Category Archives: Technology

Under Lock and Key

I saw a young man by a white car in the college parking lot near my work the other day. His bicycle was propped up against the car, and he was evidently trying to get into the car with  a long wire inserted through the window frame on the driver’s side. Given it was broad daylight and that there is a low crime rate in our town, I knew that he was the owner of the vehicle and he had locked his keys in the car.  He was still there, with a friend, when I went home for lunch, and they were still at it.

We are preparing for my agency moving to a new building, and we are faced with clearing out decades of materials before the move. Storage space in the new building is limited, so we need to go through multiple filing cabinets to sort and toss what we don’t need. We have discovered full, locked filing cabinets in storage rooms. We have no idea where the keys are. What now? Do we try, like the young man in the parking lot,  to jimmy the locks? Do we toss the whole thing, hoping that what ever is in the cabinet is not useful? It is a hard decision to make. I am glad that it is not up to me. I have the keys for the four psychology filing cabinets in my purse, and there they will stay until the cabinets are in position in the new building. I just better not lose my purse.

What do you have under lock and key? Ever been locked out of anything?

Brave New World

YA: I’m going to Costco.  Do you want anything?

VS: Can you get me a box of my sausages?  (Vegetarian – good price at Costco)

YA: (rolling eyes, clearly hoping I hadn’t wanted anything).

VS: Wait, I’ve got a $20 you can take.

YA: Can’t you just Venmo me?  (Online money transfer app)

VS: But I’ve got the cash right here.

YA:  I don’t want cash.

VS:  What?  (You have to imagine the incredulous tone of voice here.)

YA: It’s too much trouble.

 

What has surprised you this week?

Thank you, Mr. Parker

In the early 1980’s, I was a budding classical music audiophile who lived on a graduate student income. Winnipeg had a number of good record stores for classical music albums, and I wanted to make sure that I got the best albums for my measly disposable income. I was able to do that with a handy dandy guide courtesy of MPR and Mr. Bill Parker with  Building a Classical Music Library.  It was very helpful identifying good recordings and  performers.

I hadn’t thought about this book for quite a while until Thursday night, when Husband brought it up out of the basement as we were trying to figure out what was so important about our vinyl recording from  1981 of Vladimir Ashkenazy’s piano version of Pictures at an Exhibition.  Paging through the book, I realized how many treasured recordings we have that Mr Parker suggested.

One favorite recording from that period of my life is that of Percy Grainger playing Grieg’s A minor Piano Concerto.  Grainger was long dead by the time of the recording. He made piano rolls of the concerto in the 1920’s, and a piano set up to play the rolls was recorded with the Sydney Symphony. Here is the same set up with Andrew Davis conducting at the London Proms in 1988.

 

What are some of your treasured recordings?

It’s Ringing

This past Solstice, one of YA’s gifts to me was a Ring doorbell – you know, one of those doorbells that has a camera in it.  This gift falls into the category of a gift for herself rather than a gift for me.  YA does a lot of her shopping online, so she worries about packages left on our front porch.  Installing this thing required drilling holes into the stucco, so it was very easy to put off at first.  Then it ended up in a box in Nonny’s room and I was hoping a little bit that it would be forgotten.

But thanks to shelter-in-place, YA is stuck in the house and looking for projects.  I resisted a bit by not being helpful but YA was persistent.  She went to the basement and got the drill, looked up directions on YouTube, got out an extension cord.  Then she realized that we should really move the mailbox over a few inches, so she had to collect up the tools to get this done as well.  But eventually I couldn’t put it off any longer, so I drilled the holes for the Ring and then drilled new holes for the mailbox’s new location.  YA has done the rest, including putting the app on my phone.  I guess I still get to pick my own ring tone.

What technology have YOU succumbed to?

False Alarm

We had rather a to do here on Monday when the city police issued a shelter in place order for the part of town north of the interstate.  Someone had found a cylindrical metal container, like a mortar shell, chained to a fence near the Department of Transportation lot where they park the snow plows and road graders.  After assessing things, the police determined it was not a bomb,  but a container for geocaching.  Someone attached it to the fence without getting permission from the DOT to do so.

I like the concept of people  getting outside and wandering around searching for hidden objects with their GPS. How fun!  It is too bad the north part of town had to be so alarmed about being blown up.  My friend the General Mills security guard says they get several reports a year of such unsanctioned containers on the borders of General Mills property.

What are your favorite  outdoor activities?  Any good scavenger hunt stories?

 

Your Private Hell

Husband declared the other day  that his private Hell consisted of dealing with paper (he has neuropathy in his fingertips from diabetes and can’t sort or easily manipulate papers or feel his fingers on a keyboard), keeping organized the cords for our various computers,  phones, and tech instruments,  and the internal combustion engine. He is in Heaven, on the other hand turning a phrase or writing a psychological evaluation.

What would constitute your private Hell?  

It’s Raining

For a couple of years now, I have used some relaxing piano/bird song background music during the day as a way to relax and keep my balance at work.  It’s the same musical theme (YouTube) and it repeats and repeats.  There are days when I have it playing on my headset for most of the day.

No need to go into this in detail, but suffice it to say that the last two weeks have been the most stressful I have ever endured in the travel industry.  I realized on Friday that even my pretty piano & bird compilation wasn’t quite doing it.  So I went searching and found this:

I don’t look at the actual video – not much to see – but I’ve been listening to the rain almost constantly (when I’m not on calls or being accosted in my cube about something).  It is actually very calming – not sure why the sound of softly falling rain relaxes me, but it does.  In fact, this morning I accidentally closed down the browser that is playing the rain and I immediately tensed up and hurried to get it back.

Apparently there is an app that goes along with this soothing sound, but it doesn’t look like anything I would really like or use, so I guess I’ll just stick with the YouTube rain for now.

What helps you relax?   Or are you already relaxed enough?

Unplugging! / Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Photo credit: Crissy Jarvis

I had already begun a tech-related post about social media, (see below) and then found on my Firefox start-up page a notice about National Day of Unplugging

beginning this Friday at sundown. This, then, is the Public Service Announcement segment of the post.

According to one study:

75% of Americans spend 3 or more hours per day on their devices (smart phones, tablets, computers);

48% use the devices 5 or more hours; and

32% check in before getting out of bed in the morning.

I know myself well enough that I will probably not wean myself from my computer for an entire 24 hours, but will try to cut down during that period. (I don’t have a smart phone, and rarely use our tablet.)

Meanwhile, here’s the post I’d already started:  Should I stay or should I go?

A California friend recently posted one last item on her Facebook timeline, saying: “I’m going inactive on FB. A book can change me and THIS ONE DID… Picture the same posts: me baking, fostering senior dogs, meeting up with friends and reading, and watching Netflix, and volunteering, and going to Church. Contact me via email for a while.”

The book in question is Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts RIGHT NOW, by Jaron Lanier, a virtual reality pioneer. From the book’s dust cover:  “Lanier’s… reasons include its tendency to bring out the worst in us, to make politics terrifying, to trick us with illusions of popularity and success, to twist our relationship with the truth, to disconnect us from other people even as we are more ‘connected’ than ever, and to rob us of our free will with relentless targeted ads.” It’s not a huge book, just 144 smallish pages, and he skims over a lot of detail (and gives numbered references to innumerable online articles). I understood maybe 1/3 of what I was reading.

But he’s right about the Big Brother aspect to our current online society. I hate it when I go to, say, a Perkins restaurant (and pay by credit card), and see online the next day (for the first time) ads for Perkins’ Signature Burgers. It’s creepy – I feel like I’ve been spied upon. I’m sure you can all relate similar happenings.

Oxford’s definition of social media reads:  “Social media is computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through the building of virtual networks and communities. … Users engage with social media via computer, tablet or smartphone via web-based software or web application, often utilizing it for messaging.”

I got on Facebook years ago so I could see photos of far flung relatives, especially the little kids who are growing up so fast. Lately I find myself getting on sporadically, but once I’m on I seem to be addicted for days. I have also been addicted at times to msn.com’s news feed (which is full of junk), and of course I find myself checking emails – and this blog – multiple times on days when I’m home. And I’m starting to play Spider Solitaire more often… Who knows what I’d do if I had a smart phone!

Are you comfortable with your level of involvement on social media?

If not, what would you like to change?

Auto Update

Finally – some science I can completely get behind! An article last week declared that drivers of expensive cars are jerks.

One study measured this by clocking vehicles at various crossroads. It found that drivers of more “flashy vehicles” are less likely to stop for pedestrians.  And not just that, but as the cost of the car goes up, the likelihood that the driver will even slow down decreases.  The researchers speculate that luxury car owners “feel a sense of superiority over other road users” and were thus less able to empathize with lowly sidewalk-dwellers.  And I’m sure no one will be surprised that the race and gender of the pedestrian matters as well.

Apparently this discovery of a car-value-to-jerkish-behavior correlation isn’t new; The Journal of Transport and Health, backed up a Finnish study published in January found that men who own flashy vehicles are more likely to be “argumentative, stubborn, disagreeable and unempathetic.” According to the study “these personality traits explain the desire to own high-status products, and the same traits also explain why such people break traffic regulations more frequently than others.”

Obviously no one wants to tar every single luxury-car owner with one broad brush, but the generalities don’t look good. We just have to worry about how all the small, cheap, beater car owners will now feel smug!

What’s one extra component you’d like to have on your car? Extra smugness points to anybody who doesn’t have a car!!

Brave New World?

Tech savvy are not two words that probably come to mind when you think of me. Some folks even laugh when they find out I am the go-to person at work when things are not going well computer-wise. My co-workers come to me when files go missing, when they need to know how to do something in Word or Excel (even Powerpoint occasionally) and I’m also the head of a long-standing group that controls all the various forms that we use in the events division. That doesn’t mean that technology isn’t moving faster than I can sometimes keep up with it. I have a new computer at home and it feels slow going to get used to it and at work it does feel like sometimes the tech folks are speaking a foreign language. But even so, I generally don’t feel flummoxed when faced with technology.

So, my trip to Texas a couple of weeks back took me by surprise. I got to the hotel around lunchtime – the front desk offered to have someone show me to my room but I declined; seems a little silly to make somebody walk to my room with me. I got into the elevator, pushed the button for the 5th floor and the doors shut. After a bit, the doors opened and as I was about to step out, I looked up to see that the elevator was still on the lobby level and the man waiting seemed surprised that I stayed on as he entered. Then I saw him swipe his room key card up against a panel at the bottom of the floor buttons; you need your key card to signal the elevator to move.

Key card in hand, I approved my door once I finally got to the 5th floor. There wasn’t a noticeable “slot” to enter the key card, so I assumed you just swiped it. I held it up to the door knob. Nothing. I turned I sideways. Nothing. I held it upside down. Nothing. As I was about to go back to the desk to get a new key, I happened to very quickly move the card against the door. Open sesame!

And as if that wasn’t enough trauma in two minutes, I had to call the front desk for the wifi password and I couldn’t figure out the phone. I pushed the Line 1 button, then the Line 2 button, the speaker button and all the combinations I could think of. I eventually did get through, but I tried so many things that I don’t remember what I did that worked.

Three times in 10 minutes, I was stymied by technology at the Four Seasons. It made me feel a little old and outdated so to sooth my nerves, I took my book and sat out on my balcony for a while, reading the old-fashioned way. I left my phone and my pc in the room.

Been flummoxed by any technology lately?