If personal technology were a bullet train, I would be far back in the distance on a handcar, Buster Keaton-like, frantically pumping to get up to speed. Although I have finally learned that in order to turn my PC “off” that I must first click the “Start” icon. This oxymoronic oddity is just a tiny slice of a much larger portion of secret operational contradictions, liberally sprinkled throughout the vast network of PCs, Macs, iPhones, Androids, iPads, Kindles, Clouds, servers, Nooks, crannies, etc. Users who know all these operational secrets are young enough that they are bemused by or mocking of such things as turntables, typewriters and manual transmissions. Time marches on to the beat of apping, Googling, Twittering, friending, Binging, crowd sourcing, mash-upping, hashtagging and, my personal favorite, blogging.
Nevertheless, this past holiday season brought me a technological wonder or two which operate in quite intuitive ways; that is, they are intuitive if one were born during the salad days of mechanical technology (see “turntable” above). These new gadgets are so intuitive that they do not come with instruction booklets. If you have an issue, one need only use an Internet search engine for clarification about how to plug the device into a wall socket. Of course, initially getting a popular search engine on your PC’s list of favorites–and this, only after learning what your list of favorites actually means and a clear definition of the term search engine–required non-intuitive, curse-word inducing, operational mayhem. In any case, my hand-pumped railroad trolley has gotten me that far, so it’s all good. (Aside: Ironically, my PC has a cursor and I, my-own-self, am a curser, but these similarities have not made the machine and me simpatico.)
Just prior to the holidays I became the proud owner of a new iPhone 4S. The “4” and the “S” likely mean something important, but I don’t know what that is. Within each of these phones there is a very tiny woman named Siri who knows a boatload of stuff… hey, wait a minute, Siri?, 4″S”? Part of the branding mystery is likely solved. You can ask Siri a question such as, “What movies has Kevin Bacon been in?” and, presto, there on the screen is a list of said movies. Or, “What is the weather forecast for tomorrow?” and, bingo, there it is in living color. I asked Siri, “What’s the meaning of life?” and she promptly responded, “I give up”, which is pretty much the consensus answer these days. And, her answer shows a high level of honesty, something largely missing in many small people living inside phones.
Anyway, one of the dozens of features of my phone, besides being a phone, is an application called Pandora, named for the Greek woman whose box you did not want to mess with unless you wanted real trouble. Pandora’s branding choice seems similar to naming your sailboat Albatross. However, the Pandora app has nothing to do with escaped evils, it is all about music.
Because I have the paid subscription to Pandora, the selected music plays without the annoying interruption of commercials. Cool. Even cooler is the fact that I can select a genre of music and Pandora’s algorithm will go to the great music warehouse in the Cloud and build a whole personal radio station of my favorite type of music. And–and this is the best part–I can create many different genre-specific stations without the worry that these genres will mix together like when the gravy and cranberry sauce run together on your plate at Thanksgiving. (Let me clarify here that I don’t really know what an “algorithm” is and I have no clue where the “Cloud” is located. For all know it is buried in Missouri with the Mormons’ gold tablets.)
As many of you know, the sound quality emitted from a cell phone speaker is less than optimal, making music sound as if it were coming to you via a taunt string and a soup can. Here is where my latest gadgets come to the fore. Both of these electronic marvels are audio speakers. One speaker has a docking station onto which I can plug my phone and the music plays. For those of you less technologically gifted that I am, a docking station is a station where you can dock things. The other speaker is dockless, although it shows no sign of dock envy, and the music just magically jumps from the phone and plays through the speaker. Maybe Siri throws the music through the air, I don’t really know. The sound quality is excellent and both of the speakers are relatively small and have re-chargeable batteries so they can be moved easily and played anywhere I want.
The current wife and I like a bit of background music playing when we dine, which is often in the breakfast nook of the kitchen (I’ve always enjoyed a little nook in the kitchen). Therefore, I’ve placed the dockless speaker in the kitchen where we can ask Pandora to play what we created and call the Ottmar Liebert Station, a mix of Ottmar, Gato Barbieri, Jeff Lorber, Dave Koz, etc. Very pleasant.
Then, when the supper clean-up commences (whoever cooks doesn’t have to clean up) the Pandora station can be changed to something more clean-uppy appropriate. My fav is the Lyle Lovett Station which I seeded with Lyle, John Hiatt, Bonnie Raitt, Mingo Fishtrap (no kidding), Dave Mathews, all types of southern rock groups, Keb Moe, Jeff Black, Asleep at the Wheel, etc., etc., etc. The Pandora algorithm then added to the line-up great stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise know to request.
Here’s the only downside to this arrangement. I crank up the volume while I’m scouring, rinsing, scrapping, disposaling and loading. From the nether reaches of the house, the current wife will hear a favorite song and rush to the kitchen and pull me away from my duties to dance. We then commence to employ the moves that made us famous in our youth, albeit with somewhat lesser range of motion and far fewer flips or slides through the legs. Our dancing requires touching: the push (known to some as the jitterbug), the two-step and the love song slow dance, which requires little footwork but a great deal of touching (woo-woo!)
This dance craze phenomenon accelerated just after Christmas day and was on display while our children and grandchildren were still in residence. Their responses were telling. The grandboys thought our dancing was fascinating and fun. They would ask for encores. Our adult children, however, reverted to the same reaction they displayed as teens, that is, a rolling of eyes and the shaking of heads. It’s the same reaction our parents got from us when they signed us up for ballroom dancing.
Truly, the more things change……
Observoid of the Day: Without Fats Domino, Chubby Checker would have been Ernest Evans and the Twist a mere hairdo.