Advice for the mature or befuddled...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Shorten, please


As someone who stands under five feet and wears her hair as clipped as a fresh recruit, I’m smitten with “short.” Others may not feel likewise. Those of us who bear that adjective are sometimes mocked for our, um, shortcomings.

To the rescue comes technology where it frequently helps to be short. Many Web sites, such as Twitter, prefer links to be tiny so that inputted sentences don't exceed its 140-word limit.

Applications, like tiny.url or bit.ly, which can be added to your Mac toolbar (sorry, I only speak Apple), do the slicing for you. On an iPhone, using a free app called Shortener, you can copy a lengthy Web address, get it neatly hemmed, and then upload it to Twitter, Facebook, or into an e-mail message.

Here’s how to do all of the above:

1. On your Mac, open your browser -- Firefox and Safari are my choices -- (Okay, I know Safari is part of my religion; but sometimes, I like variety.). Go to tinyurl.com. Find the option, “Make Toolbar button.” Drag that selection to the toolbar at the top of the page.

After the button is tucked in, travel to a site you’d like to share. Remain on the desired site as you click on the new button, TinyURL! A short URL will have been created. Copy the abbreviated version. Open Twitter or Facebook; implant the tiny URL into your status update. Add you own special wording. And you're good to go.

2. Bit.ly works similarly. Go to its Web page and find the bit.ly Bookmarket option. Drag it to the toolbar. This site has a Sidebar that shows Traffic, Conversations, and History; i.e. how many other users have tweeted this particular Web site. A neat feature. Perform the same steps as above.

3. Open your iPhone, go to the App store, and search for Shortener. You’ll find other apps that purport to do similar carving. Read the reviews; there’s more than a dozen. Some free, others $.99. I tested Shortener and it worked perfectly.

Go to the iPhone’s Safari Web browser. Find the site you want to share. Copy its Web address by touching the screen and holding until a magnifying glass appears. Use your finger to drag the magnifying glass to an insertion point on the address. Tap to display the selection buttons. Touch and hold to bring up the Copy option. No fear, the shortened address has been safely sent to Appleland where it awaits your next step.

Leave the Web site. Open Shortener. Paste the copied address into the space provided. Select TinyURL as the shortening service. Snip. Copy the shortened Web address. Open Twitter, Facebook, or your e-mail message. Touch and hold the spot where you want your link to go, select Paste. Then, as above, add your own special wording to your status update or message.

Now, don't you feel differently about us shorties?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

iPhone IPad iSnob


Alas, Target is carrying the iPad and it's rumored that Walmart will be next. I don’t mean to be a snob, but I think customers will miss some of the Apple store experience if they purchase the device from one of those two megastores.

I haven’t seen Walmart’s supposed display, but at my local Target, although accessories were in plain view, the iPads themselves were stored in their boxes and locked in a cabinet. No ability to ooh aah or test drive.


But, I understand the demands of marketing to wider audiences. As a favor to those buyers of iPads who go the non-Apple route, and to all of the new iPhone users who may have missed my earlier How-to column, I’m going to repeat some jewels and add a few new tips. A caveat, this column is wholly the opinion of its author; it’s not vetted or endorsed by Apple. Having said that (I love that phrase, but have few chances to use it, so humor me.), here we go:

1. Download the User Guide. This works for both the iPhone and iPad. Go to Safari, Apple’s browser. Look for the tiny image that looks like an open book. That’s Safari’s Bookmark. Click on that and on the option menu you’ll see User Guide. Next, hit the plus () sign. When asked what you want to do with this page, select Add to Home Screen. Voilà, the guide is now on your Home Screen where you can refer to it as needed.


2. Safari’s plus and Home Screen trick works for any other web sites you’d like downloaded. Let’s say you’re reading this blog on either Apple device and you want to save it for later reading, or you want to do the same for my website, Elaine Soloway Public Relations. Hit the plus sign and down either site will go to your Home Screen. No need to go back to your browser, I’ll, um, I mean “they” will pop up with one touch.


3. This is a frequent question asked by iPhone users. How do I upload photos to Facebook? Take the photo with your iPhone camera, and save it in your Camera Roll. Then, open Facebook (let’s assume you’ve already downloaded the app and have kept it updated), and look for the little camera to the left of the horizontal space called, What’s on your mind? (Don’t write anything in that space.) After you’ve clicked on that tiny camera and you are given the option of Take Photo or Video, or Choose From Library, select the latter. When the desired photo appears, add a caption, upload, and it will soon appear on your Facebook page.


4. This works for the iPhone and iPad. When writing text on an email, and you’ve made an error in the middle of a word, it’s not necessary to use the “x” to go backwards and erase all you’ve already written. Simply place your finger on the error (think of your finger as a cursor) and a magnifying glass will appear. Guide the cursor to the spot and make the correction. Now move your finger/cursor back to the end of the line to complete your email.

5. This is another text tip. If you want to make some of letters on your iPhone accented, tap the letter, pause, and a trio of accented letters appears. Select your choice and it will be in the text. (Thanks to friend Frances Archer for reminding me of this trick.)


If I haven’t answered your questions, here’s an idea: check out the User Guide. You’ll find it on your Home Screen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Boo! Apps and Links for Halloween


When I asked my daughters, Faith and Jill, what they remembered of Halloween costumes of their youth, their answers were “Pirate” and “Hobo.” Ah yes, now I recall the frantic evening before the holiday that found me thrashing through my husband’s closet to grab his clothing (hobo) and through my bathroom shelves for makeup (pirate).

Because of that pathetic memory, I’m starting early by identifying for you Apps and websites that will not only help to put together garb, but also create ghoulish sound effects and purchase candy you remember from your own childhood.

iPhone and iPad Apps

Not surprisingly, app developers have gone wild for Halloween and created dozens that pop up when you search for the holiday. You can go on your own hunt, but I’ve gathered a few to start you out.


Halloween Countdown is free on the iPhone and an iPad version that adds an "i" to its title, costs $2.99. While listening to haunting music, you’ll see the number of days counting down until the big day. You’ll watch as the animated transparent skull gets bigger. The app includes five background musical soundtracks and if you wish to see the skull’s eyes flash red, just shake.

DressUp Lite is a free iPhone app. If you’re not one of my kids, you may have wondered what you’d look like as a pirate. This app encourages you to put costumes on photos of you or your friends and then publish them on your favorite social media site.

zGhost2 is a $0.99 iPhone app lets you see ghosts in the real world. According to the application description, "The iPhone camera is actually sensitive enough to pick up the low-glow ectoplasm radiated by Ghosts." Check it out, But don’t click when alone.

iHalloween is a free iPhone app that creates spooky, creepy sound effects, such as a cat screaming, ghoul laughing, or a simple boo.

Web Sites

Parents.com offers 21 Halloween Costumes Made by Real Moms, Best Pregnant Halloween Costumes, and Quick and Easy DIY Halloween Costumes. What are you waiting for? Fetch the felt, scissors, and feathers!


If you’re a do-it-yourself-er like you know whom, you might want to turn to ehow.com for ideas. Among their Homemade Halloween Costumes are Cyndi Lauper, a Nun, Jellyfish, David Bowie, and Greek Goddess. Unusual selection I'd say.


You might want to opt for an easier route and just buy the damn stuff. At halloweencostumes.com, you can choose your fantasy. Their claim, “We are one of the largest retailers of Halloween costumes on the web. Not only do we carry a wide array of costumes, but we also have all of the accessories you need to make your Halloween costume stand out from the rest.” Categories include: Kids, Adult, Couples, Sexy, Group. (Have the courtesy to wait until I finish before you seek Sexy.)

If it just isn’t Halloween without a visit to a haunted house, check out hauntedhousechicago.com. That’s where I found a dozen haunted houses that were voted "Official Top 13" and the 2010 People's Choice. "Disturbia-Torment of Fears" won first place.


I promised candy, and here it is at retrocandyonline.com “Our Halloween Candy includes gummy body parts, candy corn, gummy bones, bat dots, ghost dots, gummy eyeballs and pumpkin seeds are just a few treats that are perfect Halloween treats.”


Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t include in this Halloween blog post daughter Jill’s production of Hollywood Hell House in 2004. “HOLLYWOOD HELL HOUSE ran from August through October of 2004. Here's what she had to say about it, "My sometimes writing partner, Maggie Rowe, called famed Colorado minister Pastor Keenan, the man who created Hell Houses -- Christian conversion haunted houses -- and ordered the entire kit -- scripts and set design and marketing materials, so we could put on our very own Real Live Hell House. You'd recognize some of these prominent participants: Andy Richter as Jesus, Bill Maher as the Devil and Sarah Silverman as Abortion Girl."

Now go out and scare somebody!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Habla Español Con Tech


Since I'm in the public relations business, it makes good business sense to brush up on my Spanish. After all, Latinos are a fast-growing population here and many of my prospective clients serve this community.

But first, a confession, “brush up” is inaccurate as that implies my language skills simply need refreshing. Alas, I’ve got un largo viaje ahead.

Thanks to technology, I can turn to a number of iTunes podcasts, iPhone apps and Websites to guide me as I learn. The advantages of tech-study appeal because I can do it in the comfort of my home and at low or minimum cost. Care to join me as I immerse?


iTunes Podcasts
More than two dozen podcasts, priced at free to $19.95, are offered. My favorite is Coffee Break Spanish distributed by Radio Lingua Network. Instructor Mark and his student Kara, are native Scots, so their conversations have an interesting twist. According to their site, Coffee Break Spanish “brings language-learning with your latte. Aimed at total beginners, it will help you get to grips with the Spanish language.”

Another podcast, SpanishDict.com “guides you step-by-step to speaking and understanding Spanish. Each lesson uses images and charts to visually introduce new vocabulary and concepts."


iPhone Apps
Spanish! is a $0.99 app that offers “A learning tool similar to flashcards, but with audio and an intelligent progress tracking system that helps you learn faster. After you 'flip' to the answer, you pick if you were Right or Wrong."

iSpeak Spanish is priced at $1.99 and bills itself as "the best selling translation solution on the App Store."

Spanish Anywhere is pricier at $9.99, but I've enjoyed this app since I purchased it several years ago. Its description touts, "Learn and communicate in Spanish anytime. It's perfect for travelers, students, business people, and anyone who wants to speak, read, study, pronounce, or translate Spanish."


Websites
Many Spanish language websites claim they are free, but often there is a subscription service attached. That's why I like About.com's Spanish for beginners despite an abundance of ads on its site. Here's their commercial, "This series of lessons is designed to help beginning Spanish students or any one else learning the language with the fundamentals needed for further learning and study. It requires no supplementary material other than perhaps a dictionary for reinforcing vocabulary."

At Studyspanish.com, the Chicago link points you to several brick-and-mortar schools, including two I've attended. And although I’m currently focusing on home-based study on my tech toys, I recommend both places.

Dígame is located at 2504 N. California in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood. According to its web site, "Dígame Language Instruction is a private, student-focused language learning center offering Spanish, French and German classes for adults. Our recipe for success combines a friendly, safe atmosphere with serious learning goals." Call 773-235-1499 or write to: info@digamechicago.net.

Instituto Cervantes de Chicago is downtown at 31 W. Ohio St. between State and Dearborn Streets. It's a worldwide non-profit organization created by the Spanish government in 1991 and the largest organization in the world concerned with the teaching of Spanish. Call 312-335-1996 or write to chicago@cervantes1.org for information.


Now that I've got you interested in the language, you might also want to combine vocabulary with footwork. Check out Flamenco Chicago at 2914 W. Belmont. It's owned by my friend, Rosetta Magdalen and "offers a fun, but serious, learning environment with the Chicago area's greatest number of flamenco dance classes under one roof."

Rosetta adds "You will meet a friendly, welcoming, and very interesting group of students here, ranging in age from teens through 60s, with most students in their 20s and 30s. Class sizes are limited to ensure supportive, personal attention to each student.” To begin, contact rosetta@flamencochicago.com

Usted es muy agradable por estos consejos.

I think.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tech Tools Take the Tension Out of Travel


Annoyed by the alliteration? Sorry, but I’m trying to create the typical state of irritation many of us experience when traveling.

Before you transfer your mood to me, be my seatmate (I’ll take the aisle) while we explore some iPhone apps and websites designed to lesson anxiety.

iPhone and other Smarties

For fliers, Airfare Pro at $4.99 searches nearly 10,000 airports, hundreds of airlines and over 200 travel sites around the world to find the cheapest flights possible.

TripIt Travel Organizer is a free app that puts your travel plans on your iPhone. To use the app, you email your flight, hotel and rental confirmation to plans@tripit.com. The website will then create itineraries for each trip.


Currency is a free app that provides up-to-date exchange rates for over 100 currencies and countries.

FlightTrack Pro, at $9.99 imports flight data automatically and sends alerts with real-time changes to your flight.

Next Flight 
provides a list of available nonstop flights from all airlines for the day. Its great if you miss a flight, get bumped or decide to leave early. The $2.99 app tracks scheduled departures from more than 4,200 airports and 1,100 airlines.


Urbanspoon is a free restaurant finder that uses GPS to locate a restaurant near you. You can filter by neighborhood, cuisine, or price. Ratings and reviews are available, too.

Yelp is a free app that helps you find nearby bars, restaurants, and other businesses. You can read reviews from Yelp’s community of locals.


Websites

Kayak.com is considered the best resource for finding the cheapest air, hotel, cruise and car-rental prices. Sites such as Travelocity.com and Hotwire.com search only their own databases, but Kayak.com includes more than 400 airline websites, online travel agencies and other travel sites, including some international ones, in its search for the best fares and fees.

Yapta.com tracks your itinerary and alerts you when the price drops. Better than that, Yapta.com tracks flights after the tickets have been purchased. If a price drops enough to cover any re-ticketing or cancellation fees, Yapta.com sends out an alert.


TaxiWiz.com figures out the price of a cab ride in cities throughout the U.S. For example, if I declined your plea to pick you up at O’Hare, the 10.9 mile cab ride to my house would cost about $24.46 or $28 with a 15% tip, plus a $1.00 surcharge for trips from O'Hare Airport.

Transitchicago.com provides a cheaper alternative to my place. $2.25 for a 44 minute door-to-door trip via the CTA's Blue Line.

What’s that I hear? You’ve canceled plans to visit because I’m too lazy to pick you up at the airport? Oh well. Remember, though, this post is about reducing tension related to traveling. And since I’m its author, my serenity trumps yours.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Turning to Tech for Homework Help


Have you seen my Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume EVA to FRA? I’ve been searching for that reference book since 1948.

Back-to-school stories have sparked my memory of those glossy pages and the frantic hunts that took place the night before a homework assignment was due.

Nowadays, missing volumes, or your lack of calculus acumen needn't challenge. To the rescue, come Google References, Mac OS X, iPhones, and the Internet.

Turn to your Google search button for these aides:

1. Calculator. To use Google's built-in calculator, enter the calculation you'd like done into the search box. Let's say, $2.87 (my last gas price) x 5.13 (gallons purchased). Do the math and you'll learn how much I paid for a half a tank. (1990 Honda Civic)

2. Unit Conversion. You can use Google to convert between many different units of measurement of height, weight, and volume among many others. Just enter your desired conversion into the search box and the site will do the rest. Their example, 10.5 cm in inches. (Answer: 4.13385827 inches. See how easy that was?)

3. Public Data. This feature is more useful for high school and college students. It provides trends for population and unemployment rates of U.S. states and counties. Type "population" or "unemployment rate" followed by a state or county, and you’ll get your answer.

4. Fill in the Blank. Sometimes the best way to ask a question is to get Google to ‘fill in the blank.’ Add an asterisk (*) at the part of the sentence or question that you want finished into the Google search box. (FYI. George Clooney was born May 6, 1961.)

Mac OS X

1. Dictionary Definitions. To see a definition for a word or phrase, type the word into the Spotlight at the very upper right hand corner of your screen. A definition, as well as Mac's built-in Dictionary application, pops up. You'll find the word's meaning, as well as a Thesaurus. (My example, since I used "searching" in paragraph one, I wanted to avoid a repeat in two. Hence: "hunts.")




iPhone users can turn to a variety of free apps for their homework buddy.

1. The free app, My Homework, is one popular example and it's currently the no. 2 most downloaded education app in the App Store. It lets students keep track of their classes, homework assignments, projects, and tests, with a simple (the developer's description) user interface.

2. College students may be interested in iStudiez Pro, which is more tailored to university studies. This app helps you keep track of lecture and lab sessions, tasks, homework, scheduling, etc. At $2.99, it's currently the no. 1 most popular paid education app in the App Store.


No smart phone? No problem. Go to the Internet and check out these websites:

1. Math.com provides everything a student or parent needs to know about Basic Math, Everyday Math, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Statistics, and Calculus. It even offers math tutoring.
2. At Homeworkhelp.com, students are taught how to learn. This site’s curriculum developers "are experienced classroom teachers who help students understand concepts, not just memorize them."

3. Point your mouse to Studentquestions.com, submit a question and offer an optional commission. The question will be automatically emailed to all the tutors, instantly alerting and giving them an incentive to give you homework help (non-commissioned questions are only posted).


Now that I’ve helped you out, you can do me a favor. Check your closet, bookshelf, and under the sofa cushions. Did I happen to leave my EVA to FRA at your house?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Turning to Tech to Explain the High Holidays


If you're Jewish like me (more cultural than religious), or are a non-Jew who wonders why your Jewish coworkers disappear on various September days, today's post turns to technology for enlightenment.

iPhone users can download a $0.99 App titled, "Jewish Days." This application can help you remember when the Jewish holidays occur and what each one means.

Here's their quickie explanation of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper, which are commonly referred to as the High Holidays or the Jewish New Year.


Rosh Hashanah, which begins the evening of Sept. 8, is the start of the civil year in the Hebrew calendar. It is a new year for people, animals, and legal contracts and it commemorates the creation of man.

Yom Kippur, which begins the evening of Sept. 17, is also known as the Day of Atonement. According to the Jewish Days app, it is the most solemn and important of the Jewish holidays. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.


For many children, the most beloved portion of the synagogue service during the High Holidays is the blowing of the Shofar, a ram's horn. An iPhone App, also priced at $0.99, called "Shofar Hero" contains the four kinds of ritual blasts. FYI: The blowing of the Shofar is the only specific commandment for Rosh Hashanah. Just as trumpeters announced the presence of their mortal king, the Shofar is used by Jews to proclaim the coronation of the King of Kings.

Another $0.99 App, called "Synagogues Finder" uses your current location to identify houses of worship nearest your home. So if you haven't gotten a seat lined up for the High Holidays, check out this helpful listing.


Not to worry if you're sans iPhone. You can turn to the Internet for even more information about the High Holidays. Holidays.net outlines "entertainment and some fun Holiday things for you and your family." The site includes stories of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a Shofar to blow, some holiday recipes, and even pictures for the kids to print and color.

JewishFaq provides instructions (when to light the candles and when to drink the wine, for instance) and prayers for the holidays. The website includes both the Hebrew and English wording for each prayer.

MyJewishLearning is a great site for All Things Jewish. Here, you can explore more about the High Holidays and read an article written by Rabbi Shimon Apisdor, called "Making Synagogue Meaningful Or, How to survive High Holiday services."

I hope all of the above clears up some of the mystery about the High Holidays. But, if you're still fuzzy, and want a deeper investigation, you could point your mouse to amazon.com where you'll find a thorough listing of Jewish books.


And while you're on that site, don't forget to check out "The Division Street Princess," a sweet memoir about growing up in Jewish Chicago during the 1940's.

You didn't think you'd get away without a commercial, did you?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Very Long Distance Birthday Greeting


It was an unfamiliar ringtone. I was expecting two early morning phone calls. From my daughters, Boston and Los Angeles. I knew when I picked up the phone, instead of “hello,” I’d be treated to choruses of “Happy Birthday To You.”

But this ringtone announced neither my daughter Faith (Piano Riff) or Jill (Pinball). It sounded familiar; something heard long ago. From my childhood?


Yes, that was it! “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon” being sung in Yiddish by the Andrew Sisters. A 1940s hit for Jews. I certainly hadn’t assigned that ring to any in my contact list. It wasn’t an option on my iPhone and the tune wasn’t listed in my iTunes library, so how could it attach itself to a caller?





And then I remembered my iPhone’s special abilities. It could relay phone calls between Heaven and Earth. Sure enough, calling me on my phone’s Conference Call feature, were my long-deceased parents, Irv and Min Shapiro, major characters in my memoir, “The Division Street Princess.”

I put my ear to the phone and as the Andrew Sisters wound up, I heard my mother and father belting out, “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you.” They weren’t half bad.

Before I could respond, my mother jumped in, “We knew you’d be up early, so we wanted to be the first to call.”

“Hi Princess,” it was my dad. “Surprised?’

“That’s hardly the word,” I said. My delight prevented tears.

“We’re so proud of you,” they said in unison. To myself I thought, how nice to hear them agreeable. When alive, their frequent tiffs made the child I was quite unhappy.

“First it was the memoir,” Dad said. “And now your retail job. Just like at Irv’s Finer Foods. Remember your cigar box register?”


“How could I forget?” I answered. “I was so full of myself waiting on customers in my sundries section. I can still see little me holding that box as if it were a treasure chest.”

“I wish you didn’t have to stand on your feet all day.” It was Mother. I recalled she hadn’t been that crazy about wearing an apron or standing behind a counter in our grocery store. She believed the stained cloth disguised her glamour. But that could never happen. Not with her blue eyes, raven hair, costume jewelry, and high-heeled shoes.

“It’s not so bad,” I said. “I can wear my running shoes.”

“Hmmph,” from Mother. “You look like a kid in that outfit,” she said. “They couldn’t let you wear a dress? Why a t-shirt?”

“It’s all about the logo and a feeling of casual and comfort in the store,” I explained.

I couldn’t see her expression (FaceTime was still being worked on up there), but I imagined a roll of those beautiful blues.

“I see how you ring things up on that gadget you keep in your pocket,” Dad said. “Quite impressive.”

From Mom, “It wasn’t impressive I could pencil a customer’s order on a brown paper bag? Add it up in my head? That wasn’t impressive?”

“Sweetheart,” Dad started.

I interrupted. “No, no, of course. You were amazing, Mom. I remember standing at the counter next to you, wondering if I’d ever be as smart as you.”


“And I never went beyond Tuley High School,” Mother said. “Imagine if I had your education, Elaine.”

“What about me?” Dad asked. “Grammar school was it. I had to go to work…”

I felt those old vibrations and jumped in. “You were both spectacular,” I said. Now came the tears. “I can’t thank you enough for all you've given me. You made me who I am today.”


Calm on the other end. Then, together, “And, it wouldn’t hurt your daughters to give us a call now and then. They’ve got iPhones.”

“Are you kidding?” I said. “The minute I hang up, I’ll let them know the lines are open. Expect their calls.”

“Don’t forget Princess,” Dad said. “Have a Happy Birthday.”

“Of course,” Mom added. “Why does she think we called?”

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Still working, after all these years



Startled, I woke to find my iPad lighting up and levitating. That could only mean one thing. One of my parents, in their 24/7 heavenly abodes, was trying to reach me.
I sat up, unplugged the device from its charger, rested it on my knees, and opened its lime green magnetic cover. Sure enough, via FaceTime, it was my father.
“I tried to reach Ronnie first to congratulate him,” Dad said, “but I don’t think he’s got his WiFi connected yet.”
How I love FaceTime and its ability to display visages of callers -- no matter their celestial locale.
“Did you hear? Ronnie’s sold seven Toyota's, and he’s been working at the dealership less than a month,” Dad said. My father’s face was beaming nearly as much as my Apple device.
For this morning’s phone call, Dad elected to show his circa 1950’s face. That’s the one he wore after he sold the grocery store and was working as a salesman for a meat company. He wore three-piece suits to work -- no more bloody aprons -- a classic Stetson, and his black hair and mustache were slick and neat.
I was about to agree with Dad’s enthusiasm over my brother’s feat, when the FaceTime screen suddenly split in two and up popped Mom’s face.
“What’s so great about him still working in his 70’s?” Mom said. She looked as pretty as ever and like Dad, she had shucked her store apron and was garbed in a shirtwaist dress and high heels -- her attire post-store when she was a switchboard operator at American Linen Supply.
“He should be relaxing on some beach, playing golf, enjoying life, not working 9 to 5," she said. Now, the smile and screen dimmed.
I heard Dad sigh, so I took over. “Hi, Mom,” I said. “I’m still working in my 70’s, too. Both Ronnie and I have been forced to keep going because the economy hurt both of us.”
A laugh from Dad. “Hah, knowing you two, I don’t see a beach in your future. Admit it, you and your brother like working. You like keeping busy, earning a paycheck, kibitzing with coworkers and customers. Don’t tell me different,” he said. “I remember you two in the store. You loved helping out.”
Now it was Mom’s turn to sigh. “Loved? What was there to love? Slaving all day behind a counter. Watching our customers go across the street to the supermarket while they had debts with us? What was fun about that?”
“Look at all the odd jobs our kids had,” Dad said in profile to Mom. “That proves they were hard workers. Remember Sammy’s Red Hots for Ronnie, and his Hawaiian photography business?”
Mom gave a harrumph. “Don’t forget your daughter’s Gap and Apple sidetracks,” she said. “Although I do like these goodies she sent us from the Apple store.” My iPad momentarily rose as I imagined my mother holding it aloft for emphasis.
“Can I speak?” I interrupted. “You’re right. Ronnie and I did inherit some of your entrepreneurial spirit. So maybe we do like working rather than relaxing.”
I saw Dad shake his head. “Oy,” he said, putting a palm to his face. “Even though you say you enjoy working, it’s hard to see you two hit by a rotten economy, just like we were in the ‘40s. Outside forces...”
Mom interrupted. “Outside forces, shmoutside forces. Irv, you're forever blaming supermarkets for our store's collapse. Sure, some of the problems we can blame on them, but give it up already. Admit it - you were a lousy manager."
Dad looked sheepish. He was likely recalling the time spent in the pool hall rather than in the back of the store paying bills.
"And the bookies?" she continued. I stopped her there.
"Listen you two, you're wasting battery life bickering. Let's just call it a draw. You're both right; forces beyond our control bounced Ronnie and me back to the workplace. But, I'm sure he'll admit nothing feels better than making a sale. And I'll own up to delight in scoring a new client. Satisfied?"
Smiles from both. And with that, my iPad's screen faded and my parents disappeared.
Lying back on the pillow, I fell quickly back to sleep. Or…

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

To Sleep, Perhaps to Dream


Music is my preferred method of quieting my mind as I settle into sleep. It takes only a few songs by Carmen McRae, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Billie Holliday, Nancy Wilson, or Sarah Vaughn to release my brain from its continuous loop of To-Do and Worry Lists.

For years, I would tuck my iPod into a Memorex clock radio and wait to be sent dreamwards. I especially liked the feature that allowed me to designate 10-minute increments before the audio would automatically shut itself off. I would consider it a successful drop off if I couldn’t remember hearing the shift from music to silence. And the opposite, if the sudden quiet found me still starring at the ceiling.

Alas, poor iPod eventually died. (It was elderly, first generation, not worth repairing.) So, I used the FM radio portion of the Memorex to serve as my sedative. But often, WFMT’S classical music, which began softly, would soon rouse me with the crash of cymbals and drums.

My iPhone now contains all of the playlists formerly housed on the deceased iPod. I longed for the female jazz singers who once were my bedtime companions. I was aware I could replicate my previous method by purchasing a $99 iHome clock radio and audio system for the iPhone. But, I was reluctant to shell out the dough for what is often 10 minutes.

I searched iPhone apps for a solution that would turn its iPod into a sleep/music player. But, I came up empty. Then, I threw my quest into the Apple Forums. One of its experts came up with the answer. Here ‘tis:

1. Place your iPhone into the charger that is attached to an electrical outlet. This way, you’ll get juice while you sleep.

2. Turn on your iPhone's Airplane Mode to avoid being wakened by phone calls, text messages, or other alerts.

3. Go to your iPhone’s iPod app and select Playlists, Artists, or Songs. Get it started.

4. Click on the Clock app on your iPhone.

5. Select Timer.

6. Scroll to set the number of minutes you want the iPod on your iPhone to play before it shuts itself off.

7. For “When Timer Ends”, choose “Sleep iPod.” (Be careful not to leave your default ringtone selected or you will be roused rather than lulled.)

8. The iPhone will stop playing music when the timer ends.

9. In the morning, after your restful sleep, induced by your favorite music, remember to undo the Airplane Mode. Otherwise, you’ll miss incoming calls or texts.

10. After you’ve had your coffee, and realize this blog has saved you $99 and provided an Ambien-free method of falling asleep, Share the post with your Facebook friends.

Thanks!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Thanks for the email, but…



It was really sweet of you to write, Really, really sweet. However, you’ve made a series of gaffes in your message, and I feel it’s my duty to call them to your attention. Listening? Take notes.

1. If you are sending an email to a quantity of people, please do not put all of the addresses in the TO: field. Besides compromising my security by posting my address to people I don’t know (I’m sure they’re lovely, but still..), it’s a bloody mess.

Another problem is this: some email programs automatically add to their address books any incoming email addresses. Worse yet, if one of their computers on your mass mail list is infected with a virus that silently sends out spam emails, you’ll have just caused the entire list to get spammed.

To avoid those horrors, do the following: in the TO: field, enter your own email address. Then, plop your posse in the Bcc field, otherwise known as Blind Carbon Copy. If the Bcc option isn’t apparent, you should find the option for adding it when you compose a new email message.

2. Never, ever, send me a chain email advising me of the wonderful/bad things that will happen to me if I fail to forward it to my nearest and dearest.

3. While you’re a funny guy, and I agree you missed your calling as a stand-up, do not forward me dumb jokes.

4. Please add something to the subject line. It makes no sense to send me a message that reads “no subject.” Come on! A clue.

5. On the same topic, don’t just use “Hi” or “Hello.” I’ll think its spam and delete it before reading.

6. Consider changing the subject line to match where we are in our conversation. For example, we may have started out deciding on a lunch date, and then segued into your upcoming trip. If we’ve done a few back and forths, remove “Lunch Wednesday” from the subject line and replace it with “Seville in September.”

7. As your friend or relative, I’ll forgive misspelling, grammar boo-boos, and similar errors. But get in the habit of re-reading your email before hitting the send button. Another recipient might not be so forgiving.

8. I have a short attention span. That’s why I’m becoming enamored with text messaging. Just give me the facts. Email allows more words than texting, but it is meant to be brief. Please keep your message short. A few paragraphs and a few sentences per paragraph will do nicely.

9. If I send you an email that is obviously meant for your eyes only, and although my writing might be so stunning it demands more readers, please do not forward it without my permission.

10. Take the time to add a permanent signature to your mail message. Look in Preferences, or Mail Options, and you’ll find a way to add a signature to all outgoing mail. It should include contact information such as your home or mobile phone, or some way I can reach you other than the email. (If you’re loathe to add those numbers, you shouldn’t be writing to me in the first place.)

11. Watch out for the email’s auto-fill feature. Often, after a few letters, it guesses who the recipient is. If you’re distracted, you might select the wrong person. Say, Tim Burton for Tim Curry. (Okay, you come up with a better example.) Double check before you hit "send."

12. If you claim you’re sending me an attachment, be certain the photo or document is actually attached. Otherwise, you’ll have to send a second email apologizing for the omission and then resend the missing piece. Save both of us the trouble by, oh you know by now, Re-read. Double-check. Pay attention. Now, compose and send. I look forward to hearing from you. That is, if we’re still friends.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spice Up Your Text With Dingbats!


If you're a non-techie, and hear the word "dingbat" you might think of someone who's stupid or eccentric.

But if you’re a geek like me, you know dingbat is also “a typographical device other than a letter or numeral used to signal divisions in text or to replace letters in a euphemistically presented vulgar word.” For example: s@#t.

Another typographical device is an "emoticon," a combination of keyboard symbols used to convey feelings, such as :-) for "smile."

In my mind, dingbats are a bit more interesting than emoticons because they include many more characters than only those that appear above the numbers on a keyboard. For instance, ♠   ✄ ❀ ❁■❄

If you want to spice up your text, here's how you can incorporate dingbats into your next email message, Word document, Facebook or Twitter status update, and iPhone e-mail or text message.

For E-Mail
1. Open your mail program and choose New Message.
2. Place the insertion point where you want the dingbat to appear.
3. From the Mail toolbar, select Edit.
4. From the drop-down menu, choose Special Characters.
5. You’ll see a variety of symbol options; i.e. Math, Arrows, Currency, Parentheses, Punctuation, and Miscellaneous. Dingbats are in the last category.
6. Choose Miscellaneous.
7. Double-click the character or symbol you want to insert into your document, or select the character, then click Insert. The dingbat will appear in your text.

For a Word Document in a Mac or PC.
1. Open your Word document
2. Set your pointer to the spot desired for the dingbat.
3. Click on the Insert menu at the top of the screen.
4. Select Symbol.
5. On the Symbols tab, you have a choice of Symbols, Webdings, or Wingdings or Zapf Dingbats.
6. Pick a symbol or dingbat.
7. Double-click on your selection or click Insert.
8. Your selection will appear on the page.

For Facebook or Twitter
1. Place your insertion point in the status update bar, "What's on your mind?"
2. Select Edit from the browser (Firefox, Safari) toolbar.
3. Choose Special Characters from the drop-down menu.
4. A Characters box will appear with the same symbol options as #5 in Mail.
5. Select, double-click or Insert.
6. Your pick will appear in your status update.

For the iPhone
1. Select an application, such as Notes, Mail, or Text Message where you'd like your dingbat to appear.
2. Open Safari.
3. Go to http://mrgan.com/gb/
4. Tap the + button.
5. Choose Add to Home Screen.
6. On the phone, open the Glyphboard icon.
7. Tap and hold on a symbol.
8. Select Copy.
9. Go back to your application, tap and hold on the text area.
10. Choose Paste to insert the dingbat.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Does this dictionary make me look fat?


“She’s not like my other daughters,” he said. “She’s zaftig.”

This was a stranger speaking; a table companion at a social event. He was describing his third child who was about to enter the room.

My eyebrows rose. “Don’t let her hear you say that,” I said. “She won’t be happy with that description.”

“Why? What’s wrong with zaftig?” he asked. “Doesn’t it mean curvy? Maybe I don’t know my Yiddish.”

“No, you’re right,” my own daughter, Jill, interjected. “Zaftig means curvy.”

I don’t know about you. But if someone called me “zaftig” my brain would immediately go to “fat.”

To clear up the matter, and to have a tech topic for today's post, I turned to dictionaries available on websites and iPhone apps. Let's see what they have to say on the subject.

1. My Mac OS X (Operating System 10) Version 10.5.8 makes it easy to find a definition. Click on Spotlight -- it's the blue magnifying glass at the far right side of your computer screen -- and type in the word, “zaftig.” Choose the option of going straight to the New Oxford American Dictionary and Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus. This is what that prestigious reference book says, “zaftig |ˈzäftig; -tik| (also zoftig). Adjective informal, (of a woman) having a full, rounded figure; plump. ORIGIN 1930s: Yiddish, from German saftig ‘juicy.’”

2. On the Firefox browser, use your Google search box. Type: zaftig=def. We found: “buxom: (of a female body) healthily plump and vigorous.”

3. Safari's browser has a neat trick, called The Floating Dictionary. To find the definition of our word, or any word you’re curious about, simply press on your keyboard, Command+Control+D while hovering your mouse over the word. A little window pops up with the definition. Here’s what the floater has to say: “zaf·tig   [zahf-tik, -tig] adjective, Slang. (of a woman) having a pleasantly plump figure. full-bodied; well-proportioned.” Evidently, Floater uses the Oxford Dictionary, too.

4. My favorite iPhone App is Dictionary.com, which includes a thesaurus, is free, has 500,000 new words and definitions, and an English and Spanish word-of-the day. It's definition for "zaftig" is the same as above.

5. Ultralingua is an app I purchased earlier for my iPhone. It cost $9.99, has 300,000 words, none of which was “zaftig.” Thumbs down.

6. I was excited to see a Yiddish dictionary as an app. I paid the $1.99, and only after downloading, did I learn it had no definition for “zaftig.” And you call yourself, Yiddish! But, I did find, “a broch tzu dir” which means, “a curse on you.” Perfect for wasting my $1.99.

7. Finally, there’s Urbandictionary.com, a website, which along with a dictionary, sells mugs, magnets, mousepads, and t-shirts imprinted with any word of choice. (The photo that tops this post is from a t-shirt purchased at Zaftigs Delicatessen in Brookline, MA.)

Here’s Urbandictionary’s view of our word, “A word of Yiddish origin used to describe a chubby girl, but in a very good way. However, a word of caution: even though it's a kindhearted word, and a euphemism for fat, your wife/girlfriend probably won't feel the same way. She might, but if you call her zaftig, you're more than likely to get a black eye or have to stand outside the bathroom with tissues, depending on the kind of girl she is.” See? That's what I said!

Now that you have my seven tech options for dictionaries, you can check them out to find your favorite. You're velcome.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Really, Really Long Distance Mother's Day Phone Call


“Mom, where are you?” I said. My query was directed to the computer’s screen. We were using iChat, and I was anxious to see my mother’s face.

“A minute, a minute,” I could hear her say.

I turned up the volume on my Mac and heard clicks -- a lipstick top being circled downward, a pocket mirror snapped shut.

“You don’t have to put on a face for me,” I said. I raised my voice, not only because we were using technology to manage our two-way conversation, but also, because my mother and I were so far away. Me, here on earth. Her, up in heaven.

I had managed a similar conversation with my father using an iPhone app and because of that success; I decided to try a visual iChat with Mom. So far; so good.

“What kind of example would I set coming to see my daughter with a plain face?” she asked. Slowly, the colored pixels on my screen swirled and combined into my mother’s beautiful face. Blue eyes the color of Lake Michigan, Max Factor’s bold red lipstick, and pinkish rouge that highlighted her cheeks as she smiled.

“You look gorgeous as always,” I said. I was telling the truth. In all the 67-years of her life, I doubt if she had a homely minute. Even when she lay in the hospital, on the last day of her life, she remained the prettiest woman I had ever seen.

“So, you’re still wearing your hair grey,” she said. The corners of her mouth turned down, as did her voice. “And so short? Why not a little color? I liked it when you were a redhead,” she continued. “Some length wouldn’t be so bad either.”

I laughed. When she was on earth, judgments like that would sting. But with her gone more than 20 years, I relished any of her comments. And, I was a big girl now, a mother and grandmother, four years older than she ever got to be. With age and wisdom, I realized her enormous love for me pushed her improvement efforts.


“Listen, Mom,” I said. “I have to apologize. I think I was too hard on you in my memoir.”

“You think?” she repeated. The tone was sarcastic, but she was smiling. Her eyes confirmed she was kidding.

“Writers embellish,” she said. She tossed a manicured hand upward, as if to fling my apology away. “That’s what I told the crowd here. She had to have conflict, drama. What kind of an author would my daughter be, I told them, if it was blah. No fights.”

“Whew, I’m glad to hear that,” I said. “I’ve been worried about your reaction.”

“I liked the part when you said I was a good businesswoman,” she said. “That gave me the nerve to start my own company.”

“You’re in business?” I said. “That’s so great! What is it?”

“I have a clothing line,” she said. “My own designs. MinWear. One word. I have a website.”

"A website?" I asked. "I didn't know you had them up there."

"You never heard of cloud computing?" she asked. "I'm surprised; you're supposed to be such a techie."

Again, I ignored the jab. "Clothing," I repeated. Then, I recalled the awful outfits she bought for me in my childhood: the plain, scratchy green woolen skirt, the outlandish brown storm coat, the shoes with wedge heels to make me taller. And, I could see the cheap, gaudy clothing she considered beautiful for herself.

I bit my tongue. “So how’s it going?” I asked. “How are sales?”

“Well, you know the economy,” she said. She did sound businesslike. “It’s affected us up here, too.”

“I’m sure it’ll pick up,” I said. “So, listen, I got in touch to find out what you’d like for Mother’s Day. Give me a hint.”

“I love all the pictures you’ve sent of my granddaughters and great grandchildren,” she said. “I show them off to my family whenever you send new ones. But, it’s hard with the iPhone you sent last year.”

I had a feeling I knew where this was going. Now that Mother was a businesswoman and needed gadgets to increase productivity, I was certain I could predict her suggestion.

“Have you seen the iPad?” she asked. Her face on the computer screen was alive with excitement. “If you can handle the shipping charges, I’d really love one of those.”

“No problem, Mom," I said. “No problem. It’s on its way.”

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sleight of hand for your Mac, iPhone and iPad


I can't do card tricks, make balls disappear, or pull coins from the air. Those sleights of hand that enthralled childhood pals never lured me. But, out of politeness or drawn by a crush, I'd pliantly sit cross-legged on the floor with the rest of my chums, and watch the newest Mandrake the Magician solemnly insist, "There's nothing up my sleeve."

Despite that early ennui, I'm hypnotized by any prestidigitation that involves an Apple product. Because I write this blog with "tech" in the title, and because I'm a nice person (translation, noodge), I'll happily share with you my favorite quick finger tricks.

For the Mac:
1. Let's say you want to take a photo of something that appears on your computer screen. You might want to print it, paste it into a document, or include it in a e-mail message. To take a screenshot with a Mac, press the Command-Shift-3 keys at the same time. The image icon (Picture 1) will then appear on your desktop to use as you wish.

2. If you want to capture only a bit of the screen, click Command-Shift-4 and small cross-pointers will pop up. Drag theses pointers over the piece of screen you desire. Your image will then contain only that part.

3. In your browser (Firefox or Safari) bar, you can Cut, Copy, and Paste by clicking on Edit and selecting from the drop-down menu, Or, you can save a trip up there and use these keyboard shortcuts: for Cut, Command X. For Copy, Command C. And for Paste, Command V.

4. Accents can be tricky. For example, to create the name, José. Hold down the Option key, and while holding it down, type the letter e; then release both keys and type the letter: e; an é should result. Using the same formula, you can produce á, í, ó, and ú. It's always, Option+e, release, then the desired accented letter.

5. For more Mac keyboard shortcuts, click on the Apple logo to the far left of your computer screen or browser. Select System Preferences, Keyboard and Mouse. Choose Keyboard Shortcuts. Ta-da!

For the iPhone and iPad
6. Accents are easy on the iPhone and iPad. Imagine you're typing an e-mail and want to add an accent to a letter, hold down that letter for two seconds. Por ejemplo, hold down the E key for a few seconds and you'll see "e" with several options. Move your finger to the right to select, an é.

7. If you're at the end of a sentence and want to add a period, you don't have to switch to the symbol keyboard, just tap the space bar twice. To enable this shortcut, go to Settings, General, Keyboard. Select On for the "." To add a comma, and avoid switching to the symbol keyboard, just press and hold the 123 button. Without lifting your finger, slide it over to the comma and then release. You'll remain in the alphabet screen. The trick of holding down 123 and sliding can also be used for the question mark, parenthesis, or any other symbol.

8. While you're at Settings, General, Keyboard, select On to Enable Caps Lock. Then, when writing an e-mail, tap twice on the shift key, (up arrow) and it will turn blue. It will stay locked until you tap it once to release.

9. To quickly add .com, .org, .net, .edu to an e-mail address in the TO field of an outgoing e-mail, hold down the period for two seconds. A pop up menu appears that lets you add either of those endings. Move your finger to the left, and choose.

10. When typing on the iPhone or iPad, Apple guesses the word you're starting to spell. To accept its suggestion, tap the space bar; to reject it, tap the x next to the suggested word and proceed to your intended word.

For my final trick, I'll disappear. (Suspend disbelief. Witness a puff of smoke, empty stage. No sign of this writer.) Cue applause.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Your eyes are bigger than your stomach


Along with Comb Your Hair and Stand Up Straight, Your Eyes Are Bigger Than Your Stomach was one of Mother's favorite slogans in my childhood.

Turns out, Min was right. I typically took more food than my body could handle. Instead of leaving some on the plate (forbidden because Children Are Starving In Europe), I would eat all laid out before me. Thus, I grew up chubby and food-obsessed.

Currently, I'm at my ideal weight, but remain fascinated by dieting schemes. Since I'm such a tech fan (a new obsession), I've decided to share three sensible plans the Internet and mobile phones offer to reshape users. Two have added credibility because of personal experience. One is being touted by a Chicago celebrity.

Weight Watchers
When Jean Nidetch brought Weight Watchers to Chicago in the late 1960s, I was first in line. In my early 30s, with two small children, I wanted to slough off padding that had accumulated over the years. Despite the embarrassing weekly weigh-ins (Remember stripping to a bathing suit before stepping on the scale?), I did manage to lose 10 pounds and keep it off. WW's basic lessons of portion control, diaries, accountability and camaraderie, fit into my compulsive, social, responsible personality. I remained a Lifetime member because I made many friends and the weekly gatherings became therapy.

Today, WW meetings still abound. Its website requests a zip code to direct you to meetings in your area. A map and leader's identity also pop up. Currently, you can join for free. Monthly fees average $17.95 and you're encouraged to stick around for at least three months. If meetings are not your thing, you can do the program on-line.

CalorieKing
Despite being 10 pounds thinner, in 2003, I decided I was still too chunky for my height. I didn't return to Weight Watchers, because I dislike their Points system. I thought it more useful to use actual calorie counts.

So when I found the CalorieKing Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter and Food and Exercise Journal in a bookstore, I plunged in. At first, I was on my own. The hard copy counter and journal fulfilled my compulsive needs. Within the year, an additional 10 pounds slithered away. When I tired of penciling in all the data by hand, I went to the CK website and entered all via computer. There, I found that community forums could substitute for WW meetings. I engaged in pep talks, success tips, and other discussions that made me feel part of, well, a community.

Like WW, CK charges a fee for membership, $12 per month, or a bargain $72 for 12 months. It also offers a $45 software program for mobile phones.

Lose it!
Despite my success at chipping away 20 pounds over the years, I remain vigilant. True, I endure mocking from others when I weigh and measure foods. But this trick, gleaned from Weight Watchers and CalorieKing, allows me to eat whatever I want, just not a lot of it.

If I were in the market for a weight loss program, though, Lose it! would be my plan of choice because it's a free app available for the iPhone (talk about obsessions). I learned about Lose it! in an April 21 Chicago Tribune column written by radio personality Steve Dahl. He praises the app for helping him drop 20 pounds. The program encourages use of a daily calorie tracker, progress chart, and e-mail remainders if the user fails to enter meals or snacks.

Like the other programs, Lose it! has a huge food database, and includes information on portion size, calories, fats, carbohydrates, recipes, and exercise.

Armed with this information, if you can grab an extra handful at your waist, or if strangers ask when the baby is due, perhaps you'd like to check into these programs. But remember, you might actually appear thinner if you'd only Comb Your Hair and Stand Up straight.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

And I turn where?


I can get lost backing out of my driveway. My dashboard compass, attached with spit and suction, only points north. The 100-fold Rand McNally Streets & Highways of Chicagoland map is crisscrossed with scotch tape.

My 1990 Honda Civic hatchback lacks a GPS. Because I rarely venture out of the city (the 20-year-old vehicle shows a bitty 48,000 on its odometer), I won't purchase an external one.

No surprise that this geography-challenged driver loves Internet maps. As a favor to others who share my deficit, or are reading because they appreciate my turn-of-phrase (is that left or right?), I will review the three most popular cyberspace maps.

In case your attention span bars you from cruising beyond four paragraphs, I'll start with my favorite, Google Maps. I gave the three maps the following challenge: Find directions from my address in Chicago to 26 Lathrop Ave. in Forest Park, IL. I'm meeting my friend Vaso for coffee there this morning.

Google wisely avoided the Eisenhower Expressway because it's aware of the 27-mile resurfacing project underway. So, they directed me on surface streets using primarily Harlem Ave. (I've done this route many times and Oak Park Ave. is much prettier. But why quibble?)

They figure the 8.1 mile drive will take me 19 minutes. More like 30 minutes, but again w.q.? The most fun part about Google Maps is Street View. I can see my house, my street, where I turn, and photos of well, unattractive Irving Park Rd. as I travel west.

Google Maps is the app on my iPhone. Although my elderly version (the phone, not this writer) doesn't have GPS, it does give me turn-by-turn directions. I'm embarrassed to admit I recently learned I could Bookmark my map queries (it's that teeny open book in the right hand corner of the search box) and reserve them on a page. After learning this trick, I renewed by acquaintance with dozens of lists that had been patiently waiting for a repeat viewing.

My next favorite is Yahoo Maps. These guys evidently didn't get the Eisenhower memo, or perhaps they did, because the time here is 25 minutes and nearly twice the distance at 16.81 miles. Why in the world would I want to drive farther, longer, and on the Ike! But Yahoo beat Google in one feature: it recognized my destination as the Blue Max Coffeehouse and kindly included the store's phone number, 708-366-9224.

Mapquest is owned by AOL. I could stop here, but in fairness, I'll provide its stats: 16.85 miles, 25 minutes, for the Eisenhower once again. Mapquest has colorful icons to show highway signs and directions and a star marks the end of the route. But those cuties can't make up for its parentage.

All three online maps give you the option of taking a route other than the one suggested. I suppose if I wished to do more delving and told Yahoo and Mapquest to think outside of the boxed-in expressway, they would've come up with the Harlem route, too. But you only get so much research on this site. I have a life.

Also, all in the trio will save your maps, allow you to enter notes, and let you include the colorful map going from point A to B, or just a list of directions.


Because of the handicaps I listed at the start of our journey, prior to a trip, I print my Google directions on a hard copy, do the search on my iPhone, and in the passenger seat carry the repaired Rand McNally.

And yes, you guessed it. I can still get lost.