For those of you who didn’t catch the play on words in the blog post title, but are curious, the hint correlates to a well known R&B group from the 90’s, not just the subject of this post.
Though its four months later and 49 degs warmer right now, it is 11:55pm. After a long workday (even working from home), tonight we celebrated my son’s high school graduation.
As many are, during this pandemic, the usual gathering of friends and family was all for naught due to you-know-what. What was truly awesome in the midst of this was how, his school, the faculty, staff (of which my daughter is one of them), students, and parents managed to turn this into a joyous occasion.
As with all schools, they have been closed for the last few months and classes have been completed virtually. The process for preparing for a graduation ceremony to a great deal of planning, but was followed up by flawless execution. Being as though my son’s graduating class is very small, last week the process was to have two families come to the school, in thirty minute intervals so that each student can walk across the stage, receive his or her diploma, take the usual pictures with the headmaster (principal) of the school and family, then head home. That whole process took 20 mins. Only immediately family was allowed (because it was most likely the case that said family had no one suffering from COVID-19 symptoms), thus no family members who didn’t live in the household, or friends, were aloud.
Many of the activities you would see at a graduation – faculty speakers, valedictorian and salutatorian speeches, musical selections, etc, were all pre-recorded or provided by archived video. When all was said and done, each aspect of the graduation was coordinated together, in sequence, and streamed via Zoom. The Zoom link was provided to family and friends, weeks before, and from the beginning of the graduation exercise until the closing, it was as if you were watching a ceremony on TV.
Despite the necessity of conducting the entire event virtually, it was a seamlessly executed, blessed event. I, for one, am glad to see where advent of internet technology has taken us and allowed this Class of 2020 graduation to be a grand success in the midst of what is currently being called the “new normal”.
It’s been a while since I actually composed a blog post that wasn’t technically oriented (I believe the last such one was about going to see Jeff Lorber in concert, last October or so). That said, I mentioned in a recent Twitter post, that with the ubiquity of “instant” social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, blogging can (for non-professional bloggers like myself) can easily fall by the wayside. The other have of that tweet mentioned that I started blogging in 2007, and I miss the aspect of self-publishing from “my own garden”.
Well, we are all currently dealing with the global pandemic known as COVIC-19. Some like to refer to this as the “new normal”, a colloquial term, which is all well and fine. There are some things that from the “old normal” that are not present and I don’t mind making sacrifices for at this point, the thing that’s most bothersome today essential fall into two buckets for me. The first is the overall inconvenience of things. I don’t have a great deal of heartburn dealing with them but, nonetheless, they are here for the immediate future.
The second thing is more annoying and aggravating by far – that is having to deal with those who refuse to make, what I tend to think are, simple sacrifices like maintaining physical distancing and not following the CDC guidelines for wearing a mask while in contact with others. What that simply tells me is that you have no regards for your own life, in the midst of ALLLLL that is continually being reported about rising case numbers and deaths, which means you have no regards for my life. I’m going to leave my opinion regarding that in the last sentence before this.
I got out in the gorgeous weather today and was driven around town by my son, who is trying to get the requisite number of hours in to get his driver license. Considering the pandemic, I’m not sure that will happen anytime soon, but nevertheless, the hours have to be logged. We’re approaching summer and I’m glad, but it will obviously be a summer like none I’ve ever experienced. One thing I’ll say, this current situation has seemingly added extra time in my life for different things. One of them has been, what I like to call “introspection under quarantine”. I’ve seen a number of social media posts basically saying that when the pandemic passes, we don’t need to “go back to normal, because normal wasn’t working”. While it’s clear that when it’s said “back to normal”, that means the non-pandemic life. I get that, however there is, to me, a lot to consider in the message of such social media posts. I’m striving for a non-pandemic lifestyle, through the introspection I have been doing, that will exceed the pre-pandemic. Did a pandemic have to come along to drive me to that decision? No, however here we are. In the end it should always be about pressing forward and for the better, no matter what challenges arise. Easier said than done? Surely, but it’s “by all means, necessary”.
Greetings all. Glad to have you back for this special edition of the Tech Times Podcast. This episode is a departure from my quick thoughts on the evolution of consumer internet technologies and a detour to a longer podcast. I had the pleasure of interviewing the CEO and founder of BLR Rocket Technologies AND Binary Inc., Lemon.
I first came across Lemon on Twitter in September 2019 when he was posting updates on the development of his company, BLR Rocket Technologies. BLR is an up and coming thrust vector controlled (TVC) model rocket technology company who aims to provide TVC-based model rocket technology demos as well as custom flight computers to such enthusiasts. He’s also the founder of Binary Inc, a software company focused on developing software for businesses via coding in-house software for hobbyists and makers that we open-source for anyone to use.
During this episode, we discuss the ever-increasing popularity of TVC model rocket technology, his background in it, its wide ranging presence on Twiiter, its effect in the STEM community and other topics. We also discuss his new startup, Binary, its goals, and the future of the company.
You can find BLR Rocket Technologies and Binary Inc, on the web at the following locations:
On Sunday, 29 September, I had the good fortune of seeing The Jeff Lorber Fusion, with Mike Stern on guitar. They are on tour promoting the new release “Eleven”, which officially dropped on 27 September, if memory serves me correctly.
The band consisted of the following:
Jeff Lorber – keyboards
Dennis Chambers – Drums
Jimmy Haslip . Bass
Mike Stern – Guitar
I just happened to check the comments on Jeff’s Instagram feed Friday afternoon and said to myself “Let’s see what their tour stops are”. Ironically enough, they had already played the first of four nights here in DC at Blues Alley, so immediately I was excited. I called my wife to see if she wanted to go but she opted out as the Saturday night 8pm set was sold out. Checked with my buddy to see if he wanted to swing, but he was booked, so I flew solo to the 8pm set on Sunday.
Traffic was a bit backed up (of course, after realizing I took the long way), but I got there 45 minutes earlier AND was able to park on the street during a busy, bustling, warm Sunday night in Georgetown, so that was a nice surprise (and convenient such as it wasn’t a far walk to the club and I didn’t have to pay for garage parking).
When I got in, the place, nicely intimate, was already crowded. Fortunately I got a good seat (I’m not even sure there’s a bad seat in the house, actually). After ordering dinner, and leisurely enjoying it, Jeff walks out and past my table to the piano and synth. He sets up his iPad on the piano and flips through some of the pages, making small talk with some folks at a table basically right in front of him. Next out to the stage is Mike Stern…warming up on his guitar, also making small talk with those at adjacent tables. Third out is Jimmy Haslip, center stage, tuning up his bass. Last out, finally, is Dennis Chambers, who I really couldn’t see because of the location of his drum set on stage.
After management announces no use of portable devices, recording is prohibited, please keep your voices to a whisper, etc, etc, the show begins, with Jeff introducing the band. I’ll list the selections I remember, as I can. Post intro, the first selection is my current favorite and the first track from the new CD, “Righteous”. Being that this is Blues Alley, the acoustics are fantastic, so of course, this skilled set of musicians sounded great. All the dynamics and nuances were clear for this intimate setting. I feel it was the perfect track to start with, based on how the tune flows.
Next selection was entitled “Jones Street”. I initially thought this was a newly written track for the release, but it turns out it’s remake of Mike’s original song on his 1977 album, “Give and Take” (I’ll have to give this a listen as well). During this selection, Jimmy launches into this NICE bass solo, probably for about 24 to 32 bars. It’s a deep, growling, funky tune which really sounded great. Later in the song, Dennis Chambers, oh my goodness, also took a solo for about 32 bars. I;ve heard Dennis before and found out about this DC legend when I moved here 30 years ago. The solo was HOTTTT! By the time they finished the tune, the round of applause was long.
Later in the set, they peformed the last track on the CD, “Runner”. I like this track a lot as well, and could tell before even hearing it on the CD, that it was a nice, grooving tune. Dennis and Mike traded off on a very nice break where at one point, Dennis must have gone through playing jazz, funk, straight-ahead, and calypso genres before he was done – the band was masterful at keeping count before they all came back in for the outro.
If I remember correctly, they did about seven or eight tunes and ended with a crankin’ blues tune that may have been another one from Mike’s album. Whichever it was, it was a nice rendition. The set lasted for a little over and hour.
After the set was done, more small talk by Jeff with the table in front of him. After he was done, he passed by my table and we chatted for a minute, which always is a pleasure I’ve gotten when I get a chance to catch him in town. This has been the fourth time since 2001.
I was hoping to catch Jimmy and Dennis for autographs but they, with Jeff, slipped backstage, leaving Mike at the head of a long line at the exit, to sign CDs. I finally got up there, with still a long line behind me, to chat a moment and have him sign mine. He’s a personable, warm, engaging guy and it was nice to get a moment to take with this Grammy award winning, highly respected guitarist in the recording industry for decades.
Seeing such a superb set of musicians at a great spot made me appreciate, even more, being a. guitarist and band member in multiple groups for decades as well. Check lorber.com for all info on the new release.
For those of you that follow me on Twitter(@MrFresh), you’ve seen daily posts about my progress during this 100 Days of Code challenge. I’ve embarked on my third try at teaching myself how to code in Python. In short, the first was following tutorials on Codecademy, along with a book I bought, back in 2013. The second stint was trying an “Introduction To Computational Programming Using Python” course given by MIT, an online MITx course, commonly known as a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). The first go around, I spent too much time just doing tutorial section after section. While that was ok, I wasn’t really applying what I was learning. The MOOC was good, but there were so many global students involved with much more programming experience than me, that I kinda felt out of place, found myself spending too much time on the course’s Facebook page, resulting in it being difficult to meet the class assignment due date deadlines..
They say the “third time’s a charm”. I’ve been putting in at least an hour everyday but this time around, I’m using the same book purchased years ago, “Python Crash Course – A Hand’s On, Project Based Introduction To Programming”…AND…building a project as as I learn. The latter is probably the most single important approach one can take when learning how to code. Picking something to build that you (or even someone others) can find useful, allows you to apply even the most minimal knowledge to something concrete. I’m seeing that this approach was the missing part in keeping me interested.
Here are a few other tips you may find useful:
Don’t try to learn everything at one time – find an approach that will allow you to become grounded in the basics, and move forward only when you’re sure you have a grasp of them.
Be mindful to avoid what I call “tutorial purgatory” – spending too much time watching tutorial after tutorial and not taking to write actual code. Try to write your own code similar to the exercises you follow, perhaps even modifying an exercise to add what you’ve learned in other areas.
Find a way to document what you learn, via writing it down in a journal or doing so online (Evernote, One Note, GitHub, etc)
Put in some time studying and writing code everyday – consistent actions end up forming habs.
Take advantage of anyway you can with the coding community available to you – often times those there are willing to help you.
Again, continually write code, even the smallest, simplest programs, with comments in the proper style. Not only will it help you learn coding itself but get you familiar with the code editor and IDE you work in.
Participate in the #100DaysOfCode challenge. It’s one that is beneficial to anyone just starting out through those with vast experience.
The challenge, in and of itself, is often helpful because there are many going through it, as well as just starting, that provide a vibrant, robust community of those willing to help and provide motivation. I’m exactly three weeks in and look forward to putting in the work everyday at this point (even knowing that they’ll be some hard days ahead).
I keep my progress posted on Twitter, as a note page in my Evernote account, and in a small blue notebook. At some point, when I feel that GitHub will be useful for me, I’ll create and maintain my log there, just as many do already. So far, my project is coming along nicely, it’s nothing spectacular, but getting a glimpse of what I know Python can do, there will be lots of room for improving the code as I learn.
Ok, so….I’m ironing my clothes on Labor Day, getting them ready for the work week. My bluetooth headphones are on and I’m streaming some very chilled beats via the Fluid Channel on somafm.com. I’m just about done ironing five days worth of clothes and in comes my 22 y/o daughter from downstairs, or her bedroom, or wherever. The dialog begins:
Her: Dad, did you get my text? (her mother and brother already answered)
Me (taking off headphones): No, I haven’t looked at my phone in like 90 mins. (checks text message…. and sees this):
Me: Do you mean to tell me, couldn’t come upstairs, or from your bedroom or from WHEREVER you were to ask me this ??
Her: Well I…
Me (cutting her off): LOL, if it’s something important, or you need an answer…just come and ask me…you and your brother are the same way! Geez LOL.
Her: Ok okaaay, how is 2pm?
After she leaves, I’m like, how did this SMS thing get folk to be so lazy, I mean, we’re in the saaaame house! I’ve heard stories of teens right next to each other, texting things back and forth when they can just show each other whatever it is! LOL.
I got to thinking, it’s been a long time since this thing worked,We have four in the house that worked when we first moved in almost 20 years ago. Look familiar to you?
If you’re fortunate enough to have Labor Day off and not working as I type this, I hope you’re enjoying the weekend.
This post signifies the return of a podcast I started back in the Summer of 2013, entitled Tech Times. It started out as an answer to the annual AudioMo challenge and evolved into a podcast I actually enjoyed doing. Part of the enjoyment came via the ease of using my iPhone to record the episodes on the go and quickly upload them, with tags and artwork, to the then BLIMS server associated with the ADN (Application Developer Network) for streaming and/or download. ADN was primarily a place for developers to talk software coding, app development, and the like, but subjects were wide open beyond that. It was a user run, free microblog, with the developers creating the infrastructure and apps to build it. It was like a young Twitter without the advertisements and other aspects that Twitter is now known for. A nice breath of fresh air with great members. With ADN going away, that site has now evolved to Pnut which is essentially the same as ADN with many of the same users. I’m fortunate to have been able to grandfather in after the transition, and still engage their regularly.
After listening back to all of the previous Tech Time episodes today, I found it interesting to compare what was then to what is now, in terms of how the technology of these topics evolved. That said, I’ve decided to continue the podcast by now employing the ever simple to use Anchor app in the iOS Store. It didn’t take long for me to create the trailer episode, add background music from the app’s library, add tags, and submit for possible upload to a number of different streaming services, including Spotify, pending approval.
I’ll be posting episodes 11 through 22, one a day, through the middle of September, then start the new episodes after.
So yes, this should be fun again, especially talking about my thoughts on some of the current technology that wasn’t even in existence or barely in existence 5 – 6 years ago, as well as those that have evolved. You can stream the new episodes after 11 Sep 19 here: Tech Times – The Podcast. Hope you enjoy listening.
I’m an AFOL. You may be asking what that is. I grew up playing with and very much enjoying Lego as a child, back in the day, like in the 70s (LOL). Since it has evolved, just as I have, I never really lost interest and have become an AFOL (Adult Fan Of Lego). If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen a few recent tweets from me on just how much this “play system” has evolved, especially in the area of robotics. I started getting into the Lego Mindstorms robotics kits about six years ago – nothing heavy, just dabbling here and there. It got to the point where I developed a six week summer camp Mindstorms Robotics curriculum for my son’s school and got involved with the local 4H chapter to see how that curriculum could be evolved for the next year, as well as help me with one of his school science projects involving robotics.
In any event, I got the urge to play around with a simple bot I built some time ago and found an Android app that I downloaded to my daughter’s old Droid. Took it for a spin last night. This kinda rekindled my interest in it again because I hope to be doing some software coding for it next year, to use along side the graphical user interface code blocks programming app designed by Lego (these kits are used by young kids all over the world so… 🙂 )
Anyway, that’s it for now. Should be fun getting back into it when I have time as it’s technically stimulating, for sure.
Ok, I get it…old hat, right, right. How ironic is it that I have written this post to primarily appear on social media (my Twitter account).
With regards to the subject of this post, I’ve read what feels like a countless number of articles on reducing social media distraction/improving productivity – and after all is said (read) and done, the simple bottom line is – just (don’t) do it – close the tabs, kill the notifications, put the phone in the other room, delete the apps etc.
I will attest, from experience, that for the first time since 2008, I’ve lost the desire to spend a very great deal of time on Facebook, to the point of it being down to five to ten minutes a day only to check on the few FB groups I am an admin on. This final new found freedom is more than very nice. Similarly, I’ve been off Instagram for a month now and I’m feeling the same about that platform. What is left, is Twitter, a platform I’ve been an early adopter of (since November 2006). The truth is, as toxic as Twitter has been known to become, I draw value from it – it feeds my ever-increasing knowledge of topics I’m interested in – and the type of feeds that do this are 95% of the time not personal feeds, so by tailoring my followers list, I avoid a lot of what I consider to be toxic, immature, foolish, etc (sometimes that leaks through via other user retweets, but…what can I do there? It’s not frequent).
Anyway, as I enter in to the last quarter of the year, this second annual sabbatical ended up better than last year’s. My hope is to redirect the time spent on social media as I did, to accomplish much more, in preparation for 2020.