Thursday, January 29, 2015

Modern Technology: STUPID CRAZY AWESOME.

I remember when I could only use the computer through a DOS prompt. Good ol' C:\ prompt, and if i was feeling particularly frisky while searching for what I wanted, I'd use the command dir/w so I could read the display easier. I remember emailing Ann M. Martin through Prodigy to tell her how much I loved the BSC and that I was her biggest fan. I remember playing Roadrunner, Indiana Jones, and Wheel of Fortune games off of 5.25" floppy disks. I remember waiting til no one was on the phone, and connecting via modem - that awful sound meant I'd get to sign on to AIM and check my AOL email. I remember when using the computer meant sitting at a chunky desktop family computer, and you could get kicked off any second. As a musician, I remember using PowerTrax and Band In A Box to sequence MIDI songs for me to sing along to. I remember being amazed at my first SNES console - it looked so cool and bright and flashy! I remember when cell phones became a Thing, and when our family got our first "family emergency" cell phone in 1997 - a Motorola StarTac that seemed so tiny and it had a little pull out antenna and it was FLIPPY.

I was the coolest kid in school when I borrowed this. Seriously.
Fast forward to college and I remember using Kazaa and Limewire to download songs - and 90% of the time it would be a rickroll or some other awful crap and it would be a total waste of an afternoon. I remember before smartphones were a Thing, when I never texted people because no one texted, everyone always called, and I remember forgetting where my cell phone was because it didn't matter. I remember having to use a MAP to figure out where I was because i didn't have GPS (those things were expensive!) and I certainly didn't have a phone with google maps. I remember printing directions off of mapquest.

What brought this whole nostalgia-fest on? Well, today I was able to get three whole seasons of a British tv show unavailable in the US in 10 minutes, downloaded at 5.5 MB/s straight to my laptop. I brought my laptop with me into the kitchen, to the dining table, and to the bathroom - no wires or plugs of any kind attached. (Don't go "EWWWW" and act like you've never brought your laptop, tablet, and/or phone into the bathroom with you. We don't judge here.) Then, when all 4.5 GB was finished, I transferred it to a flash drive and now I can plug it into my PS3 and watch it.

AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO SEES WHAT A FUCKING MIRACLE OF TECHNOLOGY THIS IS?! I got a TV show from another country that is unavailable in this country in a matter of mere minutes, from the AIR. What the hell is even happening?! Everything I thought was crazy when I was a kid (Video calls, talking to people on the other side of the world instantly, sending messages and objects instantly) is so commonplace, high schoolers roll their eyes when I get hit with reality and am amazed. What's next? Hoverboards? OH WAIT. We HAVE those. When I was growing up, if I wanted to talk to someone on the other side of the world, it took a stamp and three weeks. I had penpals that I literally wrote to with a pen. I had a stamp collection.

I am not nearly old enough to be writing a blog post on this topic. It feels very "Stupid kids, get off my lawn!" (While I'm on the subject of blogs, though...remember LiveJournal? *shudder*) But seriously, it's mind boggling to me the things that we can do thanks to modern technology now. I can Skype or FaceTime friends and family all over the world from my car or while I'm out walking, and see what they're doing in real time. I can send a Glide of something cool I'm seeing or doing so they can look at it later. I can edit a single document in real time with my friends all over the world (excellent for songwriting collaborations) and see who's writing what. Someone could literally email me a file titled "birthdaypresentforyou.stl" and I could use a 3D printer to print my birthday present and find out what it is. (Side note: do you know how fucking cool that is?!) I can put on a VR kit and explore ridiculously realistic-looking environments of places I've only dreamed of, or wander around Hogwarts or the starship Enterprise or whatever. My best friend and I can play Borderlands on our own respective beds, hundreds of miles away from each other, and Skype at the same time so we can laugh and joke and play together as if we were in the same room. Distance means nothing anymore, not even with phones. Long-distance calling is antiquated and irrelevant. Hell, you know what happened the other day? Scientists figured out how to UNBOIL EGGS. We're well on our way to having cloaking devices. And we may soon get an actual replicator. LIKE STAR TREK.

I'm curious what will happen in the near future that I think is impossible right now. If you had told me 20 years ago that I'd have any tv show or movie I want at my fingertips within minutes or seconds, I'd probably have told you you were nuts. When my parents and I were stationed in Italy and we wanted to watch TV shows that were showing in the states, you know what we did? We had to have someone stateside TAPE episodes onto VHS and then MAIL the VHS cassettes to us in Italy. One episode at a time, one week at a time. Plus shipping time and cost. Now I can find it and start watching within seconds. What do I think is crazy right now? Well, space travel, but that's already being commercialized and has been for a while. Teleportation? Scientists have been working on it, and they've succeeded - in a fashion - with quantum teleportation thanks to entangled particles. Teleportation is pretty much the last "holy shit, no way" thing I can think of in my mind as to technology. One day, I want to go from point A to point B instantly. Perhaps that will never be possible (I just don't see how it can be) but I've seen similarly crazy things become a reality. Alternatively, I would like a robot maid (like a Roomba, but can also do my dishes and laundry) and/or cheap personal aircraft for prices comparable to a car.

We can do that, right?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"When you catch a glimpse of your potential, that is when passion is born."

For the past six years of my life I've been working and eking out a living somehow, most of the time somewhat miraculously. I hit rock bottom in 2011 and the past three years have been spent putting a lot of time and energy into myself for a change - not living to help other people but to help myself for once. I learned who I was, who I had been, and began to see who I wanted to be. I made painful but necessary changes to my ways of thinking, and to the way I was living my life. I worked hard to change my perspective on the world. I learned to love myself in a way I never had before, and I felt wonderful. I was supporting myself, I was making music, I was laughing more than crying. Life was good.

Then, right after my 30th birthday, I lost my job. I was devastated for all of twenty minutes, panicking and thinking that now I was going to be homeless and miserable before I stopped to think about what silver lining there might be. Then I realized - I had been put in a position where I really had nothing tying me down or holding me back. I had family, yes, and friends in the area, but I had no real responsibilities all of a sudden, and a world of possibilities open to me. I could find another desk job if I wanted to. I could live out of my car and busk and go to food pantries while playing gigs to make money. I could hop in my car and drive across the country. I could sell all my possessions and skip town. I mean, I guess technically we can all do that at any time, but the point is that all of a sudden I had NOTHING TO DO.

So I looked at my boyfriend and said, with wide eyes and hushed tones, "...I can do ANYTHING I WANT RIGHT NOW." And he asked me, "Then what is it you want to do?" And my first thought was "I want to go back to school."

Now, let me 'splain you a thing. I went straight from high school to George Mason University in 2002 to study music. I began as a voice performance major and switched to music education late in the game. In the end, I ended up leaving school in 2008. That's all anyone really needs to know. The reasons for my choosing to leave are mine, and mine alone. I could oversimplify it and say "I got married and left school." But I feel that gives off the wrong impression of myself and my priorities. The point is that the events leading up to me leaving school started well before me actually leaving, and those events are not public knowledge nor ever will be. It's nobody's business, really.

The bottom line is that I am going back to school.

In retrospect, I don't know if I was ready to go to college at 18. I went because that's what I was supposed to do, so I did it. I wasn't there to learn, I was there to do what was expected of me. That's not to say I didn't learn anything. I learned a lot, about life, about academics, about music, and even about some other things like psychology and biology and writing and French. But I wasn't ready. I am now.

I am enrolled at the local community college so I can get my associates in liberal arts, then I will be transferring to ODU to complete my Music Education degree. I want to teach, I've always loved teaching, and I am damn good at it. This is going to happen.

Watch out, world. You won't even know what hit you once I'm through with you.

Monday, May 26, 2014

"No, but I almost BURNED MY FACE OFF."

So Boyfriend and I use this video chat app thing that's sort of like Snapchat, except you can instantly send 2 minute long video clips to each other, and it saves them in a conversation and you can share them, so really it's not like snapchat at all, but anyway.

Mom and I went to Garden Ridge tonight to get me a boxspring for my bed. My bed is one of those slat-based beds, and the slats keep slipping, which effectively breaks my bed.

So Boyfriend sends me a video in our video chat asking if we had found a clever solution to the problem of the boxspring not fitting in the car.

I sent this back:

...You're welcome.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Okay, so...Xbox One.

So I woke up to the internet today to discover that Microsoft has unveiled the Xbox One - the new revolutionary console that is supposed to rival the upcoming PS4. Am i the only one who's not really all that impressed with what I've read so far? I mean...yes, I will give it a fair shot (in the store). I was a die-hard Xbox fan for a very very long time. But the fact remains that it just hasn't shown me anything yet that I actually find *useful* as a gamer - and nothing new that I can't already do in some way. There are some features - like the multiplayer matchmaking system based on reputation and ability that sound really cool but I'm extremely skeptical about. There are a ton of other features (like increased graphic rendering power etc) that I'm not even going to address - but these are the ones that everyone's been screaming about that I'm just all...meh...

"But you can get on Skype with it!" i don't need my gaming console to Skype. I can Skype on my phone, laptop, and iPad. I don't even need to be near wifi to Skype on my phone. And when I do Skype, I don't need it to be on my TV and with full everyone-can-hear-my-entire-conversation sound. I can see how it might be useful if you do a lot of conference calling or if you want to Skype with your family and have your whole family talking to whomever's on the other side - but it seems like much more of a novelty than practical application.

"Motion control!! Every single Xbox One will come with a Kinect!" Okay, here's the thing about motion control. It sounds awesome. But in practice, it sort of sucks. You end up flailing around with exaggerated movements trying to get the sensor to recognize you and track you properly, and they rarely function the way they're supposed to. I hear the new Kinect has really fine-tuned its tracking though - supposedly it can track facial expressions and fingers now - but it would have had to improve a thousandfold for me to even consider it as a viable game-play option.  

"Voice control! I can walk in the room and say 'Xbox On' and it'll turn on my Xbox AND my TV!" Cool. Seriously, that is kind of cool. But there are two possibilities for this: the first is that it means that your buddy can run in the room, scream "XBOX OFF!" or some other voice-command-of-dickery and fuck your shit up. the second is that it will be tailored specifically to your voice, which means that voice-recognition software MUST have come lightyears from where it was, because let's be honest, voice-recognition software sucks. How many times have you ended up screaming "CUSTOMER SERVICE" or "ONE. ONE, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!" into your phone while trying to talk your way through a voice-automated system. Now imagine all that frustration while you're just trying to play your damn video games. Not to good is that on-board mic? Will you have to use a headset or an external microphone? Just curious.

"You can DVR your gameplay, edit the clips, and share them directly from your Xbox." Okay, think about this. Yes, I'm sure that YOU are really proud of the 50-headshots-in-a-row you just achieved with your pistol, but really think about it. Do we really think that everyone will care? Are you really going care about everyone else's video clips? I mean, to the point where you'll WANT to sift through thousands of video clips of noobs celebrating that they attacked with a real melee weapon instead of a spoon, people thinking they did awesome things when really, um, everyone can do that, and sex scenes in which the player teabagged the stripper after killing her to get their money back? I guarantee you for every awesome clip in which some guy pulled some insane killing spree or sneak attack or move, there will be a thousand crappy clips that no one wants to see. 

"It's being hailed as the 'most exciting social entertaining network in the world'!" ...Yeah, that's what we need. Another social network. 

"You can multitask using side-by-side apps - I can Skype while playing or watching TV!"Okay. That's kind of cool, yes. But I already get that exact same effect using Skype on my laptop while watching something. And I don't have to pay $400 - $500 more to buy a device to do to that. Not to mention, if you're really that much of a casual gamer that you want to multitask and do other things while playing - why would you buy an Xbox One to begin with?

"The AI can learn how you play - your friends could play with a shadow of you." That is really cool. And if it works as it says it works, with an intelligent AI that learns your gaming style and adapts in real-time to your actions on the level of detail they're claiming, then it really is a breakthrough in technology. The processing speed and AI algorithms would basically have to be God-level in order to accomplish this the way they're saying, so...yeah. This is why I want to test it out for a while first. 

Bottom line - yes, the Xbox One has some really cool proposed features. If they all work the way they say it works, it'll be a miracle and also pretty kickass. But the thing is - I don't care if it's a "hub" through which i can do EVERYTHING. I don't care. Because I still have to have my cable box there, I still have to have my laptop here, I still need all those other things - this just gives me a sort of receiver to mush them all together and add gaming on top of it. People who wanted this multimedia approach are already using PS3s or PCs. Sure, they added Blu-Ray, but Playstation already got the head start on that. I'm excited for the release because I want to see what it can do. But I'm not holding my breath, thinking it'll be the crowning glory of all the gaming industry. 

Think I'm biased, stupid or deluded? Discuss.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

I feel the need to tell you guys that this happened.

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.


I've been laying in bed like this for the better part of an hour, with my laptop so far up my chest it's touching my nose. It's really hard to type. I don't know why I'm doing this.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Just give me a reason / just a little one's enough / that you shouldn't be embarrassed by this sooooong...

Let me preface this post by saying that I am generally not that snobby about music. Yes, I am a professional musician and music teacher, but I love crappy pop too, and I have more than my fair share of guilty pleasure music on my iphone. 

That said. On the way home from Boyfriend's house tonight I had 94.9 on the radio, and I heard (for what was probably the third or fourth time today) that new song by P!nk (whom I generally like) and Nate Ruess (aka the guy from fun., whom I generally enjoy). The other times I heard it I just clicked the station over because it sounded like a shitty song, but this time I listened, because the radio dude announced that it was a "new song by P!nk and Nate Ruess of fun.!" I was totally stoked, for like two seconds. I wasn't a big fan of fun. at the beginning, because, well, all I'd heard was the overplayed stuff on the radio, but then a friend of mine sent me Aim and Ignite, and I loved it. Seriously, if you hate fun., do yourself a favor and listen to Aim and Ignite, and then you can just go on to hate how much they've changed. And P!nk...she grew on me. As a person, as a performer, as a musician, she grew on me. I hate to say it but I made her work for my respect, for some reason I really didn't want to like her, but in the end, I totally do.

So anyway.

I was stoked. For like two seconds, but then the music started. I was sitting at the traffic light at S. Lynnhaven and Silina, and I was horrified to immediately recognize the awful song I'd heard on the radio earlier. I just didn't realize it was P!nk and Nate Ruess. I mean, I recognized their voices this time around, but I think my brain just refused to believe two artists I like would produce such crap.

Both of these artists are genuinely talented musicians. Feel free to politely disagree with me, but I recognize the heart, soul, hard work, and real talent that goes into their music. Yeah, neither of them is of the world amazing. But they both have a good handle on what they're good at, and they do it. Both of them write, arrange, and perform their own music, and both of them have created music that have moved me in some way.


Um...FYI, don't ever google image search the phrase "Suck Ass".
"Just Give Me a Reason" (it doesn't even have a creative *title*) has awful canned percussion, a boring melody line, an unimaginative chord progression and a static beat and rhythm...and it hardly shows off what these two artists can do. The entire last bit of the song is sung in unison. You get two artists together whose vocal ranges and abilities mean they can do some pretty fun and cool stuff together, and you make them sing unison? For the entire last half of the song? Why?! It feels like the song was building up to a climax that somehow got interrupted, and then they tried to casually saunter away like nothing happened. Like they got caught masturbating and tried to play it off like they were just scratching their leg, but then the person who walked in wouldn't leave so they had to awkwardly commit to the scratching-the-leg bit for longer than they wanted to. (I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. But that's the only comparison I could really draw at the moment.)

Another thing - this song has lyrics that sound like they came out of a 13-year-old's angsty poetry notebook (complete with "DO NOT READ - YES I MEAN YOU!!!" scrawled across the front in angry bold ballpoint pen). To prove this point, I dug into my (GOD AWFUL) old journals from when I was in Junior High and found a song I wrote that I feel is comparable. First are the lyrics from "Just Give Me A Reason" and below it are lyrics from the bridge of a song I found in my notebook from when I was 13 years old, writing about how heartbroken I was that my crush had no idea how much I liked him, and how I was never going to love another boy ever again (unless he gave me a chance):

Just give me a reason
Just a little bit's enough
Just a second we're not broken we're bent
And we can learn to love again
It's in the stars
It's been written in the scars on our hearts
That we're not broken we're bent
And we can learn to love again
("Just Give Me A Reason" Moore/Ruess, 2013)

Tell me what I'm doing wrong
I'm not that special but I can still love you
We were meant to love
I may be broken
But I have a heart that can hold the stars
Give love the chance to be ouuuuuuurs [i wish i could say i didn't actually write it that way in my notebook but i did]
We should have this, you and I
Or I may never love at all
("Tell Me" Loyola, 1997)

I'm going to take a pause here and facepalm rather hard over the fact that I just allowed those song lyrics to go public. *deep breath*

It literally sounds like Ms. Moore (you did know her name is Alecia Beth Moore?) and Mr. Ruess wanted to collaborate on something and they were all excited and then some record exec cut in and goes, "well hang on there, guys, we own your asses, and therefore I am going to make you record this song that my daughter wrote last night because I forgot to buy her a birthday present this year and she'll totally love this. You're the guy from that band, right? Okay. Do it."

You can practically hear the disappointment in their voices throughout the song. They know it sucks. They're almost apologetic. The vocals sound half-assed and unenthusiastic. I got no emotional response from hearing any of it. It's almost like they were like, "Goddamnit...let's just get this shit over with."

"Goddamnit, I'm missing Game of Thrones for this shit."

...It sounds like it was written specifically so it could be covered on Glee.

On the one hand, it's awful. Just awful. On the other...well, it prompted a rant, didn't it? So it's getting attention? Maybe they're just trolling us. I have no idea. All I know is that this song fucking sucks.