Monthly Archives: April 2014

Baby Boomer 1st Tweet

Baby Boomer economy 3 Hello world! I’m excited. It’s as if some part of me has just emerged from a cocoon, where for the past umpteenth years, I’ve been passively learning and today, all that changed. And if you were born between 1946 and 1964, well you’re about to feel excited too!

Because you’re a Baby Boomer, one of the 74.6 million babies that were born after World War II; you are a part of the largest generation to be born in American history.

The American Baby Boomer Committee (ABBC) wants to acknowledge us with some Baby Boomer trivia: The Boom peaked in 1957. If you were born that year, then you are 1 of 11,780.8 babies that were born per day in America. Yes, per day; that’s the equivalent of about 8 babies per minute! And if you were born in 1964, at the end of the Boom Era, then you’re one of 11,002.7 babies born per day in the U.S.

We fearlessly rode our bicycles and roller skated without helmets. We fell down and scraped our knees; but we got back up and were better prepared for life because of our bruised feelings. We played outdoors, partied and sometimes drank too much. Our “Been there done that” attitude helped build up integrity, without tearing down character.

We’re no longer buying diapers and saving for tuition. Our kids have graduated from college and while they’re trying to figure out their lives, we’ve discovered new ways to balance our household budgets and there’s money left over!

We’re the newest consumers on the internet, stabilizing the economy and finding better ways to use social media. Our impact will have far-reaching effects on a global scale, in politics and on the ecology. We’ll have a chance to eradicate racism and perhaps close the gender gap.

We baby boomers are a voting bloc, a movement that will drum out a new beat and our first tweet on Twitter will be: “Hello”.

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Filed under AARP, Apps, Baby boomers, facebook, gadget, Gender Equality, Marketability, profitability, Samsung, social media, streaming, Twitter

Baby Boomers Are the Next Old Big Thing

baby boomers 6d We didn’t need a new television.  I’m not sure exactly when we wanted a new television.  Or if there was a distinction made between the want and the need, but this past weekend we bought a new flat screen television. 

In our house, the fine line between household income and budget is a chasm as wide as it is deep.  For years, there has been no discretionary income and no such thing as surplus money.  But our daughter recently graduated from college.

Suddenly bills look less complex.  And I was only mildly surprised when we transitioned from the childish “wanting what we don’t need” to the decisive ideology, “It’s for sale, so I’m buying it.” 

My husband and I are both past 50.  We’re both fully aware of our responsibilities and require no reminders.  We don’t make purchases on a whim and aren’t easily persuaded to try a new product by watching a television commercial.  Marketing analysts already know this about us; in fact they haven’t targeted us in years.

In fact, other than the AARP magazines and television commercials that are aimed at our demographic group; we’ve pretty much been left to age by ourselves.   Although I’m sure all of that’s about to change, as we Baby-boomers are living longer and paying off our debt.    We seem to be heading into uncharted consumer purchasing power.  

Which is why the whole trip to BestBuy and the purchase of a large screen flat screen television was so extraordinary; I kept peeking around for a cameraman.  For surely this was being recorded for some reality TV program.

Here was my husband gleeful, if not happy to pay for HDMI cables (he fumes at the mention of the monthly cable bill).  And when the salesman said that the television was best viewed mounted on the wall, like a piece of art; my husband was okay paying for a wall bracket (he has a jar full of nuts and bolts that he’s saved for exactly this kind of project).

My husband sat down in the theater room, surrounded by huge flat screen televisions and surround sound, as the salesman walked away to process our purchase.

“What just happened?”  I asked myself, because I’m at an age when I talk to myself.  There’s never an answer but I’m always willing to listen. 

“It’ll look like a piece of art, once it’s hung up in the family room,” my husband excitedly whispered the salesman’s pitch, which he regurgitated perfectly.

Once we got home, we were faced with the daunting task of what to do with the old big bulky television.  You see, there’s nothing wrong with it and that did bother my sensibilities.  I’m a mother of two and unused to casting perfectly good things out in the trash.  Compounded by the fact that we could neither give away (no one wanted an old bulky television, even if it was working) nor throw it away with the weekly trash collection (it was an environmental hazardous waste).

 In the end, it cost us a small fortune to get rid of the old still-working television.   My family is delighted with the new television.   However, when it’s turned off it doesn’t look like a piece of artwork.  It looks like what it is, that is a big black rectangle that’s been mounted to the wall.

 I might better appreciate it, once I get ahold of the remote control.  If I sit in a lotus position for hours, holding onto it and watching television on, I’ll experience its wondrous power.   There’s a commercial on, Samsung’s cellphone, the Galaxy 5, they’re toting it as the “Next best thing is here”.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my current cellphone.  But I’m watching that new television and thinking, why not… We baby-boomers are the next new old thing and we’re living longer.   Now, that’s power baby.  

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Filed under AARP, Baby boomers, Consumers, gadget, Marketability, Samsung, technology, Television

Social Media: A Women’s Right

blockhead
There’s that part of me, who like a child continues to believe that America will get it right.  And then a day like last Friday happens, when politicians are more representative of Lucy’s opinion of Charlie Brown, they’re “blockheads”, than they are of their own voting bloc. 

Women are smart, innovative and also very good at negotiating, (ask any congressman how his mother got him to eat his vegetables).  It’s not rocket science, but rather the slow evolution of the Equal Pay Act, that was signed in 1963. So slow, that it’s almost as if time is standing still! 

And then there’s that whole pesky thing about taking time to be mothers, to grow a nation.  And to be daughters, to take care of an aging nation.  And to be wives, lovers, partners and caretakers of a nation that requires nurturing.  

It requires a great stamina, especially when you’re expected to do the country’s nurturing for free, during wartime, after wartime and in between time.   And then to never be paid, it begs the question:

If women aren’t encouraged to build and nurture the nation, then who will? 

And that’s when I got it.  Really, really understood the reason why women are systematically held back, it’s not because we’re unworthy, but because we’re the caretakers; the nurturers.

So, there have been no union rousers, no shouts of foul play and no labor strikes, no bus boycotts for women’s rights.  There’s been no substantial outburst from Oprah and no concise explanation from Hilary.  In fact, it was Mrs. Lilly Ledbetter who had gathered with a group of women to observe President Obama’s signing of the Equal Pay Act that gave us our only photo op, before the deed was done and quickly undone.

I’m only remembering now, because I tweeted about it on Twitter. 

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April 24, 2014 · 2:01 PM

Music Streaming- It’s Not That Complicated

Words
Pandora, the internet radio giant is being sued for streaming music that was made prior to 1972. And as far as lawsuits go, it’s quite a story.

But the real story ought to be the relationship between technology and music. Because unlike any other industry, music from the 1970’s owes a great deal of it’s current success to Rappers and the technology that’s literally played it forward, by taking it from analog to digital and revitalizing the music industry.

No one knows where music came from, but primal rhythms created with natural objects like gourds, bones, and shells; evolved to the more complex pitch and tone controlled instruments, like strings and windpipes.

In 1999, a seven-holed flute was discovered in China. It dates back to 7000 B.C. and it has one offset hole, perhaps a mistake that indicates earlier man’s sensitivity to pitch and tone. That sensitivity still exists today, except now we call it an ear or an appreciation of music.

The profitability in sharing music via CDs, apps, streaming and the web is a work in progress. But music, like life itself, is a constant. It’s the sharing of cultures and the distribution of a soul’s wealth.

Together, music and technology will continue their dance down Wall Street to Main Street, USA. Shimmering and repackaged, the music will float across oceans and be heard. Because as William Congreve wrote, “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast”.

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April 22, 2014 · 11:15 AM

Landline: A Case for an Emergency

Red Rotary i phone

I’ve noticed a new trend where people are substituting cellphones for their house phones, as if the two were interchangeable, they’re not.

Whether or not you have children, or if you have an old lady or old man, even if that old lady or old man is you; you need to have a landline in your home.  Why?  Because of the emergency dial tone that’s being supplied at the wall jack.

It’s been said that “home is where the heart is”, it’s also the place where one third of all serious injuries in America happen.  Often these are life threatening events, such as poisoning and falls that require immediate medical attention.

So, while you may decide that you don’t need two phone bills, that shouldn’t mean you yank the telephone plug from the wall.  Preventative measures, like safety should never be determined by economics, or by counting the coins that are left in your purse after you buy those fancy shoes.

Cutting corners and stretching dollars, there’s a Suze Orman app for that and if there’s not, there should be.  Besides, whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re already making payments on that emergency dial tone that’s being supplied to your home.

Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) an independent government agency that regulates interstate and international communications, your home and every home in America has emergency dial tone.

The FFC requires all telecommunication service providers, including wireline, wireless, paging, and VoIp (Voice over Internet Protocals) to pay Universal Service Charges (USF) and these fees are based on their domestic and international end-user revenues.  That’s you and me.  (Look at your bill, more than likely you’ll see the charges).

We all benefit from the USF, as it pays for emergency services, like Fire & Rescue 9-1-1 and e9-1-1.  It also helps defray the expense of local number portability (LPT), which allows you to take your number with you when you move or change telephone carriers/service.

The USF also helps pay for translation and relay service (TRS)  for  the hearing and speech impaired.  I suppose it’s a little bit of social democracy at work, but Shhhhhh, no one wants to hear that.

Which brings me back to the wisdom of that conventional telephone, the one with the curly cord, or the stationary base, the one with the little clear plug that you yanked from the wall jack, go on plug that  back in.  Now that you understand the emergency dial tone that you or someone you love may need.

Besides, you’re paying for it, so keep a landline phone plugged in.  It just makes good sense.  Because each time you get home, your cellphone is consistently on its last bar and needs to be charged.  Or it’s busy downloading an app, or fixing a bug or doing an update.

Life and its emergencies don’t wait for a convenient time to happen, they just happen.  Luckily, there’s dial tone at that wall jack, on point and ready.

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Filed under gadget, technology, Telecommunications, Telephone

Technology Outside the Pink Box

pink box
It’s no longer an Easy Bake Oven Era for little girls in America. Finally, fairy tales and Barbie dolls will be less effective in shaping her future. Thank goodness!

Successful women, like Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Arianna Huffington are inspirational and proof positive, that women are capable of making it on their own merit.

Where once little boys dreamt of sports and little girls dreamt of tap dancing and song to get ahead, both dream of sports. A direct result of professional sports, like women’s soccer and basketball. And NCAA successful athletic programs like the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team.

All of this has given girls other options, a chance to think outside the pink gender box. Technology, as a societal tool has done more to advance her, even if it hasn’t led to a great many CEO positions. It has a transparency, a distraction that has allowed women to progress, that is she’s no longer held back.

Girls can now be their own hero. She can change the engine oil in her car, or more empowering she can pay to have it done for her. The princess and the little damsel are no longer in distress, victims of an unbalanced society. She has choices.

Sadly, it’s not equal, yet there’s much to get excited about, there’s a conversation going on and policies do, will and must change. Gender orientation in American society will change. It has to, for as much as it’s an integral part of our lives; it’s also a part of the problem.

Believe it or not, it begins in the maternity wards, where little color-coded bracelets separate the babies– a little blue one for boys and a little pink one for girls. Good intentioned adults respond to the colored bands, which then allow gender orientation to be pressed upon a baby.

Maybe we would do better to raise our babies according to what’s inside their brains, instead of what’s inside their diapers. It’s time to think outside the pink box.

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Filed under gadget, Gender, Gender Equality, tech, technology

Cuts, Scrapes and ICEdot

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Finally winter is over. I feel just like a school kid! All giddy with grandiose dreams of running, climbing and riding my bicycle. But unlike a kid, I’m also concerned about safety, because pain doesn’t discriminate and bad things do happen.

Growing up, I shared one bicycle with my four cousins. It was a used Schwinn bicycle that my Uncle found in the trash. It was a green bike with a seat, a handlebar, two wheels and no brakes. We fondly named it “The Suicide bike” and took turns trying to ride it.

The axles were so rusty that the wheels wouldn’t spin freely. We didn’t have oil, so we spit on them for lubrication. In order to ride the bike, you had to step down full force, with all of your weight on the pedal, from side to side. But even then the bicycle barely moved forward. I was the smallest and too light to make it move; until the day we discovered gravity! The bicycle worked fine going downhill.

So, we took turns pushing it to the top of Dove Street, no easy feat. But once there, you’d climb aboard her and call out to make sure no traffic was coming. Dove Street ran perpendicular to Dacia Street and one kid had gotten hit by a car, so we wanted to be safe. Once the “Ok to go!” was sounded, you’d shove off!

Seated atop the green beast, legs stuck out to the sides as the wind rushed past, it didn’t matter that the bicycle didn’t have brakes. It felt good to be able to fly down the street! No helmet. No gloves. No shin guards. No mouth piece. No knee pads; just the bicycle, your flesh, your bones and the asphalt.

At the bottom of the street the kids stood cheering you on and reminding you to turn the handlebars, otherwise you’d crash into the house that lay at the bottom, opposite the street. There was another reason you needed to turn the steering wheel, the no brake feature. So all of us would yell out, “Turn the wheel!” It was the only way to slow the green beast down, to break the momentum, that or to fall. And this was the thrill of the ride. We stood in line as if we were at an amusement park waiting to climb into a roller coaster car. Excited to get a turn to fly down the hill and not fall.

But of course, every one of us got hurt. There were scrapes, cuts, broken bones and hurt feelings; but no one died. And there were no head injuries; apparently being a little daft was our collective pre-disposed condition, as we all took a chance on the bike.

Thankfully, times have changed. People have a little more commonsense, that is generally they’re not giving kids bikes that don’t have brakes and letting her/him ride it downhill into traffic.

There’s improved helmets to protect heads and technology like ICEdot, a gadget that alerts someone when you’re hurt and can help medics locate you, as quickly as possible.

Winter is over. Get out. Play and be safe!

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April 14, 2014 · 1:20 PM

The Art Of Tinkering

digi bill sheet

In my quest to review new technology, I discovered a lot of gadgets.  It made me realize that there are some very creative people in this world, the “Tinkerers”.   It also made me realize that we’ve been destroying this art, bit by bit, by systematically transforming the toys we give to our children and the programs that we put on television. 

Television, that “Boob Tube” of programs spurred the imagination.  Each week kids watched a Star Trek episode with a communicator, until one day that communicator became a cellphone.  They watched Uhura’s earpiece, until it became a Bluetooth headset.  These were the same kids that  used empty toilet paper tubes, spools of thread and cardboard egg-crates to build rocket-ships; the stuff of imagination.

Leave a kid with a sheet of paper and it becomes an airplane.  She carefully folds it, as she remembers seeing it done.  She’s trying it, tinkering with paper that’s soundless, so it doesn’t draw attention.  She creases it along an imaginary fold; she holds it between her forefinger and thumb.  She holds her breath, thinking that if she’s done it right, then it will surely take flight.

In great anticipation, she pulls her arm back and throws it forward with all her might.  The paper airplane leaves her round hand, it has lift and with a flurry of energy it spirals up towards the ceiling.  She gasps, she can hardly believe that she’s done it and then the oddest thing happens, the paper airplane just drops to the floor.  And for a moment she’s deflated, she picks it up and looks at it and thinks …

Leonardo da Vinci was one of the world’s greatest tinkerers; he saw improvement in nearly everything he looked at, his world was a blank sheet of paper.  Now- a-days, the tinkerers build upon da Vinci’s work and many others.  Most are nameless and less visible than movie stars and that’s sad.  Still, we benefit with the end product, modern day feats of inventions like Smartphones, Androids and tablets.    

I imagine that the feeling of successful tinkering is somehow linked to endorphins, that pleasing feeling of having accomplished something so wonderful, that once you do, little bits of confetti are tossed up into the air.  A moment full of smiles, amok with possibility!  It’s the feeling of being a kid at the beach and building a sand castle that the ocean takes away.  You’re not angry; you just think you’ll build a better one next time.

The art of tinkering begins with play, where the human senses are allowed to romp through open fields, both real and imagined.  Where school lessons ask questions that inspire more questions, and once exposed to math and science, are guided along to their natural conclusion that is to discover and improve life.  It’s not limited with video games that help you shoot Nazi’s in a first person war, in someone else’s imagined Call of Duty. 

All of these thoughts came to me, as I stumbled across more and more technology that at its best, was simple gadgetry.  This, the art of tinkering.

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Filed under gadget, Gender, Gender Equality, tech, technology

Technology’s Equalizer Op

Some of the best people that I know are men, so it’s disheartening to read that there’s a wage gap between the sexes. It’s been fifty years since President John F. Kennedy signed legislation that guaranteed equal pay for men and women, for equal work at the same establishment. That hasn’t happened. However, it did create opportunities for women in non-traditional jobs.

By the 1970’s women began to make demands in grass-roots efforts, especially in the media. And they transformed the workplace and the country. I know, because I’m the by-product of that movement.

I grew up listening Gloria Steinem, one of the leaders of The Women’s Rights Movement. “Women don’t need a reform,” she said. “We need a revolution! No one hands you equality. We took the vote!”

And like so many other girls, her words empowered me. I knew then, that if I was ever given an opportunity to live life different from my mother, a domestic and my grandmother a seamstress, then I would have to seek out a new road. I applied for a job as a Boston firefighter; but that wasn’t to be.

By the 1980’s a new technology came to Boston, cable television. With it came the pre-wiring contract and two vying companies, Warner Cable and Cablevision submitted proposals. As the two vied for the city’s huge cabling contract, people began to realize that hundreds of jobs would be handed out and politics became a power tool.

In our gender oriented city, it was assumed that most of the jobs would go to the men. But the times had changed and women, who had been active in earlier Movements, again united and demanded public hearings. There was a transparency to the politicking and women got a bigger slice of the lucrative pie.

The awarded cable contract included guaranteed training and employment for women, in non-traditional jobs. Finally those dusty ERA laws were going to be pulled out and put to the test. But first they needed to find women, presumably young women, to accept the jobs.
Fiber Optic Label images

Gender, is such an integral part of our lives that it’s not even seen as a problem. It begins in the maternity wards, where little color-coded bracelets separate the babies– a little blue one for boys and a little pink one for girls. And these children grow up and stay true to the duties attributed to those colored little bands.

The young men poured out for a limited number of jobs, and a limited number of women came out for a lot of jobs. Neither group seemed to see themselves doing unusual work, they were just happy to hear about better wages.

I was working in an office when I heard about the job. I received a phone call from a group of women, who said that they had retrieved my name from the City of Boston’s rejected firefighter applications. I was told that this wasn’t a come and see, or a possibility, that if I could pass the cable course, I would be guaranteed the job and a good hourly wage. I agreed and entered Boston’s first cable class, offered by Henkel’s & McCoy.

I climbed telephone poles on a pole farm with men. I trained using gaffs, linesmen belts with D-Rings and tossed softballs from atop a 60ft pole. I graduated in the spring, and was one of two women to get through the class. I started work almost immediately, climbing the telephone poles in Boston’s neighborhoods.
It was rather stealth, and even now I can’t remember the name of any of the women. I remember being contacted once when I began the course, to ask if I was being trained exactly as the men. “Yes, I was.” And I saw them again, when I graduated from cable training. They pumped my hand, prouder than I was of myself!

In some ways, I’ve benefited the most from Women’s Rights Movement, but the truth is I’ve never received equal pay. And I knew it going in. It was explained in an off-handed way, that there were seniority issues and the men who worked alongside me would have a problem if they knew I was being paid the same. Or some other obscure reason for not paying me equal pay, as the guys. But I was paid well, as I advanced from a grunt- cable puller to a cable installer to a cable technician within months. Yes, months, because it was true, women could do the job and could do it exceedingly well. I was living proof. I knew that if I continued to do my job, I would be noticed and get raises and bonuses. So for my part, I kept my job and my integrity.

Which brings me to President Obama’s meeting last Tuesday, when he met with a group of women to commemorate Equal Pay Day and to urge Congress to pass more legislation to close the gender pay gap. He signed two executive orders; one would prevent federal contractors from punishing workers who discuss their salaries. It was nothing more than a photo op; a continuation from 2009’s Lilly Ledbetter Act, an anemic show of support; however well meaning, that does very little.

Women’s Equality is still being treated as a reform movement. It’s slow and weak, and at times seems not to be moving at all. I guess Ms. Steinem was right when she said we needed a revolution, we still do.

More to come…

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April 9, 2014 · 7:46 PM

The Cloud, A Digital Hoarding

Smartphones, androids, MACS, tablets, iPads and PCs, require a lot of updating.  Data, it seems has become the virtual “stuff”.  And it’s as important to me, as my real-life belongings, so it stands to reason that I would use data storage, except, I wouldn’t call it the Cloud.

Clouds after all, those billowy white masses of vapor, often used as euphuisms to “get your head out of the clouds”; are also associated with gloominess and storms.  But somehow technology has changed the connotation of the word “cloud”, named for a thing that can’t even hold its own water.  Flipping its meaning to add the herculean task of defining the space used to store, access and manage data.  It’s ingenious!

digicloud 3Ironically, it’s cutting edge technology that makes me have so much stuff in the first place.  For as quickly as I adjust to one gadget, there’s new technology being introduced.  It started years ago, when one day my perfectly good television became obsolete; it didn’t have an RF port in the back.  I purchased the new cable-ready television and couldn’t throw out the old television.

Like most Americans, I became a conscientious guardian of the planet.  And cathode ray tubes, that made up the older television set could no longer be thrown into landfills.  So I packed it into a self-storage unit.  It was all very noble, this “Going Green”. 

As rapidly as new technology came out, my older technology went into my self-storage unit. I fancied myself a collector, after all I owned two 1st generation Atari Systems, different colors!

This brings me back to the Cloud, where all of my data information, files, folders, contacts, and photo galleries, my virtual “stuff” is stored.  How much will I amass?  Gigabytes and gigabytes and gigabytes of storage, all to an Openstack environment; where it will remain quite invisible to me, just like my self-storage unit.

I’m wise enough to know that there will be data breaches; Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA ) controversies over content matching and issues of plagiarism, and there’ll be some piracy.  Most of these won’t affect me.  I’ll be impressed as new technologies are introduced, as I am now.  And I’ll look forward to new encryptions and authentication technologies, including double authentication with fingertip swipes.  Nice.

In time, I won’t even look toward the Cloud and my old data files.  But I’ll know that it’s there and in a culture of hoarders, we can all say it’s my “stuff” and walk away, with our heads in the Cloud.

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April 7, 2014 · 5:14 PM