June 22, 2017

Seat Guru for better airline seat selection

Several singers and fans from Chicago are planning to join French singers in a conference called Chicago Paris Cabaret Connexion in Paris on Sept 15, 16 and 17. http://www.chicagopariscabaretconnexion.org/program_join.php

While making travel arrangements, I ran across a very informative site, sponsored by Trip Advisor, called Seat Guru that details where seats are located on your selected flight.

You need merely note what type of plane your airline is using for your flight and then access a map of that particular plane to better inform you in your seat selection.

As a general rule, it is wise to avoid seats near lavatories and galleys due to congestion and, ahem, aromas. Likewise, what you gain in leg room by taking a seat behind a section wall, you will lose in no under seat storage in front of you. As you may have discovered, overhead bin storage can be filled if you board the plane after the initial onslaught of passengers.

The row in front of emergency exit seats should be avoided since their ability to recline may be limited or nil. Some people hate middle seats due to dickering with your aisle and window seat companions over arm rest rights, but I like the extra room under the seat in front of you.

Happy flying! Or at least have a bearable flight.
Liquor and chocolate may help.

https://www.seatguru.com/

GNOD – The Global Network of Discovery

I happened upon a site with the acronym gnod, quite by accident, while looking for authors similar to crime writers Donna Leon and Henning Mankell. Created by Marek Gibney in Hamburg, Germany, the Global Network of Discovery (gnod) features word maps to discover authors related to what you already like.

Not only can you look up networks of authors, but you can also fill out brief questionnaires that help the site learn more about people’s literary choices. The user is queried about whether you know, like or dislike a particular author.

The site also has sections on music, art, movies, and electronic products. In truth, the electronics portion seems to be the site’s commercial raison d’être, but this shouldn’t dampen your enjoyment of the rest of the site when you are looking for new authors, composers, films, and artists.

http://www.gnod.com/

The future of eyeglasses

While the big tech companies are perfecting Virtual Reality glasses, I have been keeping my eye on what’s happening in everyday vision ware.

Omnifocal Glasses by an Israeli company called Deep Optics promises to allow us to see whatever distance we focus on with the use of a layer of transparent liquid crystal and electrical current. The glasses will ultimately change your prescription instantaneously with the help of sensors that track your pupils and determine what distance they are looking at. The company has not succeeded in packing all of this technology into simple glasses yet, but liquid crystal lenses are literally around the corner. http://www.deepoptics.com/do_site/

You can now pre-order the amazing Shima glasses by Laforge for $590. Imagine glasses that can give you directions, tell you how far you’ve walked and play your favorite music through an app on your smart phone. And these glasses have stylish frames, not the futuristic and bulky VR glasses that Google and other companies are designing.

https://www.laforgeoptical.com

Don’t laugh but many people ascribe to the idea that looking through lenses of specific colors have the ability to improve one’s function and mood. Blue may promote relaxation and calmness; orange is supposed increase social confidence and cheerfulness along with cancelling out the blue light of electronic devices; yellow encourages concentration and mental clarity and may additionally help with night time driving.

After a brief internet search, I find no glasses that can electronically give you a rainbow of color options. Yes, there are glasses that go from clear to shaded sunglasses, but for other colors, one must buy a regular pair with only one color of lens. Here is a site that will sell you those single color glasses and explains more about color therapy.
If you know of an electronic pair that allows the wearer to change the color of lens, please let me know!

http://www.colorglasses.com/

I might wait until I can purchase a pair of electronic glasses that have all of the above features, but there will undoubtedly be a company that can implant a sophisticated electronic device directly into my eyes.
And soon.
Who is with me in entering this brave and slightly terrifying new world?

The Do Not Snap Badge

do-not-snap-badgeHas someone ever posted a candid photo of you without your permission and you look like death warmed over? The Do Not Snap badge will automatically pair up with software that will blur out the face of the person wearing it, on any social media platform. Definitely something I want to wear when there is no make-up artist and hair stylist in the vicinity! do-not-snap-wearer

Apple TV Generation 4

I finally bought a flat screen Samsung Smart television after quelling family resistance to installing something new.  Yet, nostalgia has kept us from wheeling the old tube tv to the dumpster.

I must admit that television is now a much more vivid and engaging experience which is a bit of good thing, but with its dark side, too. Binge-watching is a little too easy. Especially with Siri.

Did I mention that I also bought the Generation 4 version of Apple TV?  The system is now voice-activated with Siri being all too happy to find your selected program, especially if it means buying it from itunes. She is quite the sales clerk.

The only real set-up needed is to download free and paid apps for anything you may want to watch. For example, PBS and CNN apps were free; the MHZ Choice, Netflix and HBO Now apps simply connected to my existing paid-monthly accounts.

The remote-control allows you to swipe to make selections, hold down a button to summon Siri or punch Menu which takes you back to your previous page view.

A nice feature is your iCloud photo gallery can be run as a slideshow on your tv screen. I’m still discovering ways to use Apple TV, but Siri alone has revolutionized how I watch television.  Imagine being able to talk to all of your appliances?

Apple, please come up with an equivalent to Amazon’s Echo so I can tell Siri to turn my lights on, lower my heat, switch off my oven or set my alarm clock. And then put Siri into a robot that can do my laundry while I watch my Apple TV.

Olli electric driverless buses, testing in a city near you?

Family members have stated that “you’re not getting me in one of those contraptions that don’t have a driver.”  They may be eating their words sooner than they think.

Olli is a driverless, electric bus that can transport 12 people, is 3-D printed and is operated by IBM’s Watson, “a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data.” In other words, it’s a computer program that can understand human language and instructs the vehicle where to go and how to get there. Passengers will be able to summon a bus using an app similar to Uber.

Trials just started in Washington, D. C. with Las Vegas and Miami to follow later in the year. The  Olli mini-buses can be 3-D printed in ten hours and assembled in just one.
As someone who does not like to drive, I say, “Bring Olli to Chicago, pretty please!”

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Kayaks on the Chicago Riverwalk

Some of you have been reading my Culture Beat blurbs since my tenure at the Fairmont Hotel and Convito Italiano many moons ago.

Here are some recent Culture Beat blog posts and their links:

The cell phone headset that has improved my connectivity:

LG Tone Pro Wireless Stereo Headset

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/03/lg-tone-pro-wireless-stereo-headset/

The little speaker that makes my phone or iPad a portable stereo:

Jambox speaker by Jawbone

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/08/jambox-speaker-by-jawbone/

My favorite site for foreign tv streaming:

MHZ Choice launches on Oct. 20 (updated blog post forthcoming)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/10/mhz-choice-launches-on-oct-20/

The show you may want to watch to see women in political power (in Sweden):

Those In Power: a Swedish political tv drama on MHZ

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/02/those-in-power-a-swedish-political-tv-drama/

If you want to delve into charming French literature, check out:

The President’s Hat and The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain (in English)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/12/the-presidents-hat-and-the-red-notebook/

A book I’m recommending if you like science and business:

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2016/03/elon-musk-tesla-spacex-and-the-quest-for-a-fantastic-future-by-ashlee-vance/

Need some food items to add a little zing to your healthy diet?

My current favorite taste sensations (triple cherry blend, rice tortillas, dill relish, sauerkraut)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/09/my-current-favorite-taste-sensations/

If you are trying to cut down coffee jitters and acidity, try this ayurvedic tea:

Raja’s Cup: the anti-oxidant coffee substitute

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/09/rajas-cup-the-anti-oxidant-coffee-substitute/

When your sweet tooth hits, candy from a home-grown company:

Terry’s Toffee and Wackerpop

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/10/terrys-toffee-and-wackerpop/

Stores that both amateur and professional chefs adore:

The Spice House: Seasoning the World

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/04/the-spice-house-seasoning-the-world/

Balsa Mela and Italian Herbed Salt at The City Olive

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/05/balsa-mela-and-italian-herbed-salt/

My favorite chain restaurant:

Lyfe Kitchen

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/03/lyfe-kitchen/

The delightful Chicago attraction that not everyone has visited:

Chicago Riverwalk from LaSalle to Lake Michigan (updated photos soon as construction continues further west)

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/category/outdoor-fun-in-chicago/

Chicago’s classy classical record label:

Cedille Records Celebrates 25 Years as Chicago’s classical record company

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/04/cedille-records-celebrates-25-years-as-chicagos-classical-record-company/

One of the best apps for listening to customized radio:

AccuRadio: Hand-crafted by music lovers-not by a computer

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/05/accuradio-hand-crafted-by-music-lovers-not-by-a-computer/

My favorite app for news on your iPad or tablet:

Flipboard, a new way to get your news fix

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/02/flipboard-a-new-way-to-get-your-news-fix/

The best app for checking out other opinions on movies and tv:

Metacritic, when you want to know what the critics think

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/07/metacritic-when-you-want-to-know-what-the-critics-think/

Some of my favorite apps for finding sheet music, paid or free:

Printed Music in the Digital Age

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/04/printed-music-in-the-digital-age/

Best app for electronic music storage:

Sheet Music at Your Fingertips: ForScore

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/07/sheet-music-at-your-fingertips-forscore/

The best fake book for song standards on your tablet or desktop:

iRealPro app for your portable device or desktop

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/08/irealpro-app-for-your-portable-device-or-desktop/

More apps for the musically inclined:

Music App Happy

http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2014/04/music-app-happy/

iRealPro app for your portable device or desktop

All you jazz singers and instrumentalists may want to check out an app called iRealPro.
At just $12.99, it could be one of the best investments you can make as a musician.

After purchasing the app for my iPad, I was able to download 1,300 hundred standard tunes which I could view by genre, composer or by title. These chord lead sheets do not contain melodies or lyrics, but this app has many other features. You can easily transpose the key of the song. This is indispensable when you hand your iPad to an accompanist at an open mike or party who may not transpose or doesn’t quite know the tune.

For practice sessions, you can choose the tempo and style of your bass and drums accompaniment. This has been excellent for singers, pianists or other instrumentalists who want to practice the song form or sing or play better in tempo. Those working on improvisation can also benefit from hearing the rhythm section play the  chord changes.

Some may be familiar with the Jamey Aebersold play-along LPs, cassettes, or CDs which have been around for decades. Individual packages would have around ten tunes in lead sheet form with melodies for voice/piano or for solo instruments. The most useful practice tool of its day, you could not change the tempo or “feel” of the pre-recorded rhythm sections on your disks or tapes however. The Aebersold site still sells some indispensable packages for jazz study, but iRealPro beats it hands down if the vocalist/musician needs only the chord charts for popular standards. http://www.jazzbooks.com

In iRealPro you can create your own lead sheets, avail yourself of the member forum or download more genres of music. I recently downloaded 317 Gypsy Jazz tunes for free. You can also download other gratis material including Latin Styles Pack which contains Brazilian sambas, Cuban boleros and Argentinian tangos.

IRealPro can be used on your iphone, iPad, desktop or Android devices.

The app made Time Magazine’s list of best 2010 inventions. This gigantic “fake book” is truly a great addition to one’s electronic musical arsenal.

Order iRealPro from your preferred app store or directly from their web site.

http://irealpro.com/

AccuRadio: Hand-crafted by music lovers-not by a computer

My friend Francesca tipped me off about a fantastic world-wide web radio site called AccuRadio.
The listener can choose from dozens of themed-channels, select something called “Surprise Me,” or come up with their own customized station. “Channel a Day In May” is nearing its end, but “Music For the Start of Summer” is just commencing.

Some of the channel selections include Classic Rocktoopia with 1,000 of the greatest songs in rock history, Classical Relaxation with soothing classical melodies, Today’s New Country, Bluegrass Belles featuring all female voices, three opera channels, a gigantic collection of Broadway shows and themes and hundreds of other options. It seems almost every imaginable music genre is represented at this site.

Founded in 2000 as a home-grown Chicago company, AccuRadio bills itself as appealing to adult listeners with sophisticated taste. They have links to music sellers’ sites so you can purchase your favorite songs. AccuRadio is also fully licensed with ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SoundExchange and the RIAA and they state that they pay royalties on every song they play.

AccuRadio does run ads on the radio channels, but I did not find them intrusive like regular commercial AM/FM terrestrial radio stations. You can either access the site from your desktop or download an AccuRadio app to your phone or tablet.

Let me know if you run across anything fabulous!

http://www.accuradio.com

Hoopla: Libraries deepen their electronic presence

I still love the feel of a non-virtual book, but I find myself using the Chicago Public Library’s digital audiobooks on a regular basis. The real discovery has been Hoopla, a web service with music albums, movies, television programs and audiobooks to rent for free if your local library is a member. My Chicago library card entitles me to six media downloads per month from the digital service’s vast collection.

You won’t necessarily find all the latest movie, tv, book or music blockbusters in the selections, but there are old and newer works worthy of attention. I am currently watching a Swedish detective series called “Beck” from the television collection.

“The Iron Lady” with Meryl Streep or Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” might be one of the free movies you would rent for 72 hours. Likewise the TV mini-series “Lonesome Dove” or the BBC’s “Inspector Morse” series could be your cup of tea. The audio music selections include artists like Alabama Shakes, Josh Groban, Frank Sinatra, Jay-Z or Mumford and Sons, among many others. Your audiobook taste may be satiated with a biography of Tiger Woods, a self-help book entitled “Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight” or perhaps a Robert Ludlum thriller.

The site brags that they have hundreds of thousands of movies, books, albums and tv programs. If you have a current library card, a web browser and a desktop, smart phone or tablet, why not see if your local library is a member? You just might find exactly what you were looking for. For free.

https://www.hoopladigital.com/home

Hundreds of libraries all across the nation are members. Here is a current map of participating libraries: http://www.zeemaps.com/view?group=661471&y=39.468050