation it must take to smuggle yourself out of your country with the knowledge that you could be imprisoned or shot for trying. And then to have to live life on the run, doing God knows what to survive. All because they don’t want to, you know, starve to death. I am happy to help these folks out and I’m glad there are organizations like LINK to help them. I consider any money sent to them to be high impact donations. Please do check them out and donate to save desperate people.
I never thought I would see it. I never thought I’d see the eighth Doctor on TV. He was given one appearance on TV in 1995 in an American TV movie. He never got to be in an actual episode, many fans never really considered him a “real” Doctor. The irony of the situation is that of all of the Doctors, the eighth probably had more adventures than any of the others if you include the books, comics, and audios that featured him. Of course that is why so many fans didn’t think he counted because his stories weren’t on TV. At the time, those stories were the only Doctor Who being made and all of them were done under BBC supervision so I have always considered them just as proper as any other Doctor Who story on TV.
Well, all those folks that discounted him need to reevaluate now. Not only did the eighth Doctor show up in the context of the current series, he explicitly name checked a bunch of his companions from the audios! Charley, C’Rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, and Molly have now been referenced in the TV show!
It really made me excited (as you can hear in the audio, LOL) and I hope it makes more people interested in the Big Finish stories. They are uniformly great and some of them are simply amazing. The eighth Doctor stories are enthralling. Definitely check them out if you haven’t before.
I am now also cautiously optimistic that there could be more shout outs to the classic series and/or the wilderness years. I would die if Benny came up in the show… Even if that doesn’t happen, thank you Steven Moffat for bringing back #8, he deserved that!
One of the best things about joining app.net was how easy it was to make podcasts. Started doing some on various topics but eventually ended up doing more and more about app.net itself. Well, I’ve decided to get back to doing a regular podcast and tie it into my regular blog. That means most topics are fair game, economics, political economy, music, Doctor Who, etc. Hopefully this will make my blog a little more interesting, LOL. Anyway, thanks for listening and I hope I’ll keep this going:)
The Idea Channel on YouTube is always interesting but I think its real value to me is how it exposes me to things that I wouldn’t know about otherwise. It was the first to clue me into Adventure Time (I still need to watch some more before coming to a conclusion about that). Tonight I learned about Welcome to Night Vale, an apparently very popular podcast about casual horror and weirdness. It consists of a local radio news show reporting on events in the town. That wouldn’t be so interesting but Night Vale is one weird place. “A friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights cross the sky as we pretend to sleep. Welcome to Night Vale.” A typical PSA on the radio would be something like this… “The city council announces a new dog park at the corner of Earl and Summorset. They would like to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed in the dog park, people are not allowed in the dog park. It is possible that you will see hooded figures in the dog park, do not approach them. DO NOT APPROACH THE DOG PARK. The fence is electrified and highly dangerous. Try not to look at the dog park and especially do not look for any period of time at the hooded creatures. The dog park will not harm you.” I also liked the reminder that, “It’s election time again! We all know what that means, you will receive paperwork designating which family members will be held to insure you vote correctly…”
It’s a dystopian, Lovecraft inspired Monty Pythonesque dose of the absurd with a dash of Buffy humor thrown in for good measure. It’s a free podcast and comes out twice a month, I recommend it highly.
The idea was that once I had my shiny new blog(s) I would commence blogging again. Aside from a few silly posts I haven’t done much really. iPhone, stereo, Doctor Who, not much of substance. It’s not as though there isn’t anything to talk about but rather that there’s too much. There are so many big things going on that make me crazy I’m overwhelmed. In addition to the ongoing drone strikes there is now:
1) The NSA scandal that won’t stop depressing me. First we found out that they are scooping up phone records of everyone, then we learn that they are collecting seemingly every interaction on the internet, we are just starting to feel the international response to revelations that the NSA spied on foreign leaders and even the UN and EU, and now we have learned that the NSA has been active in making sure it has backdoors to get around most encryption used on the internet. That last bit is worrying since if the NSA has a backdoor, others could use it as well if it is found. The idea that the NSA has weakened our protection online in order to protect us against the boogyman is galling to say the least. More and more I’m coming around to thinking that Snowden may have done the right thing…
2) Turns out the DEA is also collecting vast swathes of information about people in general. There was also talk of the DEA getting info from the NSA and then reverse engineering investigations to hide their info source.
3) The whole Syria thing. Who exactly would we be helping if we bombed Syria? How many civilians would be killed if we bombed them? How do you determine who is a civilian in a war like that anyway? Is the desire to oust Assad really a desire to help Qatar and Saudi build a pipeline and stick it to the Russians? Three months ago I would have said that is crazy but what little trust I had in the machinations of the feds has all but evaporated. Plus, now Kerry says that “Arab” nations are offering to pay for an invasion of Syria? Ugh…
Add to that the ongoing drone strikes, various blog and publication attacks of “libertarians”, and, oh yeah, my health and I just can’t keep up with what to be outraged over.
If I force myself, I can see a bit of a glimmer of hope. There does seem to be widespread opposition to bombing Syria among the US populace. We’ll see if that’s enough to sway the representatives. And if it is enough, we’ll see if that’s enough to reign in Obama. It’s nice to see some anti-war sentiment coming back finally. I’m also sensing a building backlash over what the NSA has been up to, at least online. I do wonder how much the regular guy cares or knows about it but things do seem to be piecing up steam.
Anyway, if I can work up the energy I’ll blog in more depth on these things, but man… where do I start?
I was asked on app.net if I had any suggestions for good audios to listen to from Big Finish. In case you’re not familiar with them, they make Doctor Who audio dramas starring the original casts and licensed by the BBC. They are also played on BBC channel 4 from time to time. I think that audio is probably the best medium for Doctor Who and possibly for stories in general. I think they fit somewhere between novels and movies/TV shows when it comes to storytelling.
So what to recommend? There have been 176 main line releases, all 2 hours plus in length. Add to that the 50 or 60 Companion Chronicles (stories told from the companion’s point of view), the special series for the 8th and 4th Doctor, and the Lost stories (made from scripts intended for the TV show but not made) and you have an unbelievable number of Doctor Who stories to choose from. And then there are the spinoffs and related audios like Bernice Summerfield, Iris Wildthyme, Jago and Lightfoot, Gallifrey, Graceless, Doctor Who Unbound (a what if series. What if the Doctor didn’t leave Gallifrey, etc.), Counter Measures, Sarah Jane Smith, I Davros, Dalek Empire, and UNIT you have close to 500 audios to choose from. Not going to go through all of them even though there are great stories in all the ranges. All are worth listening to. I’m going to concentrate on the inexpensive releases.
1st off, there are some available for free here: https://soundcloud.com/big-finish/tracks?format=html&page=1
It is mostly trailers but there are several longer length adventures in there too. If you want to start with Big Finish, I’d start with the 1st 50 of the main series. The downloads have been permanantly reduced to $2.99. I’ll go over what I consider the best stories in that 1st 50.
No.6 The Marian Conspiracy. A pure historical for 6, introduces the incredibly popular companion Evelyn Smythe. Evelyn gets into some trouble when she realizes she is several years earlier in England’s history than she thought.
No.10 Winter for the Adept. A spooky story for 5 and Nyssa, written by Andrew Cartmel. Nyssa is unceremoniously dumped in the snow in the alps. She manages to get to a school to shelter and that’s when things get weird.
No.11 The Apoclaypse Element. A 6, Evelyn, and Romana 2 story fighting the Daleks. Pretty sure this is the first time we hear Romana in Big Finish. Lalla is in great form.
No.12 The Fires of Vulcan. A cracker of a tale for 7 and Mel. The Tardis materializes in Pompeii, but why is the Doctor so fatalistic? Mel has to tapk him into not giving up.
No.13 The Shadow of the Scourge. A 7, Ace, and Benny tale. This feels like a story out of the New Adventure novels. Weird, surreal at times and 7 at his scheming best. First time Benny has shown up in the main series. Ace is definitely in New Adventures mode.
No.14 The Holy Terror. A classic, one of the best ever from Big Finish. Stars 6 and a companion from the comics, Frobisher. Funny and dark. Frobisher is a shaw changer and generally prefers the shape of a 4 foot tall penguin. Equal parts Monty Python and darkness. Recommended.
No.16 Storm Warning. The first 8th Doctor story. Also introduces Charlotte Pollard. Not only the 1st story for 8 but the start of the epic Charley arc. Charley picks a bad start to her adventuring career by getting on board the R101. She is one of my favorite companions and has one of the larger arcs Big Finish has ever done.
No.17 Sword of Orion. Another Big Finish classic. Charley and 8 fight the cybermen. Atmospheric, the Cybermen done right.
No.23 Project Twilight. 6 and Evelyn stumble across The Forge. The start of the Nimrod and Forge arc. Possibly the most visceraly violent Doctor Who stories to experience.
No.24 The Eye of the Scorpion. 6 and Perri in ancient Egypt. Introduces the new companion Erimem. Having a companion from earlier in Earth’s history was a brilliant move. Wish they would do this more often.
No.25 Colditz. Another classic. 7 and Ace end up in the famous Nazi POW camp. Also stars a pre Doctor Davis Tennant as a camp guard. Start of the Kline story. Even though they don’t appear I can’t help but think of this as the best Dalek story ever. The Nazis are the perfect analog for the Daleks.
No.28 Invaders From Mars. 8, Charley, Orsen Wells, War of the Worlds, what more needs to be said? A particularly 8 tory, can’t think of any other Doctor this could have been done with.
No. 29 The Chimes of Midnight. 8 and Charley find themselves in a strange house with strange servents. Might be the best thing Big Finish has ever done but you really need to have heard the previous Charley stories to make sense of it. A great mix of 8′s personality, humor, weirdness, and darkness. Weirdly also a good Christmas story. This alone is worth hearing the Charley arc that precedes it.
No.30 Seasons of Fear. 8 and Charley finally arrive in Singapore in 1930 but they end up trying to track down someone that claims to have killed the Doctor in the distant past. A bit of a run around but fun as only 8 can produce.
No.31 Embrace the Darkness. 8 and Charley in a creepy tale on a dark planet. Things are never as they appear.
No. 32 The Time of the Daleks. 8 and Charley. Why doesn’t Charley know who William Shakesphere is?
No. 34 Spare Parts. Amazing story concerning the creation of the Cybermen. 5 and Nyssa try to figure out where they are. The Cybermen have never been so pitiable.
No. 35 …Ish. 6 and Perri try to figure out a linguistic killer. 6 is the perfect Doctor for this story.
No.38 The Church and Crown. 6, Peri, Erimem, Cardinal Richelu and French intrigue. A great historical.
No.43 Doctor Who and the Pirates. A musical… kind of. A real departure, seems lighter, but has dark parts as well. 6 and evelyn. Colin baker does a lot of musical theater and it shows here.
No.46 Flip Flop. 7 and Mel caught in time shennagins. You can listen to part one or two in either order. Timey wimey, wibbly wobbly.
The stories that I have skipped over are still worth listening to for the most part. All of the ones I mentioned are well worth listening to, I’m a big fan of 8 and Charley. I’ll warn you, these are rather addictive…
There are some other ranges that are really good and not very expensive. The first 3 series of Gallifrey are gripping political thrillers staring Lalla Ward as Romana 2, Louise Jameson as Leela, and John Leeson as K9. All of the Dalek Empire series is worth listening to. The 3 part stars David Tennant and the 4th stars Noel Clark. I, Davros follows Davros thorugh his life and we get to see how he became what he did.
You can find all of these at www.bigfinish.com and I think all of them are $5 or less if you do the downloads, maybe a little more for the CDs. I think all of the Doctor Who stories I’ve mentioned are must haves for fans of the show. Enjoy!
This is old news to my friends on app.net but I have some family and friends still trying to get a handle on the possibilities of having a computer in your pocket.
Ok, continuing on my apps I use theme…
The app store is absolutely awash in weather apps. Most of them seem to be about the particular Apple fetish, design. Lots and lots of pretty apps. Some really are wonderful. I tend to use a couple more utilitarian ones. I use the Weather Channel app a lot because of the amount of info it gives. It’s especially good for warning explanations. The other is a more localized app. Dark skies revolves around one theme. When is it going to rain and for how long, right here. As in, where I’m standing. I’ve found it really useful, saved me several drenching when trying to figure out when to leave/go back to the car.
Ok, here’s the big one, Communication. Yes, I mentioned earlier on that it being a phone is almost an afterthought. I do talk on the phone, but in several different ways. There is the regular phone app. I use my sell number like any other phone. I do also have a Google Voice number. I got this for three reasons. 1) I live in a cellular hole so I would frequently drop calls at home. Using wifi is far better. 2) A land line is even better, n ow I have one. 3) I can hand out 1 number and use it both on the go and at home, pretty useful. I use Talkatone to access Google voice. I also use Obion to access the little box that my landline is created by. Gives me better sound quality while at home. Of course I prefer doing FaceTime with my Apple friends. It’s like Skype but a little easier to use. I “call” someone and it rings all of their stuff, phone, iPad, and computer. Good stuff.
Texting is handled by the messages app. I can either send an SMS or an iMessage depending on what kind of device they have. The only practical difference is that iMessages can go to people’s other devices like computers and iPads while texts can only go to phones.
And then there’s my most common ways of communicating, social media. I use two different services. The first one is Facebook. Everyone knows what it is, even if they don’t use it. It’s ubiquitous, most people that I know have an account. I’ll post various things on there and keep up with the goings on of my extended friend network.
I have been using Facebook less and less ever since I joined app.net. Yes, I’m going to talk about that again, mostly because I use it with my phone so much. App.net is a social service that is user supported. It has the same business model as Dropbox, Github, or even an idealized public broadcasting without fund raisers and Federal funding. The service is mostly made up of free users with a small amount of paid users supporting it. Because users are supporting it, there are no ads. Because there are no ads, the people using the service are the customers. They do not monetize your activity or track you in any way. You can read about it and their core values here. You won’t find any other social network like this. They are actually the complete opposite of ad financed social networks. Here’s the full complement of my app.net apps on my phone:
It is also different in the fact that they are allowing developers to make whatever they want on top of the service. I have apps for microblogging (a la Twitter), private chats/messages, podcasting, check ins, journaling, photo sharing, and file management. I might start backing my websites to it as well. Storage space is part of the membership so I have access to all of my content. All the apps I use are unique to iOS. Here’s what I use the most:
1) hAppy, Riposte, and Felix. They are general purpose microblogging clients with a host of other features like private messages and chats.
2) #pan. It is a general use App.net client for microblogging but I primarily use it for posting media. I make podcasts with it and I share pictures with it. Whatever media I post with it gets stored in my private storage and then is aggregated on my own web site. It generates an RSS feed and I can distribute it to Facebook, blogs, etc. You can see my main one here.
3) Whisper is a private messaging app. It supports both individual and group chats. Once again, because there isn’t any advertising these really are private and app.net actually encourages people to use them!
4) Ohai is a journalling app that stores the info on your app.net storage. This is a daily (or more) journal I do for myself. I will occasionally public all post to app.net as well. It records location, a picture, and text. One of the nice things about the information being stored on app.net is that if someone else makes a journalling app that uses app.net I can switch to that and all of my posts come over to the new app.
5) Filez is a file manager for the stuff in my app.net storage and allows me to post the content in other places.
Whew! That’s longer than I thought it would be. I hope this gives you a feel why I’m addicted to my phone. Everyone has different things that get them, but iPhone users usually get gotten by some apps or services:) Let me know what your favorite apps are!
While this will all be old news to my ADN friends, I have other friends and family that are still getting used to the idea of having a computer in their pocket.
A friend of mine recently got an iPhone and posted something to the effect of, “What’s the big deal?” I put off buying an iPhone for a while because I thought the same. My iPod touch convinced me I needed to try an iPhone and I’ve never looked back. Calling an iPhone a phone doesn’t really make sense any more. All of the smart phones out there are networked pocket computers with cameras, GPS, and sensors. If you want to know why a smart phone is a big deal, you need to use the apps made for them. The iPhone has an advantage in that it typically gets apps before anyone else and they tend to look, and function better as well. iPhones also get regular updates adding features and security patches along with bug fixes. Other platforms tend to lag behind, if they get updated at all. Plus, it’s nice owning a product that wasn’t designed as a method of collecting your data and presenting ads to you. Here’s a run down of my most frequently used apps…
Productivity apps. Not going to go into detail here but things like calendar, notes, contacts, and reminders are used so frequently that a lot of us have forgotten that we didn’t used to do them on our phone. Adding to their usefulness is the ability to sync back to your computer(s) and other devices, great having everything available.
Music. I can’t tell you how important this is to me. I have not listened to the radio in years. I get everything from my phone. i stream music for a radio-like experience (minus the ads and plus control over which songs get played) primarily from Slacker Radio and Spotify. For listening to specific things, I either use spottily or my iTunes library. I use iTunes in the cloud so that I have access to all of my songs without having to keep them on my phone. When I’m at home I listen to my stereo of course but I use my phone either to control my iTunes library with the Remote app from Apple or using other services and sending the audio to my stereo via airplay. Airplay is a super simple way to send media to my TV or stereo via Apple devices.
News. I get a lot of my news via RSS feeds. Really Simple Syndication is a way for websites to send out updates to you instead of having to go to each site. I follow… 100 websites? This is the best way to see what they are doing with minimal fuss. I use an app/service called Newsblur. I’ve been very happy with it, it does what I need it to do. I also use several apps that aggregate news based on my interests or specific sites. They tend to be more visually attractive and fun whereas RSS readers tend to be text based and emphasize functionality. I use both Zite and Pulse for attractive ways to read the news that’s important to me. That tends towards the geeky, techy side of things. I also use apps from Al Jeezera English, BBC, and The Guardian for regular news. I tend to use foreign news sites because they have much better coverage of world wide events.
Reading. I read books, short stories, and web sites saved for later reading on my phone. I buy content from a variety of sources including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and the Apple iBookstore. I prefer reading on a larger screen but my phone is always with me and is ideal for killing time. I use Instapaper to save specific web articles to read later. There are plenty of times that I have come across blog posts, articles, or stories that I don’t have time to read at the moment or I just want to always have access to. I can save any web page to Instapaper to read later.
Games. I’m not much of a gamer but there are several games that I do play more than I should. Pinball arcade is amazing. They take real life pinball games, disassemble them, and then reconstruct them digitally. The physics engine is amazing and its a ton of fun. I think I have managed to shake my Bejeweled addiction although I always fear a relapse. I’m currently obsessing over Spelltower and I’ve had some intense Letterpress games. Both of those are word games.
Photography. iPhones are easily the most popular camera on photo sharing sites designed around mobile phones. I am a huge camera and lens snob. I have no delusions about the absolute quality of the iPhone’s camera but damn, it is awfully handy. The killer application of a phone camera is sharing. I can snap a picture and in seconds share it with anyone. It really isn’t a bad point and shoot camera, especially outdoors. The standard camera app is fine but its panorama mode is amazing. So easy to do and it makes impressive images. There are a zillion photography apps for the iPhone. Cortex Cam is a great app for getting good shots in low light. It takes a bunch of images and then stacks them. It can then do a pretty good job of taking noise out of the end result. It doesn’t work for things that are moving but it can be a life saver in darker situations. 645PRO is the most sophisticated photo app that I’ve seen for the iPhone. It has emulsion emulators, lots of different “lens filters”, and WB adjustments. It also allows you to capture uncompressed images. When I don’t feel like fiddling with controls, I use the standard photo app for color and Hueless for B&W.
I even use photography apps after the picture has been taken. I’ll get to some sharing options in the next post. I use an app named Geotag Photos in order to make GPS coordinates for the pictures I take with my real camera. The app records where I am as I am shooting. The file it makes can be merged with the pictures I’ve taken and BAM! All my pictures are geotagged. All of the pictures taken with the phone are already geotagged of course. For quick edits of the pictures I take I use Snapseed. It’s a super easy editing program and surprisingly powerful one at that. For more involved edits I use iPhoto. Lots and lots of options and there is a ton of things you can do to your pictures with it.
That’s enough for now. Will hopefully finish up in the next post.
OK, Last stereo post for a while, I swear…
I have been willing to put up with a lot over the years in order to get the sound I wanted from my stereo. My goal has always been to get an equivalent emotional response as I would to a live show. It wouldn’t be the same experience of course, but the effect should have the same emotional/experiential value. In some ways, recorded music is superior to live events. No worries about mistakes or bad performances. The acoustics are much more controllable, etc.
My stereo has usually involved lots of boxes, cables strewn all over the place, and lots of fiddly things to do. Before I played any record, I cleaned the stylus and cleaned the record. I had to allow the tubes to warm up. I spent weeks experimenting with the angle and positioning of the speakers. I messed around with adjusting the acoustics of the room. I was constantly on the look out for better tubes, cables, and whatever was being made new.
As I’ve gotten older, several things have happened. I live in smaller places now. Some of the speakers I’ve owned were 5 feet tall and weighed over 110 pounds. My current amplifiers weigh 50 pounds apiece, the custom granite stands they sit on are another 20 each. It’s just too much. I’ve also become weary of going through all of the little rituals to keep records in the best shape possible, hell, I don’t even want to deal with CDs anymore. I have gotten much more realistic about what I can actually hear. The top end response of my ears aren’t anything like they were when I was younger.
Maybe more importantly, the quality of sound vs. hassle ratio has gotten to be so much better. Even inexpensive AV receivers have DACs (Digital to Analog Convertor) that are pretty damn good. There have been great strides in speaker design, especially in regards to active systems. The vast majority of people have always had “passive” systems. That means you have a separate amplifier and there is a crossover in the speaker that splits the sound out to the various drivers in the speaker. Active speakers split the frequencies before they are amplified. The amplifiers only amplify a small range of frequencies and attached directly to the voice coil of the speakers. There are tremendous advantages to this approach and it obviates a lot of the stuff that I used to obsess over.
Three years ago I bought a Squeezebox. You can think of it as a network music player. I was able to stream music from my computer to the stereo and from online services like Slacker Radio, Spotify, etc. Completely changed how I listened to music. I was able to control it from the computer or my iPhone/ipad. heaven. The sound quality was miles better than my old (and expensive) CD player.
Logitech has announced that they are discontinuing the Squeezebox line. I had been hoping that they would come out with something that would fix the various little things that made me crazy. Spent the better part of a year trying to find something that would allow me to play music from my computer as well as all of the other services I love. Felt really stupid when I realized all I needed was an Apple Airport Express. That allows me to use airplay from any of my devices and play any music I want. So simple, and so cheap!
I think next year I am going to purchase my first pair of active speakers and get rid of my amps. My most complicated system had a turntable/cartridge and a CD player as sources. The turntable plugged into a phono preamp and then into a preamp. The CD player plugged into the preamp. The preamp plugged into the amp(s) and then they were plugged into the speakers. Next year I could very well have my computer, an Airport Express, and a pair of speakers all connected wirelessly. The amps would be inside the speakers. The DAC could be too depending on which ones I go with. Much less hassle, cost, and I shouldn’t give anything up sound-wise. I do love how technology is making our lives simpler and improving the overall quality as well. Exciting times.
If you read my last post about amps, you might have a good idea about what a big change this will be for me. Looking forward to it! As I get older I crave simplification. Hell, it’ll be nice to get the space back:)