Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My daughter's life is a teen movie

"I hate Leah*," my daughter said, as she got into the car after her math tutoring session.

"Any particular reason?" I asked, trying to keep the mood light.   Teenagers love the drama, and my teenager is no exception.   Maybe talking her through it would clear this all up.   

"She told me I couldn't sit at the lunch table."  

My heart sank.  My freshman daughter had never been good at making friends, and this did not sound good.   "Tell me what happened," I said, hoping for a minor misunderstanding.

"I went to sit at the table I normally sit at with a group.   You know the same ones I have been sitting with, the three sophomores and Leah*  and Parker*, my classmates from middle school."   I nodded and she continued.  "There were two empty seats. One of the sophomores, Asian Girl, said the seat was taken."

"Asian Girl?"  I laughed a little, and she joined in.  "That's a bit of a stereotype.  Don't you know her name?"  My daughter shook her head.  "You're not very good with names."  She shook her head no again.  "Okay, she said the seat was taken.  Did you ask who the seat was taken by?"

"Yes, but she didn't say.  So I asked her again who was sitting there.  She still didn't say.   So I moved over and took the other empty seat."

My mind spun like a Vegas roulette wheel with scenes from classic high school movies flashing before my eyes.   The lunch room is a battlefield where the conflicts are sung out, danced out, and just plain punched out, sometimes accompanied by a food fight.  Anyone and everyone in the school ends up in the cafeteria at some point, so anything can happen.   Getting ejected from a lunch table is so cliché.  Apparently, based on my daughter's experience, it is still happening. 

"Then what?" I prompted. 

"Leah said I couldn't sit there at their table.  So I went and sat by myself and ate lunch."   She paused, then continued, "After I finished I went back to the table and sat down.   They all got up and left."

"Hmm, "  I said, trying to come up with something brilliant, but obviously failing.  "Are you sure they weren't trying to be funny?"  She shook her head no.  "What did Parker say?"   Maybe her other former classmate would be more kind.

"She wasn't there."  My daughter sounded a little sad, but not devastated.  Good, I thought to myself, now I have to get her feel like a hero, not a victim.  How could I put her back in control?   So I started laughing.    My daughter looked at me, a little confused.

"You have got to be kidding me," I said, and kept laughing   "That sounds like a bad teen movie, and a few good ones." She didn't look convinced, but she wasn't crying. "That line is straight out of Mean Girls."   The movie, Mean Girls, is one of our favorites.  It features Lindsay Lohan at her peak, halfway between the cuteness of Parent Trap and totally losing her mind, dignity, and career in her  drug-arrest twenties.    "Did everyone at the table say you couldn't sit there?" 

"No, the boy didn't say anything.   And neither did the other girl I don't like much."  I started laughing again.  "Why is that funny? " she said.   I explained that she only knew the names of half the group, and the rest had just labels.   Perhaps she might relate better to the group if she asked their names.

I also told her the silent ones were typical bystanders, who may not actually support the bullies, but are afraid to say anything even if they don't approve.    It is hard to stand up to a bully, because you might become the next target.   

"So tomorrow, go back and sit at the table.   If they tell you the seat is taken, do what you did today, and ask who."   She nodded, on familiar ground.  "If they tell you that you can't sit at their table, start laughing.   Then tell them they are behaving like the movie, Mean Girls."

"And they are the Mean Girls?"  she asked.  I nodded. "They might say I can't sit there again."

"But at least you haven't run away, and you might get them to laugh about it."  She didn't look convinced. 

"I don't want to be friends with people who treat me like that,"  she said.  Silently, I agreed with her.  Lunchroom Nazis are not my first choice as friends for my daughter.  "At least they don't have a burn book, " my daughter put in, "Or call themselves the Plastics."

"Maybe they are still working on it."  She laughed again, starting to enjoy the comparison.   "Now all l you need to complete the teen movie clichéd plot is an evil cheerleader.  Blonde."  

She thought for a minute and said, "I don't think we have any evil cheerleaders.  Even the blonde ones." 

We started laughing together again, and life was good for the time being. 

*Leah and Parker are pseudonyms.   Even an MG deserves privacy. And there are two sides to every story

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

iVapor Smart Watch - why wait for Apple?

Apple announced their entry to the smart watch market.   The press, predictably enough, oohed and aah-ed about how wonderful the Apple watch was gonna be.   Certain lucky reviewers got the see the future product up close, but did not get to actually manipulate it.   Even without actual hand-on interaction, there was no shortage of glowing reviews of what the watch was going to be like

So why wait for the Apple watch?   Really, why?   I love my Moto, and I am not willing to wait until 2015 to have a smart watch.   I can get significant value from my Android watch in the six months that will make me a more discriminating customer.    Why wait?    Technology is not a lifelong commitment.   I have bought more than one smartphone/media player/laptop/fitness-band.    Besides, it takes Apple three versions to get it right, so I may skip the first two generations.

So until Apple comes late to the party to make their big splash,  I am going to continue enjoy the timer/email/translator/life coach/etc. already on my wrist.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Domo arigato, I love my Moto - banishing the myth of poor battery life

There is no shortage of Android watch reviews from the "professional" reviewers who use the tech for a few days and rush to judgement to grab a headline.   Not every tech relationship is love/hate at first sight.  Like "must-see" TV, it can take time to appreciate and evaluate a device.

I am on my second Android watch.  I have the LG, and that introduced me to the glories of  of Android wear.  I used it to display my boarding pass for a Delta flight.   I read my email on my wrist.  Then my Moto arrived, courtesy of Google I/O.    Since it was my second device, the setup was minimal.  (Pair, and done)  ]

I realized after a few days of wear, that my Moto was more comfortable than my LG.  The round display looks good, and there are no corners/edges that dig into my wrist.   Looking at the display screens of both, I find I can see information just as well on the smaller Moto as the rectangular screen.  

Many of the early reviews complained about the battery life on the Moto.    That tells me the  reviewer  used it less than 2 days.     As you continue to use and charge the Moto, the battery life increases.     After a week of ownership I lost my Moto on a Friday night.   Fifty hours later when I  claimed it from the lost and found, the watch still had 4% of the battery left.

That's better than my smartphones.    

So, my Moto is my Android watch of choice.   I just wish I could get a prettier band instead of the hyper-nerdy black.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Love at first byte - the Surface Pro 3 is my dream PC

In interests of full disclosure, I own 2 iPads, and an iPhone 5s.  There are 2 more iPads and 2 more iPhones in my household.   So obviously, I am no stranger or enemy to Apple.

But I love, love, love, the Surface Pro 3.  Really - it is almost everything I have been dreaming of in a PC - plus a few things I didn't know I was looking for.   That type keyboard/cover with the magnetic connection and the tilt - so easy.   I was reminded of what a pain every other keyboard, including the sleek looking Apple wireless, is to pair up and recharge.  Sooner or later the keyboards run out of juice, and it is never convenient to recharge.   And the connection - no Bluetooth pairing, so it is instantly on.  The magnetic coupling means no fumbling with cables, or matching ports.  You literally slap the keyboard on side of the table and it is ready to run.

I find the spacing on the keys totally typical..   I don't even think about it.  The kickstand on the back of the tablet makes it stand up at the same angle as would my laptop screen.    There is also a touchpad mouse controller on the keyboard, so I don't have to use an external mouse.   Or I can just touch the screen.    The screen is so readable, with that 4:3 aspect ratio.  

The PC has an i7 processor and and 256 gb storage.  That means it runs as fast and stores as much as my previous PC, but weighs half as much.   Considering I was already carrying an ultrabook, I still noticed the reduction in weight.

The only thing I still depend on my iPad mini for is the 3G connection.   If I could put a SIM card in my Surface to connect to the Internet, it would be perfect.   I don't understand why the vendors think that a Windows tablet only needs to connect to Wifi.    Carrying around an external Internet connection is like constantly carrying a power adcord because there the vendor thought because electric power was available no one would need a a battery.  

I also like not having to constantly locate the iPad equivalent to everything I do on the Windows PC.   Until the cloud storage vendors came of age I was frustrated by all the backflips I had to do to find and use files.  Each app may or may not connect to my cloud storage, and might or might not coordinate with the app I wanted to use.

The Surface Pro 3 is simplifying my life.    Windows 8 is still confusing me, but at least I can switch over to the desktop.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Amazon rules, Microsoft drools

What a nightmare!   As much as I love my Surface Pro 3, the experience of dealing with the Microsoft store would put off buying any more there.

It might be 2014, but the Microsoft store still requires that you call  a phone number and talk to a person to request a return material authorization.   So first you have to navigate a voice menu, to talk to someone whose first and second language are not English after waiting in a queue for the privilege.

And then they start walking you through the script.    Instead of an electronic logon to your account, like the Microsoft store did when you ordered, to return you have to recite all the information they already have stored on you back to someone on the phone.   Your customer service representative and I use the term “service” loosely,  repeats it back to you, incorrectly, in a heavy accent.    For your protection, if you manage to successfully communicate your email address on the account, then they must “verify” you. 

If they wanted to “protect” me, they wouldn’t make me read off personal information to someone on a voice call.     Everyone within earshot would be able to break into my Microsoft account for sure, and maybe a few others.     

For my protection they send a code to my email.   I need to access this email on the same phone I am talking on.   If I am using a service provider that does not allow me use data and text simultaneously,   I will need to disconnect the call to retrieve new email.  If I disconnect the call, I will need to be, wait for it, re-verified when I call again. 

If their goal was to make people give up on the returns process, and not return items, this experience will do that.  I won’t return anything to Microsoft store again – because I won’t buy anything from them.  Amazon, I love you. Truly I do.  Easy to order, easy to return, no sales tax, and it shows up in 2 days.   I promise I won’t cheat on you again.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Still love the Careline

Last year I reviewed the Careline phone.   This year, as I continue to struggle with an older adult in my household, I have started to add Careline handsets around my home to replace aging technology.  

I can listen to messages remotely, or from any of the other handsets.   The phones are easy to hear ring, and have good call quality.   Pairing the new handsets is a breeze.   No one supplies me the additional handsets - they are just the best solution for me in this situation.

Should Dancing with the Stars Finals Include More Dancing?

One of my guilty pleasures is watching Dancing with the Stars.   If I miss an episode, my household is instructed to go on information blackout until I can catch up.  No morning news, no web news, weather only from weather apps to avoid spoilers . . . technology really makes it hard to stay in the dark.

This season I have really enjoyed watching Maks and Meryl's journey to the finals.  Personally, I think Maks has been robbed of the mirrorball more than once (Mel B, anyone?)  After 13 seasons he was clearly the Susan Lucci of the mirror-verse.   Though Derek Hough's choreography is excellent, after all these seasons I begin to see the same tricks over and over to hide his celebrity's lack of skill.

Carry the Load
The easiest way to camouflage is to pick the partner up.    The partner no longer has to stay in time with music, or get to the right place on the floor.   Another version of this is to twirl or drag them across the floor, which both have the same advantages of not demanding any timing of the celebrity.

Plant Their Feet and Dance Around Them
Sometimes this involves a pose, or a fancy position, but the result is the same.   For example,  that cha-cha move once more where he holds back of his partners head and raises and lowers her in time to the music at least 5 times, more if he is in a dance challenge and needs showy filler til he can think of the next move.

Add a Great Prop for Balance
Derek's not the only one guilty of this.   But dancing while sitting on a table, or a chair, or steps,  or holding on to a pole or a rope,  removes one of the greater challenges of ballroom dancing - moving across the floor. It's much easier to look good if you don't move.  

This year's partner had two prosthetic legs.   I get the difficulty involved with that, but Heather Mills did not get to dance half the time because she had one prosthetic leg.   The freestyle done this season with Amy Purdy was clever and beautiful, but, for the most part, it wasn't dancing.    It was a series of lifts (well-done) and poses, interspersed with brief sets of steps that covered very little ground, and finished with her spinning in the air a la Cirque de Soleil.    I would have liked to see her on her gazelle feet actually covering some floor.    

The freestyle from the fourth place couple was also dance-light.   A nice no hands flip from James, then some booty-shaking with backup dancers.  A run up a wall, and then twirling a martial arts spear to used up the rest of the time before a pose.

So I think Meryl and Maks more than earned the win.   We didn't get to see much of Meryl and Charlie dancing together (cut off coming in from the break) and why didn't they let the charming and hilarious Diana Nyad dance?   She wasn't great, but Billy Dee got ten times the onscreen camera time.  One more season down in the mirrorverse.   I go from selected information blackout to withdrawal