Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


It certainly was a white Hannukah

Filed under : Food,Gadgets,Life in general
On January 1, 2012
At 11:00 pm
Comments : 12

I really wanted to write a positive (and mundane) post after the last two so I’m going to describe some of the fun things I got for Hannukah and what I am doing with them.

I got this new crockpot to replace one that died when I was making lunch for me and Pious B (it’s OK, a Dutch oven saved the day). I like it because it’s programmable so when I make a shabbat cholent, which is a stew that cooks forever, aka, 12-18 hours, I can have it just keep warm for the rest of it. My first recipe, unless there’s a big sale on brisket, will be this one from Alfa’s blog. I love baked beans.

FYI, the disembodied hand did not come with the slow cooker.

I also received some money and so I finally purchased a decent phone, the Galaxy SII from Samsung. I spent five days setting it up. I didn’t really use my last Android phone as anything but a phone and wireless hotspot for my Apple devices so there was a steep learning curve in how to configure this thing to be The Device. But I put all my music on it and it has Freecell and the subway app, so I guess I am good to go. By the way, if you remember how much I complained about the ineffectual indicator light on my last phone, you will be interested to know that this phone has no light at all. I no longer have any dealbreakers with phones; I just go with the best of the lot that’s out there. Or maybe I’m still sort of in “whatever” mode.

This book about the history of MTV is fascinating if you are a person who watched a lot of it back in the day. I have it on Kindle and I have taken to reading right on my computer which means I can watch all the videos as they talk about them. It’s really important so that when the guy from Ratt says he nailed the landing on the table, you can check that out, or for when Martha Quinn says she had a cameo in Going Back to Cali. So far, the thing that amazed me the most is that the woman from the Kajagoogoo video ended up marrying Dennis Miller. Did not see that coming.

Funny thought:it is a good thing I no longer do iPod Song of the Week, as for the first time since 2002, I am not using an iPod to listen to music on the go. Weird. And speaking of former aspects of this blog, it’s David Nalbandian’s birthday. He has hit the ripe old age of 30. To mark the occasion, I’m taking down his page, since I no longer update it and there are far better sites on the web to find out his schedule, which there weren’t when I started. (This is my favorite site and it has a good listing.) But it had a good run, and God knows it brought me far weirder searches than I would have expected (or wanted). ¡Adiós!

I leave you with this video, which Billy Squier says destroyed his career. I don’t remember it at all, but it would seem that’s a good thing, since Squier would like everyone to know that he is heterosexual. Happy new year!


There is a light that never goes out

Filed under : Gadgets
On December 21, 2010
At 1:00 am
Comments : 4

So just a few months after crowing about my new phone, I have an even newer phone. But it’s an experiment and it’s a bittersweet one. Like this woman, I really, really wanted to stay with my BlackBerry, but they just couldn’t bring their web experience up to everyone else’s. I found that a lot of the time, if I wasn’t near WiFi, I wouldn’t bother even trying to use apps or check things like Twitter or Facebook, because the screen was just too tiny and the experience too slow and limited. Being in a WiFi environment most of the time (school/home/internship), it felt even more painful when riding the bus or visiting someone, to not be able to have the full experience. But I lived with it because I still loved the BB for so many things.

And I probably would have stayed with the BB, hoping by the time my contract was up that either a new model would have the things I liked from iOS and Android devices or that an iOS or Android device would have the things I liked from RIM. But something else happened in between to tip the scales and that was that everyone in my family chipped in together to get me the one thing I wanted for my birthday/Hannukah: an iPad. So now I had two WiFi devices that would frustrate me to no end to not have service on: an iPod Touch and an iPad. I thought about various solutions. I considered trading in my WiFi iPad for a 3G one so that I could get wireless service on it. But that involved a $100 outlay and an extra $15 a month. I thought about getting a portable hotspot but that was the same thing except a $25 charge per month plus carrying around yet another device.

But some Android phones can act as portable hotspots so that seemed the best solution. Just push a button and have the phone spread its WiFi goodness to all my iOS devices. No extra fee and no extra device. So I bought the cheapest Android phone available, the Comet. It’s kind of adorable for all its cheapness (it costs as much off-contract as your phone probably cost subsidized). I didn’t feel so bad about this splurge because I spent 48 hours baking ten orders of rugelach as a special holiday thing for two of my most delightful previous customers and earned almost exactly as much as the Comet cost. Happy Hannukah, Becca – Love, Becca.

As an aside, every time I type or say or think the word Comet, I remember this little ditty from when I was in Summer camp (sing with me!):
Comet, it makes your mouth turn green
Comet, it tastes like gasoline
Comet, it makes you vomit
So eat some Comet and vomit today!

It turns out, these lyrics are only slightly off the standard. But I digress. I really thought I could use the BlackBerry and Comet interchangeably and just pop the SIM card in and out as needed. That turned out not to be the case, since T-Mo, my carrier, has you listed under one or the other. As yet another aside, I cannot say enough good things about T-Mobile. If they have good coverage in your area, use them, if only just to hear them trip over themselves on the phone to please you. It’s like someone promised them a steak if they could get you to say, “Wow, thanks!” Bottom line, they gave me the cheap Android plan, even though it no longer exists, just because I already had the cheap Blackberry plan which no longer exists. And if I want to switch back to the cheap BB plan which no longer exists, I just have to call back. Steak for everyone!

But here’s the rub. I like the Comet and Android very much, just as I thought I would, but I ache for my BlackBerry. My BlackBerry was a workhorse. It was that guy who gets to the office at 6 and leaves at 9 and you just have to glance over to see him working away at his task. There’s no need to bother him! He’s hammering away. And at the end of the day, right on time, he brings you that report you wanted with no typos and no mistakes. The Comet is like… well, me. It sits around and waits till you really need something and then maybe it has it and maybe it doesn’t and you can never really be sure if it’s right. (This post will not be on my resume, thanks for asking). I mean, why do the work before it’s really needed? And if you don’t have it at that point, maybe no one will notice.

The BlackBerry, as anyone who has been near someone who has one can attest, has a little light on the top. It flashes a slow and steady green when it is connected to WiFi or a mobile signal and then switches to a slow and steady red if you have a message of some kind. The Comet has a light but does nothing if nothing’s happening and then flashes green if you have a message. The trouble is, sometimes nothing’s happening because the Comet is just hanging out and having a smoke. It hasn’t really tried to see if you have any messages. Maybe it lost the connection, but as far as you know, it’s just that no one’s trying to reach you. But maybe they are! And the Comet is like, “hey, you know that one time at band camp and… what? Connection? I don’t even really remember what that is.” Sometimes when you wonder if maybe there is a message despite no light and you unlock the screen, the Comet gets busy, like it knows the boss entered the room. Then it frantically checks for e-mails and Twitter mentions and Facebook comments. Sometimes, it doesn’t even notice the boss is around. “Oh hey, remember that time… anyone got a light?… when Sally and Jimmy had that fight and….”

As Pavlov could tell you, it’s this kind of unpredictability that drives a person mad. But there are some predictable things. If I send myself an e-mail and line up my devices, here’s how it goes: the iPad and Touch will ping, one right after the other, then my computer will chime, then…. nothing. Then I get myself a smoke (well, no, that’s hyperbole) and then the light on the Comet starts to flash. Ugh. Even worse, when the Comet is charging, its light is dedicated to showing you that it’s charging and no indication of a message at all occurs. Now, I can’t be having that. My entire psyche is geared to glancing over and seeing the light flashing, knowing something in my world is constantly scanning the atmosphere for messages, and will soundlessly indicate when I have one. I still find myself looking over all the time at the Comet to watch it blink and of course, it won’t do that. But then, sometimes in the morning after I had packed my BB in my messenger bag, I’d glance over at the spot where it had blinked all night. It’s a reflex.

I have been told that there are apps for Android phones that will accomplish this, but so far, none will work for the Comet’s lame little light. It’s funny, before the last post, which was a bit sentimental, the Comet Conundrum already reminded me of that time. I remember being in a foreign land, literally and figuratively, and before going to sleep in a cold bed, I’d put the BlackBerry on the side of it. That flashing light seemed to hum to me that I was still connected to people who loved me. And that’s the power of our electronic devices. Not the games or the turn by turn navigation, but the connections to people not by our side. I need to know that I can count on my little friend to tell me that it is constantly reaching out to see if anyone is reaching back and to let me know reliably if they have. I need to be able to trust it.

I should also mention that the Comet’s battery runs out in less than my typical 15 hour day, and that’s with just average use. In a normal BlackBerry day, I wouldn’t even lose the first bar on the battery scale unless I left it off the charger all night. So you can add that to the “I can’t really count on this to be there for me” column.

It’s funny, I was going to write about a NY Times article/podcast on the subject of the mobile phone being an extension of the self. But instead, I found that I need one that isn’t like me at all. I need one that completes me. This one seems to just turn my mouth green.

Here is a photo taken by the Comet of the most expensive clock radio ever, my iPad. My co-operating tech teacher can’t believe I do this. But I can’t be the only one or they wouldn’t have this app, would they?

Why did I take this picture? I think it was the excitement over a new phone and the promise of a snowy day, not to mention I’m not really myself since I started having to wake up at 6:15am. I haven’t even turned the light on yet in this picture.

The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out


Cement mixer

Filed under : Gadgets,Meta/Blognews,Student Life
On November 2, 2010
At 12:15 am
Comments : 8

A few housekeeping items, both personally and bloggily. First, bittersweetly, I am putting my bake shop on hiatus for the moment. Although I can’t see opening it back up again, I also don’t want to take the site down and “closed” is such an ugly word, so let’s stick with hiatus. Right now, I can barely keep my head above water with a job, fieldwork, an off-site project, classes, three standardized exams, and the thesis. I remember eight hours of sleep fondly… those were good times! So there isn’t really room on the schedule to also be baking. It worked great last year when I had a ten hour a week job (mostly from home) and classes which began at 4pm. Now, unless I eliminate sleep entirely (really, it’s a possibility anyway), there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Still, if there is a particular need for rugelach and you give me enough notice, I may be able to work it in occasionally, just let me know. Hopefully, you’ll be able to anticipate your pastry needs several weeks in advance. Thanks to everyone for making it such a successful baking year! I kept a careful spreadsheet (duh) and I cleared quite a bit all in spare hours between readings, so it worked out beyond my greatest hopes. You all rock!

Secondly, about that whole thesis. Originally, when I was studying how we live on the Internet in general, it was a fabulous excuse to do an ethnographic study on an online forum of which I have been a longtime member. Now that I have switched up my program a bit to be more education-minded, it’s no longer a good fit for the work I’m doing. Instead, I am pondering (with the help of my advisor) a study of iPads in the classroom. Since I’ve been assigned to work on that project for and by my placement school anyway, and I love gadgets, that also seems an attractive option for me. But either way, it means I will not be doing the online community study. Don’t cry! I did complete a project for a class last year on that site and it was fairly extensive and turned out beautifully. In fact, I kid you not, people have stopped me in the hallway to say they saw it and loved it. I am considering getting it published somewhere but, well, we’ll see how that goes. The professor who originally suggested that to me is extremely busy and there’s only so much prodding I can do. So whether you will see it or not remains an open question. Still, I was able to get the desire to analyze this community out of my system and in a way, it’s a relief. Now I can just be a participant without worrying about tainting my data.

And, lastly, on the iPad tip, now that I have my loaner, I was able to test this site’s mobile theme on it and it works fine. It’s not exactly optimized for the device, but the plugin authors say they are working on that for the next version so hopefully it will have more bells and whistles, and maybe even more extensive excerpts of each post on the home page, which is my biggest complaint. Because seriously, my opening lines seem to have not much to do with the actual posts and it makes things appear kind of comical. Sort of like those songs which have titles seemingly plucked out of the ether. Bizarre Love Triangle? Does that song have anything to do with a bizarre love triangle? Sex Type Thing? What is that, even? Man, that should have been my opening line.

Anyway, my posts are like a journey, a journey to a faraway place… in the middle seat of coach. And like that journey, they start with confusion and boredom and end with exhaustion and nausea. But should you be bored waiting on that long, long line to vote today, grab your iPad and give it a whirl. I am at least as entertaining as the ass of the person in front of you.

Anyway, title comes from nowhere – that’s the joke! Oh, I slay me.

INXS – Not Enough Time


Up to date… for at least the next week

Filed under : Gadgets
On August 12, 2010
At 9:30 pm
Comments : 9

You know what the greatest thing about getting a new computer is? Well, new to me, because it’s a previous genration refurb? Amongst the good, but not best, things are:

1. Enough memory to not see a spinning beach ball every time I want to do three things at once.
2. No sound of processor wheezing when I watch a video on YouTube.
3. An N key that says N (N is the key that advances my RSS reader… I appear to read a lot of feeds, as I have rubbed that sucker completely off).
4. No more burnt leg (the older Macbook batteries were removable and closer to my leg).
5. Pleasant crunch of new keyboard design (plus backlighting for typing in the dark).
6. CD/DVD drive which actually accepts said discs.
7. Right click with one touch (the old trackpad didn’t have that).
8. More stuff fits on the same size screen.
9. Actual portability since the battery lasts 6x times as long as the old one (which I stopped unplugging at all, really).
10. Works with my iPhone headphones with mic so I don’t have to look like I’m taking your order when I’m on a video conference or class.

No, the best thing is that I get to use all the new software that my old computer (the very first Macbook Pro from 2006) couldn’t handle! I just got so used to saying, “oh. I don’t have that operating system” or “oh. I don’t have that amount of RAM.” But now I do! In fact, I spent a while trying to remember all the things I had previously been refused, like Google Chrome and Kindle For Mac and Blackberry Desktop Software. Yes, I could have updated my old Macbook with all the latest software but first I waited for the bugs to be worked out and then it didn’t feel worth it because I kept thinking I’d upgrade the hardware. But there is something so exciting about saying, “why, yes, I’ll take the version for the very newest operating system, the version with all the neat things.”

My old Macbook was called Big Mac because it was larger than my previous Thinkpad and, well, it was a Mac and that was novel for me at the time. My Dad worked at IBM his entire career and so I had only ever had Thinkpads and PS/2’s. Not even Dell or Gateway. I had one of the first laptops IBM produced when I went to college. Now, I am not one for naming electronics but I always named my computers because you could. There was an area to put the name and so I did. Nowadays, you especially need to if you have a network, unless you can remember offhand that M7978V68423 is your Slingplayer. I always named my laptops after musicians until Big Mac (only North of the City will remember these names, I think). But now it’s time to return to that and thus I name mine after a musician I miss very much, and like Malcolm, it’s quirky, takes old things and makes them up to date, and keeps me connected to good things everywhere.

[youtube width=”480″ height=”385″][/youtube]


It’s dark and New York is hot

Filed under : Gadgets,Royalty
On July 7, 2010
At 2:15 am
Comments : 6

This was supposed to be the picture of the day except the day is over. And it was the day before that, anyway. But the Queen of England was here today and I could not believe it, she wore long sleeves. This is to prove that nothing can ever be as much torture as having Fergie as a (former) daughter-in-law. It was 103 degrees here, convincing me to finally turn on the air conditioning. But I feel the Queen would not have done so. She is stoic.

But this is not the Queen in New York, this is Her Majesty at the RIM factory (that’s Research In Motion, aka the BlackBerry people) in the decidedly cooler climes of Canada. I’m posting this picture simply because they gave the Queen the same model as I just got! Thus proving that for the next 5-7 days, I own the most current and up to date model. And I am going to bust that thing out everywhere! Fuck your iPhone! The Queen and I are BlackBerry buddies!

And as soon as she gives me her PIN, I am going to totally message her that.

Title is a take-off of a DMX album title. And the temperature check at 2am? 83 degrees. I picked this particular track because it was produced by Swizz Beatz from whom I once received a group email that was both abusive and hilarious.
DMX – Ruff Ryders’ Anthem