October 22, 2020

“The Social Dilemma” – A Must-See Doc on Netflix

Two different people urged me to catch “The Social Dilemma,” an informative and frightening documentary on Netflix. Following their advice, I spent around 90 minutes watching social media insiders warn about the pernicious effects of our electronic devices.

High-level executives from Instagram, Google, Pinterest and other tech companies seemed almost apologetic that they have helped unleash this beast that consumes our time and our brains.

Dramatic scenes are interspersed with talking head confessions. We are told that Silicon Valley moguls discourage their own children from using the apps and hardware from which they derive profit. FaceBook and ilk are highly addictive and encourage people to become myopic in their view of the world. You are only shown material which coincides with what you have already viewed. This selective sharing of information partially explains why we are so divided in our view of truth and governmental policy.

I can’t say this film will be a fun ride, but you will certainly be better informed after catching “The Social Dilemma.” If you feel similarly enlightened after viewing the doc, please spread the word. This might be essential to watch before the election.

Leypin Selfie Stick/Tripod from Amazon

I was singing for a funeral recently and saw a family member set up a tripod with a phone so she could broadcast the service to friends and family who could not attend. My big question after the ceremony was who made the cell phone stand and where did she get it?

Not surprisingly, she bought the Chinese-made Leypin accessory online from Amazon. I ordered the same thing and the package arrived in two days with the company name Yunteng on the box. Much to my chagrin, the tripod comes disassembled with tiny paper instructions; the parts are plastic and seem very flimsy. Despite those negatives, after some experimentation, I was able to assemble the parts to hold a smart phone for filming. Curiously, I ended up with two extra pieces that I did not use. Another plus is you can fold the tripod and use the holder as a selfie stick.

One note of caution. It was fairly easy to try the bluetooth remote control attached to the tripod to activate my phone’s video-filming. After immediately receiving a SPAM phone call on my iphone, I decided to NEVER use the Bluetooth remote control again.

All in all, I am satisfied with the $25 spent on a gadget that facilitates my ability to make videos and take photos without someone shakily holding the device. Ready for your close-up?

iPhone SE vs. iPhone Pro Max

Do you get a sinking feeling when your phone fails to keep a charge for very long? Your storage is so full you have to jettison photos, videos and phone messages? Yes, you have hit the timed obsolescence planned by cell phone purveyors. You need a new phone.

I reached that sorry state recently and narrowed my search to two Apple phones, the low and the high, the new SE or the iPhone 11. Price was the immediate difference — the current SE starts at $399; the iPhone 11 begins at $699.

The next point of comparison was the ability to take pictures. The SE has one camera — the iPhone Pro Max has three. The Pro Max gets higher resolution in the front-facing camera and can take better photos in low light. The Pro Max averages multiple images to get the best picture.

Photo taken with iPhone Pro Max at 40 feet.

Another point of comparison is the phone’s size. Some like the 4.7-inch pocket size of the SE, while the myopic might opt for the iPhone 11 Pro Max at 6.1 inches.

You may discern which way I was leaning. Yep, I went for the bigger phone with more bells and whistles. The iPhone Pro Max takes great photos and videos, has outstanding battery life and the larger screen makes it easier to read everything.

Having previously owned an SE, I can attest that it is great value for the money, but if you will be using your phone for a lot of media, you may opt for a version of the iPhone 11.

Photo taken with the iPhone Pro Max at 10 feet

If you can eke a little more use out of your current phone, you may want to wait for the iPhone 12, but the release date is up in the air.

Even though Apple stores are not open, buying a cell phone online or by phone could not be easier, The product comes beautifully packaged and Apple support is all too happy to help you set up your new device.

One final note, I bought a black Apple Silicone Case for my iPhone Pro Max for $29.99. A wise investment since my butterfingers frequently drop this expensive little business investment.

WNDR Museum in Chicago West Loop

Do you need an indoor idea for fun during our winter weather? Are there any people under 40 you want to impress with your coolness? Look no further than the WNDR Museum in the west Chicago Loop.

Visitors wander from room to room experiencing immersive visual and audio environments. Tech artists have created scenarios where you become part of the art such as in the black box room that places you on a screen and then morphs it into a kaleidoscope of images. A disco room allows you to use LED flooring to paint swirls with your feet.

One of my favorite stops was the Mirror Room by renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Also intriguing was a black and white room with slanted floor. An arm appeared out of a wall cut-out and a voice asked if we wanted a photo taken with our phones. In truth, the whole museum is one big Instagram opportunity.

There are creative rooms where the visitors can explore their artistic muse using old-fashioned paper and materials provided by Wndr. A snack area features curated treats for purchase and a large complimentary cereal bar replete with milk, both cow’s and alternative.

Yes, admission is over-priced and repeat visits might not be forthcoming for most adults, but this is most entertaining for an hour or two. And you just might find a bauble or two in the quirky museum store.

Photo temporarily displayed on the museum walls. Me with husband Paul and Jim Koudelka.

Be forewarned that the museum does not handle cash. All transactions must be done through the internet or with a credit card.

By all means, bring your phone. Selfies encouraged.

wndrmuseum.com

Gone Bananas for the Yonanas

When my friend, Dale first told me about his new food machine, the Yonanas, How had I never heard anything about this ingenious gizmo that makes soft serve out of frozen fruit?

After thawing your chosen fruit for 7 to 10 minutes, you place them in a spout that funnels them past a spinning wheel with tiny teeth. Out comes a frozen treat that can be made without dairy, soy, egg, gluten or sugar. I have also frozen coconut milk in an ice cube tray to blend into the fruit mixtures. I tried putting cacao powder in the machine, but found that the chocolate did not mix well. Adding the powder after the soft serve is made is a far better option for a chocolate version.

The recipes vary from banana-centric to sorbets with mango, citrus, berries, peaches, cherries, pineapple or any fruit you can freeze. The machine comes with a handy recipe booklet and the variations appear endless.. This will be a godsend dessert option for those with dietary restrictions.

Topping choices are endless from chopped nuts to liqueurs to shredded and toasted coconut flakes. Trader Joe’s sells desiccated raspberries which make a delicious tangy and crunchy mix-in.

The Classic machine is easily disassembled and cleaned and does not take up much shelf space. A larger model called the Yonanas Elite is also available. I found my product for $39.99 at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Pardon me while I turn on my Yonanas yet again.

yonanas.com

Amazon Basics Electric Kettle

If you need an under $20 gift for someone, let me recommend the small, but mighty Amazon Basics Electric Kettle with a one liter capacity.

While staying at the home of a host French dentist in Paris last fall, I fell in love with an appliance that boils water in about a minute. At home, I had been doing water for tea the old-fashioned way over a gas flame. How last century!

Lo and behold, Amazon has been featuring a mini-version of this little work horse for the low price of $15.29. I paid $17 and some change so the price has actually gone down. If you are an Amazon Prime member, the shipping is free.

My favorite feature is that the appliance shuts off when the water reaches a boiling point. No more scorched tea pots for the absent-minded. Guilty.

As I said, this makes the perfect little gift for a person you like. Which may be YOU.

https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Stainless-Steel-Electric-Kettle/dp/B072DWYBL7/ref=sr_1_4?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1544213506&sr=1-4&keywords=amazon+basic+electric+kettle