My obese brain

If you’ve read my whiny posts recently, you know I’ve been trying to solve some challenges at work, and that I’m feeling like I’ve lost my equilibrium. Well, I can tell you I’ve discovered one reason for the mental speed bumps: I’ve been spending way too much time drifting on the web, reading article after article on any and all subjects. Especially ones about trump and the election, which I’m still amazed by.

I’ve concluded that part of my recent frustrations stem from my inability to concentrate for extended periods. I don’t blog as much as I once did, and I don’t read as many books. I tend to spend a lot of time on the internet visiting the same sites over and over, checking them multiple times each hour.

While watching TV with the family, I find myself picking up my phone to check twitter or Instagram. Or reading my email. I never used to do any of that.

To combat this problem, I’ve created new family rules. No phones at the dinner table, which is really my wife’s rule, but my daughter and I tended to push the limits of it. No longer. Now we follow it.

And no more phones or computers if we’re watching a movie or television show. We concentrate on one thing at a time now. I noticed my daughter not paying attention to movies and it drove me nuts. Then I started picking up my phone too. (Sound of a screeching halt). The new rule is if you want to use your phone or computer: you leave the room.

So if I’m having a problem like this, how are electronic “distractions” impacting my daughter? I worry about her consuming more than she creates. The phone rarely leaves her hand and is always close by if it does. It’s an electronic clutch and crutch.

It’s not easy to break a habit like this, and I’m an adult (at least in age). I find myself going a day or two without excessive surfing but then falling back when I’m bored or tired. Or while doing my 4.5 hours of treatments each day.

My last thought-and I have no proof of this, it’s just a hunch – is that my surfing large amounts of negative news stories takes a its toll beyond my poor concentration. My gut tells me it extracts a greater price: anxiety, depression and hopelessness. Yay, a triple scoop of hell.

Maybe there is such a thing as too much knowledge in this day and age. I’m thinking it’s time for my brain to go on a diet, especially with four years of a rich oaf leading our country on the way.

iPad and Kindle live together in perfect harmony

Lightweight and more kid-resistant than the iPad

Our new Kindle 3 arrived yesterday, which raises the cost of my iPad to over $1,000, including the price of the iPad itself, the apps, the accessories and now the Kindle. That’s right, the Kindle. I’m counting it in the total cost because I had to buy the Kindle thanks to the iPad.

I’ll explain.

My daughter loves to read. I blame my wife who read to her every day from birth. “Park the crib in front of the TV,” I said. Six hours a day of soap operas and game shows won’t hurt her. Otherwise we’ll be paying for books for the rest of our lives.” My wife ignored my sage advice and now my daughter devours books whole and in bunches. She’s a reading machine and it’s all we can do to keep her stocked in appropriate reading material. (My wife saves the day by screening books. Otherwise our daughter might be reading Valley of the Dolls thanks to me. How is that book not for kids? I said. It has “dolls” in the title.)

Over the years, we’ve accumulated, and paid for, hundreds of books. We have books everywhere. On tables, stuck in the couch, on the bed, under the bed, falling out of the car when the door opens. Everywhere. But I grew tired of the clutter and bought the iPad to help reduce it, and to save money and reduce our carbon footprint.

My idea worked out great, but it led to my daughter hogging the iPad for hours at a time. Not only did I not get to use it, each evening I would open my email to discover individual Amazon receipts for the books she purchased, rubbing in the fact she was enjoying it while I stared at my 6-year-old Dell desktop. Not fun; I wasn’t happy. But a solution fell in my lap – or on my credit card.

Not appropriate for the child, but good for the adult reader

The new lower-priced Kindle 3 launched. I ordered it with the intention that my daughter would use it and my iPad would return to me like a long-lost dog finding its way home. And sometimes plans do go as planned. I am happy to report that I have been reunited with Sparky again (my dog name for my iPad) and my young bibliophile loves her new Kindle (which could be a dog’s name).

However, the only cloud in the sky of my cleverness is that I realize we’re about to witness the death of brick and mortar bookstores – just like we watched the end of Tower Records and other record stores. I have a bad case of deja vu. Why drive to a store to buy music when you can download it? Doesn’t the same apply to books? It does in my house.

Barnes & Noble and Borders stores are toast, done, finished, kaput. They’ll be closing in a few years, or less, I predict. They may still have a virtual store on the web, but the physical locations will join Tower Records in our memories.

This doesn’t mean paper books will go away. Independents may sell them, or Best Buy where CDs went to hang out waiting to die. Or we’ll just order paper books for our coffee tables from Amazon (free shipping and no tax). Or bookstores will reinvent themselves. But they can’t exist as is. Here’s why.

Last week, my daughter and I visited the children’s section at Borders, where I connected to their complimentary Wi Fi. Each time she found a book she liked, I checked for the Kindle version on Amazon. If it was available, I downloaded it on the spot. Yes, standing in Borders I shopped Amazon. That is a retailing model that cannot sustain itself. Well, not for Borders at least. Amazon on the other hand, well, their model looks golden, as does the future of e-books.

Rant: Repainting films

I’ve spent many days and evenings escaping real life and CF by watching movies – good, bad and mind-blowing. However, I’m irritated by trend of the enhanced version, or director’s cut, or need to release a second version of a great film for increased profits. It cheapens classics and makes me wonder why this craze haunts the film industry and not other art forms. What about novels and paintings?

Apple products would have a huge role in the new version. HC can visit the NYC Apple store.

If we can re-do films, why not pen updated versions of the Catcher in the Rye or Catch-22? Or paint new brush strokes on the Mona Lisa. Perhaps my examples are cheating, as the novels came out in a different time period when movies didn’t get updated (along with the fact J.D. Salinger, Norman Mailer and da Vinci are long gone).  However, should that really matter? Couldn’t these works be freshened up for modern audiences? Think of the possibilities: Mona Lisa sports a Bluetooth headset in her ear, reflecting the busy, independent woman she is now. The current painting doesn’t do her lifestyle justice. In the repainted version, the porcelain veneers of her $10K J Lo smile sparkle when she’s caught mid-sentence ordering another five thousand shares of DreamWorks stock.

Let’s not stop at paintings. Think of the possibilities when it comes to adding modern, marketable technology to novels. Holden Caulfield gets a cell phone to use in TCITR II, the Technology Cut. Or better yet, Holden gets an iPod playing marketable hits while he walks around New York City contemplating life, which will be the cherry on top to sell the music rights for a massive amount of money. Now there’ll be a Catcher soundtrack album, or two, and a Holden Caulfield special-edition iPod. And McDonald’s Catcher in the Rye drink glasses that will be recalled due to some nasty Chinese metal in the coating that causes us all to want to kill ourselves, which is how I feel thinking about this.

There is no greater example of my hatred of revisionist history than Star Wars, which I remember waiting three hours to see when it was released and have since seen a dozen times. But, and it hurts to say this, George Lucas has killed it for me with updated versions that include added scenes that weren’t part of the original footage. In the ultimate unfair do-over, he added scenes created with new special-effects technology. Why not just re-shoot the entire movie with new technology, George, if you’re going to apply that rule? Why make a quilt of old and new? Might as well get rid of the cheap masks in the cantina scene while you’re tinkering with your masterpiece.

Imagine the Na'vi in pink or purple or ecru or Home Depot orange, the latter creating unique marketing opportunities

Why not re-shoot the whole damn thing, George? Re-shoot it every year with new actors and you’ll have a billion-dollar hit every June. Or, instead of re-releasing 4 or 5 different versions of your crowning achievement, as you clearly screwed up the last four of the movies you made, why not let someone else take a spin with the characters and make new movies? My eight-year-old daughter would jump at the chance to see new Star Wars films, not Star Wars films with new scenes.

I know my cause is hopeless. There’s too much money involved. And that’s our world now. Marketing and packaging – or repackaging. Maximizing the return. I don’t blame anyone. I would do the same thing if given the chance. If I had made Avatar and had had total artistic control, I wouldn’t release a second version less than a year later like James Cameron did. No, no, no –  I’d release a new version every month with different skin colors for the “Na’vi.” Then, when I ran out of colors, I would give the Na’vi iPads. Today, Avatar 1, version 27, would be in theaters.

Oh, well, it’s a shame some artists can’t leave their masterpieces alone. It makes me sad, though hopeful that one day someone will release a director’s cut of Troll 2. Hopefully the new version will be a total of nine minutes long and come with 100 dollars in cash for those of us who wasted two hours of our lives watching it the first time. One can only hope.

Random Notes and Photos Related to Past Posts

The front page of today’s L.A Times includes a section and articles under the heading, “The Future of Reading.”,0,2712081.story

Here’s an L.A. Times link with a podcast discussion of books and how they are evolving thanks to technology.

I include these links because of my recent post on the iPad. There is a lot of discussion going on right now regarding how technology will evolve the book, and whether eReaders will kill the physical book itself. Books have been around 100’s of years and have outlasted many past claims of their death. Yet, it’s exciting to witness this latest major transformation. My daughter may miss most of it because she may not remember what it was like before books transformed into digital files, though she’ll see plenty of reminders in the house.

Here are some random photos I’ve taken related to past posts.

Blind Pig on a Stick

This pink pig sits on a pole in Topanga Canyon. It must have been the figure head for a business at some point, though no business remains, or I missed it if it does. Now the pig stands guard as an oddity and mystery of old Topanga.

Fly little pig, fly

I decided to free the pig from its painful perch atop the pole. Thank you, Photoshop. I hope the lucky pig finds a new home now that it can fly away.

McDairy Queen or McDonalds?

When I saw the banner for smoothies at McDonald’s I almost crashed my car. I have yet to find out the ingredients and caloric count of these, but I suspect a plot of some kind. Healthy smoothies at McDonalds? Hmm, why am I suspicious?

Perhaps I am suspicious because “McDonald’s” isn’t printed on any of the advertising. Check out their web page and you’ll notice the use of “McDonald’s” is downplayed. “McCafe” appears more often. Interesting. Name change in the works?

Why do I feel like ordering a Frappe?

I believe subliminal advertising works. I’m not sure if this qualifies as subliminal, but it’s either brilliant marketing or overkill. How can you get through the line without noticing these on a conscious or unconscious level? The drinks look more tempting than anything else you might eat in your day. Let’s just eat desert all day long. No wonder my daughter wants treats all the time – the world works her over with tasty images of high caloric treats. Who can resist?

That’s it for today.

Stay well.

I Heart My iPad

After three months of torturing myself about whether to buy an iPad – tweeting my agony to my friends – I purchased one. And it’s better than I ever expected. It’s a game changer when it comes to how we use computers.

Now I can wear an electronic bag over my ugly face

The iPad transforms the Internet experience into a book you hold in your hands while sitting in your most comfortable easy chair, or on the couch, or outdoors at night in a hammock. Its ergonomics when reading Internet articles and digital books blow away a laptop’s weight, size and physical design.

I can place the iPad in more positions due to its design than I can a laptop. And it boots up in an instant, which is a nice bonus when you want to check something quickly, like Twitter, your email or a web site. (Why can’t desktop PCs and laptops boot up like this?)

Then there is the bonus of all bonuses for me: reading digital books.

I don’t like the feel of rough paper e.g. grocery bags. If I were a captured spy, wrap me in a few Von’s paper grocery bags and all the Agency’s secrets will be spilled. I’ll talk, just don’t rub that paper bag on my chest again. I have never liked the feel of book paper either, or holding a book and trying to get comfortable with it for a long period of time.

Reading books on the iPad is my dream. I can read an iPad one-handed by propping it against something. I can read while eating without pages flipping over. I can read while using two hands to do my flutter. I love the (almost) hands-free reading. I only have to tap the screen to turn the page. And they turn fast.

A blog post within a blog post

When I go to jail next time, my iPad will make the terrible experience of being locked up better. I won’t have to sit in a crappy hospital chair with my knees hitting the bed’s framework, my laptop sitting on the bed. I will be able to kick back on the crappy plastic bed and tweet and read blogs and books, and watch movies streamed from Netflix – all with one device – awesome.

I waited three months to buy an iPad because I wanted to teach my daughter a lesson about not getting caught up in the hype of being the first to own new gadgets. (Now the lesson is to wait at least three months before getting caught up in the hype.) However, I did research it and talk to friends before buying it.

And with those conversations in mind and some hands-on time with it, I knew my daughter and I would get a lot of use out of it for a long time. I did resort to using the “Life is short because I have CF” excuse to help make the decision – just a tiny bit.

Other than fingerprints, which are annoying, my daughter stealing it and some software quirks, there is little downside.

I expect that one day in the future, my daughter will leave for school, but she won’t have a backpack full of heavy books hanging from her shoulders. She will have an iPad or other tablet computer in her hand. And it will contain all of her school books, notes, dreams, pictures of her parents, dogs and friends. And every book she has ever read.

I’ll stand by the door watching her skip down the walkway, love in my heart, thankful there won’t be chiropractor bills coming in a few years from her lugging 50 pounds of books each day. How nice that will be. And I’ll watch as the happy trees shake their leaves and wave and say to her, thank you, little girl, thank you. Have a great day at school with your paperless device thingy.

What a wonderful world it will be.