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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Johnny Cash’s Ghost

On Sunday night we went out for a concert in the park—at Louisville’s Iroquois Amphitheater for a “Rock and Stroll” sponsored by WFPK to hear Brandi Carlile.

The grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and you could add two or three more greats, of those in attendance, built the Amphitheater in the spring of 1938 under the federal Works Progress Administration instituted by Franklin D Roosevelt. That was in the era of big government during the Great Depression where arts, education and infrastructure projects were built by men who otherwise would have been unemployed.

Lone Bellows opened for Carlile. LB gave a high energy performance with three guitars, one electric mandolin and percussion. They did several original songs as well as a cover of John Prine's "Angel from Montgomery ".

If Johnny Cash were reincarnated as a slip of a woman he might be Brandi Carlile. She describes her music as country and western, but of the Johnny Cash variety. Critics call it Americana. It’s a little bit country, a dash of bluegrass and a whole lot of rock. But whatever you call it she can sure belt out the tunes.

Carlile's performance at Iroquois Park's Amphitheater was before a wildly enthusiastic, multi-generational crowd. I didn’t know all of the words to her music, and despite Carlile’s strong vocals, could not hear them because of the shouting and applause. But the crowd spirit was a good, contagious sort of energy with people dancing in the aisles and at the front of the stage. Until, that is, security made them return to their seats.

About the same time as the Amphitheater was being built, Johnny Cash’s father moved his family to Arkansas so he could use Roosevelt’s New Deal farming program.

Five generations later folks are still enjoying concerts at the Iroquois amphitheater, with renovations in 2000 that modernized the facility but kept the original historical aspects and some of the materials.

Brandi Carlile appropriately ended the concert with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Monday, June 24, 2013

Where's Snowden?

 Snowden is in the wind or else being held by the Russians. Surely he didn’t intend to end up in Russian custody as a bargaining chip between governments.  

At this stage his situation sounds like a plot for an Argo-type movie. Where is he? Is he driving the show or is he a pawn? Is Wiki-Leaks guiding his moves?

And who are the good guys? The plot is unclear and who the bad guys are also is not obvious. More like a John le Carre plot than a John Wayne western.

And what do the NSA/ CIA and their contractors make of this blog post—and your reading it—that’s the real question.  

The conversation Snowden has started about privacy, or the lack thereof, continues.  

From The New York Times:

OPINION: Where Did Our ‘Inalienable Rights’ Go?

Too many Americans have accepted the government’s vague assurances that the huge data-gathering efforts are benign.                                                                                              

You have to wonder at the possible evil, harmful uses a government or even just some individuals could make of the vast amount of data being collected by our government. That is, assuming such misuse is not already occurring.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Privacy in the Era of Big Data

As a follow up the discussions of Snowden and his leaking of government secrets, this article about the Obama campaign’s use of data in the elections is fascinating.  

Data You Can Believe In

How the precision targeting of “persuadable” voters that put President Obama over the top in 2012 could revolutionize the advertising industry. 

A friend had been telling me for quite some time the topic everyone is talking about is Big Data. This was before I started reading about it everywhere. But it sure does reinforce how much info is available and how little privacy anyone has. The fact that a lot of this information is out there as a result of our own actions does not necessarily make it a good thing. 

 Nevertheless, I filled out a survey today for a free rewards card at Macy’s—and just put more of my data out there in the vast mess of Big Data. No doubt someone will now be slicing and dicing all that with everything and I’ll get more email offers for things I might want but really don’t need.  

Will someone save us from ourselves?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

How to Not Sound Like an Idiot When You Leave a Voice Message

I learned how to dictate some years ago when I first started working in a “professional” job, that is, one with a secretary. Think “Mad Men” era. Secretaries were all female. Almost all “professionals” were male.

For you kids, that was when dinosaurs roamed the planet and copies were made using carbon paper. Secretaries took dictation in shorthand and some professionals were starting to use this new-fandangled device called a portable Dictaphone.

Dictating into a machine took me awhile to adjust to. I felt a bit foolish talking when no one was listening. Of course, this was before everyone had voice messaging. Secretaries took messages too.

But once I developed the skill of dictating I became adept at dictation. I could fire off letters and documents much more quickly than I ever could have typed or hand-written them. Of course, my real-life secretary often caught my mistakes and blunders before the letters went out.

Nowadays “secretary” means something far different than back then. I doubt any real human takes dictation any more. Most executives, lawyers, and other so-called professionals now do their own typing.

But a skill, once learned remains—I suspect somewhere in the memory banks between the brain and muscle memory. Such as the proverbial ability to ride a bike. Or shift a manual transmission.

So I was delighted to find someone does still take dictation--the iPhone –S, which Siri, in fact, is very good at. Maybe not quite as good as an old-fashioned, human secretary. She doesn’t catch my mistakes but makes a few of her own. However she is much better than I am typing one-handed.

You see, after rotator-cuff surgery, I upgraded to the iPhone 4-S for the dictation function. I know, that’s far from the latest smarty-phone technology. But it was a big advance for me from a three-year-old iPhone. One that just sat there and looked at me unless I used my fingers.

I had decided to get one of the newer iPhone’s, thinking, after all, if Martin Scorsese can dictate in the back of a cab, per Apple’s commercials, surely I can too. Of course, Martin Scorsese can make great movies—something I can’t do. But he made using the voice recognition software look easy. Surely dictating on a smarty-phone would be a big step up from trying to type one-handed, whether on my old iPhone or even on a regular computer.

An interesting twist--after rotator-cuff surgery, I suddenly had two new Siri’s in my life. The physical therapist for my shoulder was named Siri, just as is the iPhone dictation feature. Before now I had never known of anyone, human or software voice recognition program, named Siri. I could not make this coincidence up. And both were helping me function after surgery.

 All my old dictation skills came rolling back from my memory banks. Even though I’ve long-since parted company with Siri, my therapist, I’m still closely tied to Siri on my iPhone. She types my emails, texts messages, finds restaurants, Googles answers to questions and generally makes my life much easier.  Though occasionally with glaring mistakes if I don’t proof read before sending. Such as “Meet me at the “muscles and burger bar” rather than “Meet me at the Mussels and Burger Bar.” Oops.  But, so long as I proof what she writes, Siri does a pretty good job.

Today, as on many other days, I was returning emails, sending text messages and searching Google for various places on my iPhone. It occurred to me I needed to leave an old-fashioned voice message for a friend. After I ended the message I realized I had included things like punctuation, new paragraph, and other dictation instructions that don’t normally belong in a conversation or voice message.

I tried to leave the friend a follow-up message explaining and apologizing for the nutsy-message that really should have gone to Siri, not one of my other friends. I hope the human friend understands. I’m sure Siri would.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Back on Track

This post is not about horse, auto, or other kind of racing. In fact, I’ve not been to the track since the Derby, though I did watch the Belmont on TV. Luckily, I did not put any money on the race as I never would have picked Palace Malice. As I true for most people, I'm ahead financially ever day I stay home from the track and don’t bet. 

Rather than refer to racing, the title of this post refers to my last blog post title: “Apathy and “Inertia” which I suppose are the perfect words to use for a blog post if you aren’t going to blog for a while. But you have to get past the apathy and inertia if you hope to be a winner of any kind. So I am planning to get back on track. 

I have lots of ideas to share. And I have even made it past the inspiration stage and done something about it. Recently, I attended the Carnegie Center’s “Books-in Progress” conference in Lexington Kentucky. I’ll try to share some of my writing that was inspired by that conference. And I also have written some other essays which I plan to post in the near future. 

In the meantime, if you did bet on Palace Malice or any other winners of any kind, please feel free to share in the comments section on this blog.