Advice for the mature or befuddled...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

One-Man Band: How Apple helps this solo player keep up the rhythm

Although I don't simultaneously use my hands, feet, limbs, and various mechanical contraptions to play music, I do like the imagery of a one-man band to help explain how my Apple devices boost my ability to get a lot of stuff done no matter my locale.

First, let me define "stuff," lest you think I spend my time watching videos or playing Angry Birds, which by the way, I still haven't figured out how to do.

My stuff falls into three categories: work related, social media, and personal.

Let's start with the one that pays my bills and allows me to purchase the aforementioned Apples.


Since Apple and Microsoft are rivals, Apple prefers that its users turn to its iWork suite of programs, rather than Office. I'm aware you can use Office for Mac, but if you have "drunk the Koolaid" - a reference to loyalists' adherence to all things Apple -- like me, you'll want to embrace the whole megillah.

If you do, you can draft a news release, feature story or pitch letter (that's my business) using the Pages word processing program on your desktop Mac. Then open iCloud on Safari or Firefox (my favorite browsers) and drag the file onto the iWork website. Miraculously, when you open Pages on your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, your draft will appear right there.

The process is even easier on the mobile devices because when you create or edit that piece on your iPad (my preferred mobile), it automatically travels to iCloud; no dragging needed.

Now, before you interrupt to tell me Microsoft Word is demanded by your correspondents, let me put your mind at ease: While in Pages, you have the option to send documents as Word files. And you also can open documents that have been sent to you in Word by converting them to Pages.

So although Apple and Microsoft seem to turn their backs on one another, in truth, they swivel, shake hands, and play nice.

Social Media

While I have many friends who vow they'd never use Facebook and can't fathom why anyone would we interested in what they ate for dinner, those of us faithful to the site, feel otherwise, particularly if you're in Public Relations like I am.

Apple's mobile devices enable me to update Facebook (Twitter and LinkedIn, too) whenever I have a spare moment. Either through it's App or via its page on Safari, I can update or link while I'm waiting for any number of tardy appointments, spouse pickups, or during TV commercials.


Because I check my email on my iPhone or iPad, I'm alerted to upcoming bills or sales at my favorite shops. I did all of my holiday shopping online (Zappos, J. Crew, Amazon, Harry Potter merchandise) prone on my couch. Believe me, I wanted to do all of this gift buying at local stores, but $10 shipping fees discouraged me. Be assured, if the item is staying in the city, I buy local, small business all the way.

Go for a test drive.

If you're still not persuaded Apple can help you perform like a one-man band, take a test drive at one of their brick-and-mortar stores. Also, sit in on the free workshops offered at all locations. Once equipped with your own rhythm section, play on!

Friday, September 23, 2011

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 and October 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 September 28, 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 October 7, 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. 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.

My Jewish Learning is a great site for All Things Jewish. Here, you can explore more about the High Holidays and read an article, "Jewish Husbands, Jewish Wives, and Jewish Partners." You may feel compelled to comment.

The Jewish iPhone Community's goal it to make easy to find Jewish mobile applications. It creates a virtual community of users of mobile device; i.e. iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.

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 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?

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I was awoken by the sound of sobbing.

I reached for my eyeglasses and looked around the bedroom to find the source of the disturbance. Husband was on his side, fast asleep. Not him. Dog was at the draped windows. Flat. Not him.

Then, I looked to my left, to the bedside table where my Apple devices were plugged into their chargers. A tiny pool of water, likely caused by tears, surrounded the iPhone 3G.

“Sweetheart,” I said, as I unplugged the old phone. “What’s the problem?”

“You love her more than me,” she said. It wasn't true; the phone’s service was disconnected, but she was perfectly serviceable as an iPod and sleep timer. I made sure I frequently let her know of my appreciation. 3G was listing to the left, hinting to where my iPad was tucked under its lime green cover.

“No, no, you’re wrong,” I said to her. “It’s new, that’s why....”

“What’s all this racket?” It was the iPad who suddenly flung open its magnetic shield.

“Oh, it’s that baby again,” he said. “All night long, sniffing and crying. I can’t believe you can sleep through all that mishegas.”

3G did have a whiny tone. “I used to be your favorite,” she stammered between sobs. “Remember when you first got me? No one could pry me from your hands. Oh, we had wonderful times together. Then, you had to go and replace me with the 4 and left me up here by myself. Did I complain? Now...”

3G was interrupted by PowerBook G4 who previously sat quietly on the makeshift desk in the bedroom. Its cover stood upright, the screen lit. “For christ sake, a computer can’t get a decent sleep in this place. Green lights, red lights, and now all that blubbering.”

“Just because you’re a computer, don’t think you’re such a smarty.” It was the iPad who now sidled up next to the 3G. “We can do most of the stuff you do. And you’re an old fart; don’t even have Intel. Why should we listen to you?”

It was time to mollify this crowd. “Listen everyone,” I said. “I love you all. Even though I may not use you all day, that doesn’t mean my affection has waned in any way. But I promise to be more sensitive to your feelings.”

Unable to fall back asleep, despite dear 3G offering to lull me with my playlist, I plugged all back into their chargers and went downstairs to the kitchen to see if a glass of milk could knock me out.

A tumult was underway on the first floor. Desktop iMac in my home office had been eavesdropping (we have a network) and was attempting to loosen its cords to join the fray upstairs. iPhone4 was doing her best to restrain him.

“You want to talk about abandonment,” iMac shouted. The router shook. “I’m stuck inside the house 12 months of the year, 24/7. At least the rest of you are mobile! You get out; you see things. You’re not forced to stare at four walls, window blinds, and these stupid reproductions she calls art.”

Now it was iPhone4’s turn: “Just because I’m mobile it doesn’t mean she pays any attention to me. Ever since she got that, ugh, iPad, she’s been complaining her fingers are too thick for my keyboard.”

“Enough already!” I said. “I can’t take it. All day long I move from one Apple to another just to keep all of you happy, yet you’re still complaining. Please, let me get some peace.”

I crept from my home office and flopped on the living room couch. Once everyone quieted down, I fell back asleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, a vision appeared. It was the 13” Mac Air -- saucy, winking at me, cooing, “Oh darling, ....”

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ah yes, I remember it well

In my previous life – BSJ – my office desk, computer, bathroom mirror, and other surfaces were covered with Post-It Notes.

Some To-Do’s were vital; i.e. Send invoice to client. Others, mundane, as in Laundry. And still others, pathetic: No ice cream!

Then, the sky opened, sunlight filled the continent, and Steve Jobs ordered, "Thou shalt have Macs." Suddenly, ancient tree products and writing instruments were old hat, and programs or applications available on Apple computers, iPhones, iPods, and iPads replaced all of those Pitman-penmanship stickies.

Because #1 on my current To Do list reads, Play nice and share, I've decided to offer you a few apps and web sites that might come to your rescue. They’re likely available on non-Apple devices, but why go there?

1) Awesome Note Lite is a free Apple app that reviewers consider "ten times better" than Notes, Apple‘s default program. The same critic sniffs that the Notes application is very limited, and "Awesome Notes is a worthy solution and replacement for it."

He (oh, I'm sure it's a "he") says the biggest difference between Apple's Notes and Awesome Notes is that the latter allows you to organize your notes into folders. He says a bunch of other stuff, which you can find on the app's own page in the App store.

2) Evernote is my current favorite in this productivity category. Like the above, it's free and it's heralded for "turning the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad into an extension of your brain, helping you remember anything and everything that happens in your life." You can save notes, ideas, snapshots, and recordings and the material instantly synchronizes across your devices. I like its ability to send yourself an e-mail, which I do to further remind me that I have a reminder. Oy,

3) Remember the Milk is a long-time free app that also travels between Apple products. It has an online service that syncs, and it can send reminders via email, SMS (Short Message Service), and instant messenger.

4) ReQall is free and useful when you don’t have time to write down an idea or reminder. Just tap the ReQall app and speak or type whatever you want to remember. ReQall can send you a reminder via voice, text message, instant message, email, or calendar alert.

5) Despite what the defamer said in Option 1, I still think Apple's Notes, which lives on the Home page of your iPhone, iPod, or iPad, is a useful list-maker. It automatically syncs to your Mobile Me mail account, and you can manually e-mail your lists (you can make as many as you want) to your other e-mail services. Naturally, it's free.

Now, with my publication of this post, I can perform a step that is the beauty part of every reminder and list-making service. I can check off, "Write blog on remembering." Done!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Urge Stakeholders to Climb Aboard Social Media

Every non-profit organization believes it’s the World’s Best Kept Secret. And in many cases, that’s true. You’ve been around for more than a decade, accomplished amazing and beneficial results, and is a blessing in the do-good community. Yet, beyond your stakeholders (staff, board of directors, members, and volunteers), too few in the general public know you exist.

However, many nonprofits neglect a major asset that if tapped, could help spread the word and lift it from shadow to spotlight. Best of all, this asset is close at hand and likely eager to help out -- it’s those stakeholders introduced in the opening paragraph.

We’re all aware print media is becoming an endangered species, with newspapers dropping weight as quickly as a Jenny Craig commercial. And the competition to tell your story on radio or TV gets more difficult with programming budget cuts. Instead of wringing hands at these depressing developments, turn to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn (free social media sites) --and your stakeholders -- to bring more attention to your nonprofit. Here are 10 suggestions:

1. Take a survey of your stakeholders to learn how many have accounts on these sites.

2. Encourage those who are not on to sign up.

3. Host a workshop where interested stakeholders can learn tips on getting the most out of social media for themselves and your organization.

4. If your nonprofit doesn’t already have a Fan Page on Facebook, set one up. A techie on board, or a hired consultant, can accomplish this easily.

5. Post relevant information at least once daily to your social media pages, i.e. upcoming events, campaigns, links to your blog, newsworthy items, recent organizational or individual accomplishments.

6. With your stakeholders now in the social media game, urge them to “Like” your Fan page. This relationship will now be published on their Profile pages with a link their friends can explore.

7. Suggest stakeholders invite Facebook friends to “Like” your organization’s page. Also, their friends can “Follow” it on Twitter, and join your LinkedIn network, thus spreading your name further into the social media world.

8. If you’re hosting an event, be sure to create it on your Facebook Fan and LinkedIn pages. Remember to post Save-The-Date updates to all of your social media sites. Your stakeholders can then link to the event alerting their own friends and attracting additional attention and guests.

9. Urge stakeholders to use the private message options in Facebook and LinkedIn to invite their friends to the event.

10. Provide your stakeholders with the name, cell phone number, and e-mail address of your techie. Thus, if frustration or bewilderment arises, the techie can immediately mollify and get your valuable assets back on board.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cup Holders Before It’s Too Late

Is it wrong to want cup holders before I die? Hold your tears; my demise is not imminent -- as far as I know -- but I could wear out before my 1990 Honda Civic with 65,000 miles ever meets her foundry. Thus, if I continue to drive Sweetie Pie, I will never know the joy of cup holders. Instead, I’ll forever wedge my travelling mug betwixt gear shift and driver's seat.

Need I mention airbags? A CD player? Windows that slither down with a tap of the finger? A steering wheel unaccompanied by grunting? Doors that open without placing a key in a lock? An iPod plug in? Daytime running lights? I've never known these.

Now, you may ask, why have I held onto Sweetie Pie so long? A valid question if you are the sort who does not believe automobiles have feelings. (You may even be the type that doesn’t kiss her iPhone before tucking her into the charger each night. Or, doesn’t wish her home office good morning with the On light switch.)

Despite my attempt to convince you I am an Anthropomorphicer with a capital A, you may still wonder at my allegiance to this vehicle. Cue the violins. Sweetie Pie was purchased one month after separating from my first husband.

That marital relationship lasted 30 years, so I was naturally in a vulnerable state. The purchase of the Civic, with my name on the title, felt like a mark of independence. I had my own wheels. The two of us could travel together to the ends of the earth. More likely to Trader Joe’s. (Actually, Trader Joe’s didn’t enter the Chicago market until 2000, but I think it works better than Jewel, don't you?)

And during my singlehood, when I was ready to date again, and a personal ad in The Chicago Reader brought me interested swains from the suburbs, it was Sweetie Pie who drove me to meet them -- a Chicagoland map unfolded in the passenger seat. Oh, there’s lots of tales I could tell in our long automotive relationship, but I’m skidding off topic, so I’ll leave them to your imagination.

This is what finally convinced me I should sell the Civic: I conceded there could come a time when arthritis, dimmed vision, or sluggish reaction time might rob me of ever experiencing the features listed in graph #2. And, for a self-described techie like me, I was embarrassed by my lack of experience with the latest motor car thingamajigs.


So, I sold the Civic to a good family and bought a 2011 Honda Fit. While I’m head over heels for Gorgeous (quickly named to speed bonding), I weep for Sweetie Pie. I know she’s happy being driven by younger people who energize her chassis. I know she prefers being outdoors, rather than sealed in a cold, dark garage. But, I worry: is she angry with me? Jealous of my new acqusition?

In time, I know I will grow as attached to Gorgeous as I was to Sweetie Pie. Wait, is that a horn I imagine I hear? Yes, it’s Gorgeous coaxing me to grab my key fob to unlatch her doors. Come, she croons, to the power windows that await my digit. To the CD and iPod players eager to share my jazz collection. And yes, to the cup holders (four!) that promise to cuddle my mug of Black Cat Espresso.

I can feel the pain easing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Apps for Valentine's Day

While shopping at Target on Sunday, my husband and I paused before entering the checkout lane. We looked at each other then split in opposite directions. Upon returning to our goods, Tommy dropped into the cart -- among the Diet Coke, No Caffeine and Vanity Fair Everyday Napkins -- a heart-shaped box of Russell Stover candies. I tossed in a glittery card, "To My Wonderful Husband, Happy Valentine's Day." With no attempt to hide our purchases, we headed toward the shortest line. Who says romance is dead?

That's us, maybe not you. So, as a favor to those who mush about the upcoming holiday, I've gathered some apps to help make hearts flutter.

1. Be Mine Lite is a free Valentine's Day Card Creator. It comes loaded with backgrounds, hearts, cupids, kisses and more. You can save your cards, send them through email, or share on Facebook. It's universal, which means you can use it on an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

2. iCelebrate ~ Valentine's Day app costs $0.99, but that's not much to pay to set a romantic tone for the night. It streams love-inspired Smooth Jazz, Easy Listening, and Soul/R&B music. It can display either candlelit tables, a big red heart, or a New York City balcony at night.

3. Flower Coach by Teleflora is free and helps you write the perfect romantic greeting, including sweet, sexy, silly, traditional, Shakespeare-ish and hip-hop. And, you'll save 10% on your next bouquet.

4. Instant Poetry HD is a bit pricier at $1.99. But think of the fun you'll have as you create beautiful, passionate, and romantic poetry. Use your own pictures as backgrounds, tap a button to pop up some words, then drag them around the screen to design your masterpiece.

5. Open Table is free and uses your current location to provide a list of available restaurants. Search by city, neighborhood, cuisine or price. Valentine's Day is notoriously busy and expensive, but if you're undeterred, use this app to find a description, photos and reviews. Bon appetit!

6. Kiss N Blow costs $0.99. You blow a kiss into your iPhone, and have it sent to your Valentine via email or text messaging. Select from a variety of themes: Green Kiss (environmentally friendly), Eskimo Kiss (with your nose) Romantic Kiss, and Scuba Kiss, (from Underwater).

7. Now, if all of the above leaves you nauseous rather than excited, here's an app you might prefer: Love Sucks, a $0.99 app that recognizes Valentine’s Day isn’t for all. It displays anti-Valentine’s Day candy heart images of Love Sux, You Suck, and I'm Cheating.

Happy Valentine's Day!