End of the line


My antique telephones.

Sometimes milestones become tombstones. And so I say good riddance to my home phone! We have reached the end of an era!

Would you like to call me at home? Well, you can’t! At least, not on my land-line. You see, I finally cancelled my home phone service now that I totally rely on my iPhone for all of my telephone communications–not that I make or receive that many phone calls in the first place. This archaic device is slowly disappearing from homes across America. I reluctantly surrendered my land-line, but I knew I must. I have cut my umbilical cord. I am no longer tethered to my home. I am now free to roam about the world!

I’ve been paying for my home phone service for years now even though the only people who call me are telemarketers and collection agencies. And they are persistent! I still don’t understand why the telemarketers called if I never answered their survey or bought their products. Equally annoying were the collection agencies calling for Calvin Thomas or Thomas Calvin. Apparently he gave my home phone number as his and everyone believed he lived with me. I always told the caller that he didn’t live here, but they always called back.

I must admit that I never was much of a phone person in the first place. I hate talking on the phone and I hate being on the listening end of a long diatribe even more. The best way to contact me is via e-mail or Facebook. I dread the sound of a ringing telephone. Usually, it rings at the most inconvenient time, like when I’m in the shower or otherwise busy. When I had my apartment in Marquette Park, I went for about a year without a phone. I really enjoyed the privacy. If someone wanted to talk to me, they would have to physically visit me at my apartment. The advantage of this arrangement was that I got to see who my true friends were.

Unfortunately, everyone demanded that I have a home telephone in order to conduct business with me. My job, my bank, my credit cards, the utility companies, and even my newspaper. No phone number, no service. So I caved in and got a phone with minimal service. Yes, it killed me to pay five bucks per month to Illinois Bell for a service I didn’t even want in the first place. When the federal government broke up the Baby Bell monopoly, my phone bill immediately doubled for the same service I didn’t want in the first place. So how was the monopoly bad? I still don’t get it.

Well, I’m not exactly happy with my cell phone service either. It’s more expensive than a comparable land-line, where all incoming calls were free. Now I’m charged for all outgoing and incoming calls! And I pay much, much more just for the basic service. How is this progress? Thank goodness for the vibrant competition among the phone carriers! Who knows how much more I’d be paying otherwise!

So, everyone seems to be accepting this shift from land-lines to cell phones. When I conduct business, everyone asks for my cell phone number. They don’t even care if I have a land-line or not. So, I now only have a cell phone. But please don’t call me. E-mail me!

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Isle of the Dead


Chicago Symphony Center

I love music! But I don’t know very much about music. In fact, thousands upon thousands of music books have been written about everything that I do NOT know about music. And, I am proud to say that I have never read even one of those books! Despite the fact that I love music so much.

I really do love music. I listen to music almost every waking moment. But I listen to different kinds of music, depending on where I am. When I’m at UIC, I listen to  rock on my iPhone. When I’m driving, I listen to the oldies. However, whenever I’m home, I listen to 98.7 WFMT. All the time! Even when I’m sleeping. And I always crank up WFMT all the way to eleven. Except when I’m sleeping. Listening to classical music allows me to read or write, or even correct Spanish compositions. I don’t know much about classical music either, even though I listen to it all the time.

Even though I’m not qualified to critique music, I would like to tell you about a concert I attended at the Chicago Symphony Center. I went to see Beyond the Score that explained the structure and meaning of Sergei Rachmoninov’s Isle of the Dead. The orchestra played the works of other composers who influenced Rachmaninov for this piece. It was a multi-media presentation, so there was a giant screen to show pictures of the painting Isle of the Dead that also influenced this piece as the story was narrated. I sat in the third row right in the middle of the screen. When the conductor Vladimir Jurowski came out, he stood right in the middle of the screen, illuminated by it from behind. This ominous sight made such an impression on me that I wanted to take out my camera and take a picture. But I managed to refrain myself. I regret it now. I should have lived a little more dangerously and taken the picture anyway!

So why do I love music so much? I’m not really sure. Why do I especially love classical music even though I don’t understand it? Okay, you really got me on that one!

However, if I think really hard, I picture Sister Cecilia from my school days at Holy Cross. Sister Cecilia was the music director for our school. She would teach the school songs for Sunday mass, for Christmas, and–her favorite holiday–the pastor’s birthday. For Father Edward’s birthday, the school would meet in the assembly hall at least twice a week and we would sing a special birthday song that Sister Cecilia prepared just for him. She would take a current top forty hit and change the lyrics just for Father Edward. For example, one year, she took “Georgie Girl” and we sang “Hey there, Father Edward …” Another year, “What’s It All about, Alfie?” became, “What’s It All about, Father Edward?” Pretty clever, huh? Unfortunately, I can’t remember the rest of the lyrics to these wonderful songs or any of the other songs we sang for Father Edward’s birthday.

Sister Cecilia went through great pains to teach the entire school these songs. When we met to rehearse, she would pass out the sheet music with her new, improved lyrics. She was very demanding. We would stand at attention while we sang and she would walk among our ranks ensuring that everyone sang. She would tell us, “Open your mouths wide when you sing! I should be able to put a silver dollar in your mouth when you sing!” Things didn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes she would yell at us if too many students sang out of key. She would yell, “Look at the music! If the note goes up, your voice goes up, too!” I always sang at my best when she stood directly in front of me. The rest of the time I merely lip-synced the words. I think I was ahead of my time.

When we got a new pastor, Father Mikolaitis, she didn’t seem that enthusiastic about his birthday celebration. In fact, we never called our new pastor by his first name.

In the seventh and eighth grades, we took a music appreciation class, taught by none other than Sister Cecilia. I actually enjoyed this class. I don’t remember much from this class. Well, I do remember f – a – c – e and every good boy does fine, but other than that, not much. My favoritie part of the class was learning about the orchestra. She would place the phonograph that came in a box that always reminded me of a traveling valise. She would put it on her desk and play a 78 rpm record. The narrator described all the instruments of the orchestra one by one. Each instrument would demonstrate its range and what it was capable of playing. I was truly fascinated by this information. To this day, I recognize most of the instruments of the orchestra. Sometimes, I like to amaze my friends with my knowledge of music while we listen to classical music, despite insisting that we listen to something else. Ever the veritable font of wisdom that I am, I will correctly point out, “Did you hear that instrument? THAT was a triangle!” And they’ll stare at me with their mouth gaping. Because I know that they’re truly amazed by my knowledge of the classical music and the orchestra!

Dangerous pics


My dashboard, as seen through my iPhone

As I was crossing the Mississippi River, I suddenly got the urge to take a picture of the St. Louis Arch at seventy miles per hour. What you see above is my failed attempt of that picture. I’m lucky to be alive! But the image is foreboding. If I don’t change my ways, I will surely hurt myself.

Ever since my blog readers requested pictures, I have been trying to take more pictures. However, I’m sure they didn’t mean for me to risk my life in the process.

Some people don’t like when you sneak up on them and take their picture. But if they’re in public, they’re fair game. Sometimes they look at your strangely if your request to take pictures of their personal items. For example, I once went to the offices of all of my colleagues at UIC  to take pictures of their computers. They gave me the strangest looks when I asked permission to photograph their computer. I supposed I would react in a similar fashion if someone came to my office only to photograph my computer. Occasionally, when I go out with my friends to eat, I tell them, “Wait! Before you dig in, let me take a picture of your food!”

For a while, I was taking pictures of interesting license plates. But it seemed that I only time I saw interesting license plates was while I drove on the highway in excess of sixty miles per hour. This didn’t stop me from trying to take pictures. They say that talking on the phone while driving doubles your risk of getting into an accident. And texting increases your risk by eight times. But no one said how much the risk of getting into an accident is increased while trying to take pictures. I think it increases a lot more than eight times. I have had a few close calls, so I can vouch for that.

Once while I was driving to UIC, I saw a license plate that read CHITOWN. I had to take a picture of it! I attempted to get my camera out and take the picture before the SUV bearing that plate turned. There was snow on the ground and the street was slippery. I had to get a picture of the plate! But it wasn’t just any CHITOWN plate. It was a Kansas license plate! I risked crashing my car and I took a couple of pictures. I was overjoyed by my success. When I got home, I noticed that the license plate was unreadable in both pictures. I risked my life for nothing! What were the chances of me seeing this Kansas SUV in Chicago again?

Miraculously, I saw the SUV again about a month later. Again I took pictures as I drove north on south Ashland Avenue. The pictures didn’t come out clearly again! But I figured out that whoever drove the SUV was bound to come down Ashland Avenue again. And sure enough, about a month later, I saw which way it turned and I followed it. I was hoping the driver would hurry up and leave the vehicle so I could take a picture of his license plate. But, no, he took his sweet time gathering his things. I was in a hurry to get to UIC, so I got out of my car to take a picture of his license plate. The driver gave me a very suspicious look, so I told him I only wanted a picture of his license plate. He silently consented, but he eyed me cautiously. Well, I’m used to always getting strange looks anyway, so I took the picture and left. But it turns out I was too far away and the plate was too blurry to read.

Well, I knew the driver with the Kansas plate and I had similar schedules, so I would look for his vehicle in the same parking spot another day. A couple of weeks later, I saw it again. This time I parked right behind it. And I took several pictures to ensure that one of them would be readable. Just then, I noticed a man in a nearby vehicle reaching down under his seat and eyeing me suspiciously. At first, I was sure he was reaching for a gun, but I managed to convince myself that he was merely getting pen and paper to write down my license plate number. Regardless, I left as quickly as possible. Below, thanks to my persistence, you see the fruit of my labor. Behold!

CHI-TOWN on a Kansas license plate

I’m lucky to be alive! 

Photoshop


Photoshop at work!

I enjoy reading, but lately I’ve really enjoyed reading computer books. Well, with the computer books I read, it’s not actually reading. Most of those books for dummies and idiots are hands on guide to using various programs. I’ve learned a lot about computing reading those books, despite being neither a dummy nor an idiot. Maybe I’m just a nerd, but I love reading those computer books. I can now do many things with many programs. The downside is that someone is always asking me how to do certain things on the computers.

I learned to type on an old typewriter I found in our attic on Wood Street. I also found an old typing manual from which I learned how to type. When I was in the Marines, I took that typing manual with me and in my free time I did every single exercise in that book. And now I can touch type. So, it was a natural progression for me to start reading computer books to learn how to use programs.

I used to buy the books despite being very expensive. Then, they almost immediately became obsolete. I would use them once and remember all the commands that I planned on using. I had a huge pile of expensive, obsolete computer books that I eventually gave to the used bookstore. I always had the latest software and I always read the latest books. I still don’t understand how the latest knowledge on computer programs is directed at dummies and idiots. Apparently there’s a huge market. I don’t buy these books anymore, but they’re available through the Chicago Public Library for free. Some branch in Chicago always has the book I need.

Photoshop has been the most difficult program for me to use. The main reason I bought the program was because my iPhone used it to download the pictures to my computer. But then I found other uses for Photoshop.

I’ve been writing my blog for years. No frills, nothing fancy. Just plain vanilla text and formatting. Then, some of my readers started asking me when I would upload pictures with my posts. I was truly surprised! I had readers! That’s right! Readers! As in more than one. And they were actually reading my blog! They thought pictures would enhance my blog. So I started taking pictures for the blog. I must admit that Photoshop has improved my pictures due to my lack of photography skills.

I read every Photoshop book available through my library and I learned quite a lot. Last May, I went to an educational seminar in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where I attended two Adobe classes where I learned more about how to use Photoshop. I never realized how many commands are available. I know I’ll never even use half of them, but it’s nice to know they’re available.

WordPress.com on my iPhone App


This is me experimenting on my iPhone.

This is me experimenting on my iPhone. I use it for for everything except making phone calls. Sometimes when it rings, I have trouble answering it by the second ring. So I downloaded this WordPress App and I’m actually trying it out now. I really love blogging and now I’ll be able to blog anywhere! So this was just a test. Had this been an actual post, you’d probably be disappointed.

WordPress.com


WordPress: The iPhone App!

So I’m using a new version of WordPress.com. I didn’t want to, but I had no choice. I used to post my blog on my website at http://davidrodriguez.us using WordPress blogging software that I kept on my website. It worked fine for the first two years or so. Then one day, my comments section was filled with spam. Beaucoup spam! One spam message left in a comment was so long that my blog never finished loading. And I couldn’t log into my own account and update my blog. Or remove all the spam. This happened to me again. Two more times, in fact. Whenever I contacted my ISP, I was told to contact WordPress. The last incident caused me to stop blogging for months! At first, I thought, “I broke the Internets!” 

Another problem I had was upgrading the WordPress software to my website. My ISP didn’t automatically upgrade the software even though they provided me with the original version. I only attempted one upgrade and my blog was down for about a month. Somehow, mysteriously, I accidently deleted my entire website! After hours of reading WordPress documentation and multiple attempts to install the new software, I finally had my blog up and running again. That was my one and only WordPress upgrade. I swore to never upgrade again. Now that I’m using this new version of WordPress software, I realize I was lacking many features and widgets that I now take for granted. I love the way new features, themes, and widgets mysteriously appear without me having to upgrade.  

If you look at my archives list, there is a huge gap between June 2009 and January 2010. That was the period when I didn’t know what to do about my blog that had been hijacked. And I was really in the mood to blog! I tried other blogs, but I liked the WordPress features the best. I did open an account at WordPress in 2008 when I was previously locked out of my own blog, but I never actually used it. Finally, I told myself, I want to start blogging again. I really missed blogging! And now I’m blogging, as you can well see.  

So, here I am back blogging with WordPress. I like all the features available. My new blog already strongly resembles my old blog. Okay, so I’m a little resistant to change. I mean, I’m not very pliable. Except for all those new widgets that I’ve added to the right column of the blog. I also like the way my blog appears in my iPhone. When I open my blog on the iPhone, it’s so much easier to read than in the regular browser. It’s so much more manageable. I also like WordPress App that’s available for my iPhone.  I plan on using it very soon.  

But I promise that my new blog will be the same exact high quality as ever. And, of course, you remember how low high I set the bar before, right? Well, I can’t vouch for the quality, but I can guarantee you quantity. Perhaps much more than you ever asked for. My goal is to write a blog entry every day for a month. Okay, I picked February because it’s the shortest month of the year, much to the consternation of African-Americans who were awarded February for Black History Month. And since this isn’t a leap year, I should easily be able to write twenty-eight blog posts. Right? I sure hope so!  

Test


Iphone

This was just a test to see if I could publish a blog entry from my iPhone. I guess I can. I think I’m getting ready to start publishing blog entries on a regular basis. I just went a whole week without the Internet in my house. I tried to upgrade to a faster broadband speed and I lost all connectivity to cyber space.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.