Monday, October 17, 2011

Turning 40

Everyone makes a big deal of turning 40 and I have steadfastly maintained over the years that age is what you make of it. So, now that I'm officially forty, here are some thoughts on the day to see if I am true to my word.

First, I realize that my life with Lynda equals exactly one-half of my total lifetime. And friends, let me tell you that this is a very good thing. No other choice that I could have made in life has been a better one for me or has generated so many good things and guaranteed good things yet to be. If I never do anything else right forever, I can at least point to that twenty-year-old choice and be secure in the knowledge that it was unequivocally the right one.

We celebrated on Sunday by going out to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. This allowed me to enjoy some nice mole sauce on my enchiladas and to get a ridiculous margarita (but a. made out of lime, b. not frozen, and c. not fruited up . . . because I'm still a man, you see). As I'm eating the meal, Grace (on one side of me) is trying to get Sarah's approval (on the other side of me) to deliver something.

Now, I know that it is probably a birthday card that I had heard was in the works, but I'm being the good, clueless dad and not acknowledging the events for Grace's sake. Halfway through the enchiladas (and two-thirds of the way through the ridiculous margarita), they present me with this wonderful card which I reproduce and interpret below.
This is the front of the card, which obviously says "Happy B-Day!" For some reason, they chose not to include  my excellent winter beard in the image rendition. Perhaps they don't like the way it scratches their faces?

Here is the important, special part of the card. On the left is me, regal in my provided birthday crown.
On the right are my three kids, watching over me. The text of the card is as follows:

"Dear Dad: We love you so much. I hope your having a fun time on your birthday. You are awesome. You are the best Dad in the world. You are really silly. Dad, we love you at all times. I'm happy that you never give up on us.
We are happy that you are our Dad. Here are the top five reasons why you are great:

1. Your funny.
2. Your awesome.
3. Your handsome.
4. Your nice.
5. Your like a friend.

We love you Dad.

And on the last page, they apply their signatures. Hannah's is the big "H."
(Whenever she sees an H anywhere, she always says . . . That's Me. That's an H for Hannah.

Now, I ask you . . . how could any meaningless construction of a decade-based birthday possibly overshadow such love and wonder?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Why Didn't They Just Name it HAL and Begin the Enslavement?

This text was cut and pasted from the New York Times Live blog of the Apple products announcement today (featuring the iPhone 4s). The commenter below got it correct when they say that it presages the first steps in the doom of the human race. (The microphone icon in the picture below even reminds me of HAL's malevolent red eye if I squint just right.)


2:14 P.M. Better Voice Control for the iPhone
"We left one thing out," says Mr. Schiller. "It's about our voice." This is the fruit of Apple's acquisition of Siri, a startup that has been working on voice-control features. Siri is now a feature on the iPhone. "It's an intelligent assistant that helps you get things done, just by asking."
"Probably the craziest thing you can do is do a voice-recognition demo on stage, live," says Mr. Schiller. "But we're going to do it anyway."

2:16 P.M. Demonstrating Voice Control on the iPhone
Scott Forstall, Apple's iOS chief, is back on stage. He asks the phone, "What is the weather today?" The phone replies, "Here is the weather for today," and displays the weather screen.
Mr. Forstall asks, "Do I need a raincoat today?" The phone replies, "It sure looks like rain today," and shows the weather screen again.
"What time is it in Paris?" he asks. The phone replies with the time in Paris and shows a clock. "Wake me up at 6 a.m.," says Mr. Forstall. "O.K., I've set an alarm for 6 a.m. tomorrow," the phone replies. This is amazing. And freaky.
Apple's set up a partnership with Yelp as well. "Find me a great Greek restaurant in Palo Alto." The phone says: "I've located 14 Greek restaurants. Five are in Palo Alto. I've sorted them by rating."
Mr. Forstall: "Do I have any meetings this Friday at noon?" Phone: "You don't have any meetings on Friday at noon."
You can ask Siri for directions. It can read text messages to you. You can reply or ask it to read them again.

2:22 P.M. More Features of Siri, Voice Control on iPhone
iPhone 5 announcement
Siri can schedule events in your calendar, read messages, take dictation, all by voice. You can create a reminder by voice. "Remind me to call my wife when I leave work," says Mr. Forstall. Siri, based on previous conversations, knows who your wife is and uses geolocation to remind you when you leave a location. You can search Wikipedia by voice.
Apple has also linked up with Wolfram Alpha to provide data and definitions for Siri to access. "Define mitosis," says Mr. Forstall. Siri generates and reads back a definition.
We are clearly headed to Terminator/HAL territory here. Humans are doomed. Deal with it.
Mr Forstall asks Siri, "Who are you?" Siri replies, "I am a humble personal assistant."
That's just chilling.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Crop Walk Donations Request

My church is participating in this year's CROP Hunger Walk on October 16. Sarah and I are going to participate in it and if you would like to donate to our walk efforts, please contact me. 

(You may leave a comment in this blog post or switch over to my Twitter or Facebook pages and shoot me a reply there. Sure, somewhere in all of this digital stuff you can find a way to send me a message, huh?)

Below are some scans of a brochure that can tell you a bit more about the CROP Walk. Or you can visit the Web site of Church World Service and see what they say about the effort. 


Long time readers of Why Won't You Grow?! may remember the last time that we attempted this effort. Let's hope it goes better now that the kids are older and we are all a bit wiser.

I DO hope that someone that reads this post will donate to our efforts. Let's see if this social networking thing does what it is supposed to do for once.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Take THAT Quikster!

We've been Netflix subscribers for around two years now (but really, who can say anymore, as time speeds up as I get older) and we've enjoyed it quite a bit. After we bought a Wii, I eventually hooked onto the streaming service, which the kids (mostly Hannah) also take advantage of on our iPhones.

So, when Netflix announced their pricing adjustments two months ago, I wasn't too upset. I knew we wouldn't abandon the service all together. I just wondered if we'd choose to keep the one-physical-disk-at-a-time plan and drop the streaming or commit to streaming only and give up the physical disk. I liked the convenience of streaming and the fact that it carried over to the Wii and our phones and iPad. But the selection was significantly skewed to TV shows only and not as current. The movie selection was decidedly underwhelming.

After asking some other people what they were going to do and then thinking about it a bit more, we decided to go full steaming only. I am hoping that as Netflix pushed for more streaming focus, they would use the revenue to improve the streaming library and catch up to more current, just-out-of-the-theater releases. And I also realized that dropping streaming would cut Hannah off from her iPhone/iPad usage of the Netflix app and she would be pretty sad.

So, that is where we are now . . . but we've also introduced a new element into the mix. We're adding RedBox to the choices when we want a  movie for the kids on Friday nights or when Lynda and I just want to watch something on the spur of the moment. We've found it very convenient, as there are machines all around us and we can search and reserve what we want before we go get it via the iPhone app.
Just last night, for instance, we got a movie for the girls to watch and Lynda and I chose Thor. And I'll say that I am increasingly impressed with how Marvel Entertainment has handled their Avengers franchise. If all started with the (mostly) successful Spiderman movies within the last decade to raise the brand to prominence and then really got kick-started with the Iron Man movies. Add in this summer's addition of Thor and Captain America (and the much needed reboot of Hulk--which I haven't seen yet) and it will all mesh into next summers Avengers movie where all of these guys (minus Spidey, I think) will join forces with Sam Jackson's S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury to create a hellacious cross-over event that might make Comic-Con explode before next summer arrives.

The thing I find most impressive is how Marvel Entertainment has plotted and interconnected each stand-alone film into a piece of the whole, allowing each character to get their focused introductory film while providing bits of inter-connectedness (the ever present S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that pops up in each film along with a teaser scene of Fury after the end credts) to let you know what is being built.

And that's even before I mention (and for which I'm sure you already know) that Joss Whedon is prominently involved in the Avengers film. Truly it shall be comic nerd nirvana.