Advice for the mature or befuddled...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Tech For Rookies: Your place or mine

On Wednesdays, from 9:30-10:30 a.m., I teach Tech For Rookies at the Chicago Cultural Center (formerly the Chicago Public Library), 78 E. Randolph. Drop in any time; fee is $3. You'll learn how to receive and send e-mail and text messages; set up the address book and calendar; use the camera; take, save, and e-mail photos; download apps; and more. 

Private lessons are also available at your place or mine. Hourly rates start at $25, and may increase depending on the location. 

And, if you're contemplating a purchase of an Apple product, but are anxious about its use, I will accompany you to a store in Chicago or a nearby suburb. I'll translate the instructions given by the specialist, and assure that you don't exit until you are confident you can access key programs and applications. Again, hourly rates start at $25, and may increase depending on location. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Crowdfunding a Challenge For My Senior Set

"Please let me write you a check," Leah said. This was the third such plea I received from friends who got my email soliciting funds for my Kickstarter campaign. I'm using that crowdfunding platform to pay for the publishing and marketing of my upcoming memoir, "Green Nails, And Other Acts of Rebellion: Life After Loss."

"No, it doesn't work that way," I said to Leah. "First of all, I can't deposit your check in my bank and then contribute to my own campaign. Second, all donations on Kickstarter must go through Amazon with a credit card."

"I want to help," said Harriet, another of the group of refuseniks, "but I'm not going to put my personal information on the Internet."

"But if you're not part of the campaign," I said, "you won't get my updates. You won't know what's going on day-to-day."

"So, you'll call and tell me. What's the big deal?"

I tried a different tack. "You win prizes on Kickstarter. If you donate a certain amount, you get the new book as a reward. And, at different levels..."

"Who needs a prize?" she interrupted. "I'll send you a check for the Kick thing, and I'll still buy the damn book, in a bookstore, like a normal person. "

I dug in, patient as a parent trying to explain the birds-and-bees: "You see, Kickstarter works sort of like a matching grant. If I don't reach my campaign's funding goal, all of the money already in the pot disappears. I won't get anything."

"Listen, if you're such a smarty to write the book and do this crowd thing, you can figure out how to get my money in the pot."

Still pushing, I said: "How about we go on Skype and I'll walk you through the process? You use that to talk to your grandchildren, right? Or, I'll come over and we'll tackle the donation together."

"I'm sending a check," she said.

"Okay; just send the check." I felt guilty for the tussle, and for acting like a spoiled teen gifted a Ford for graduation rather than a Lexus. 

While my younger friends on Facebook had no problem viewing my Kickstarter announcement, clicking the link, and boosting my bottom line, members of my own age group (I'm 75) are balking. This creates a dilemma because my peers are my target audience.

My memoir is based is on my blogs, The Rookie Caregiver and The Rookie Widow. Through honest, humorous, and wry essays, I give readers a view of what everyday life is like when caring for a loved one with an incurable illness. In my case, my husband Tommy's affliction was a little-known dementia called Frontotemporal degeneration that eventually robbed him of speech.

When Tommy died November 2, 2012, my posts switched to the experiences of widowhood and my efforts - still honest and humorous - to forge a new life.

These universal themes - supporting a loved one with dementia, and demonstrating resilience  - should be appealing to those in my cohort. Surely they want to guarantee that my memoir sees life as a paperback and eBook.

But alas, some aspects of technology -- particularly crowdfunding -- appear to have sailed over the grey-haired heads of my contemporaries, and instead find them wedded to pen and checkbook.

I'll stop kvetching and bullying, and just be grateful for their support and generosity, and figure out a way to, um, launder their money into Kickstarter. (Let's keep it between ourselves. Okay?)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Happy Birthday To Min, Who Today Has Decided She Is 65

Today is my mother Min Shapiro’s birthday. If she were celebrating at an earthly venue, she’d be 102. But since Mom is in her heavenly high rise, with ocean views on all sides, she has elected to be 65.

“Any age?” I asked as we Face Time-ed on our iPads. (I have the 2. She has 3. They get them first up there.) “If you get to choose any age, why 65? Why not some time in your 20’s when you were a hot chick?”

Mother frowned; I had erred for I knew she had always considered herself a glamour girl. A Dorothy Lamour look-alike I had written in my memoir.

“I didn’t mean that, Mom,” I said quickly. “You were gorgeous your whole life, and, um, afterlife. I’m just wondering what was so special about that age.”

With that, she held a photo up to the screen. “Remember?” she asked. “The 40th birthday party I threw for you? I was so proud I could pay for it myself. You were skinny then. Your hair was long. A beauty.”

“So you loved 65 because I looked good?” I asked. Another familiar theme: Mom concerned that pudginess could thwart chances at my happiness. I changed the subject. “What about you, Mom? Other than the party, was that a good year for you?”

“Well, your father had been dead -- by the way, he says ‘hello’ -- for 20 years so I was free of worrying about his health and when he would drop dead and make me a widow. And to be honest, widowhood wasn’t so bad. I should have stuck to it rather than...”

“Oh yes, your awful second marriage.”

“That’s been deleted from my file,” she said. “Like it never happened.”

“Boy, you’ve got it good up there,” I said. “You get to choose your age, erase bad experiences, not so bad. Of course, there’s the part about missing us down here on earth, and not being in on the good things that happen here.”

“What are you talking?” she asked. “I’ve got a ringside seat. Nothing gets by me. I’ve seen every show my granddaughters put on. And, you can tell them for me, I’d prefer a little more decent language. I see my great grandchildren. In fact, I keep an eye on them when your girls turn their backs. If I see something important, I give Faith and Jill a knock in the head that makes them turn around.”

“Wow, thanks, Mom! So, I don’t have to worry about them every minute of the day?”

“I’ve got you covered,” she said. She laughed; the iPad shook. It was great to see her happy.

“So, listen Mom, I called to wish you a Happy Birthday -- 65, 102, whatever...”

“Shush,” she said. “102, never. That’s for very, very, old people.”

“Oh yes, I remember your telling me you would never want to grow old. Couldn’t stand seeing people in walkers, shrinking, wrinkles. You said it wasn’t for you. And when you did, um, die at 68, you had none of those infirmities. You went out gorgeous as ever.”

I continued. “Before I hang up, I need to know what you’d like as a present. It’ll be virtual, but I want it to be something you’d enjoy.”

“Hmm, I’m thinking,” she said. She closed her eyes, put her manicured fingernail to her red lips, and continued with “hmm.”

“I’ve got it,” she said. “An Apple gift card. Steve gave me a tip that the iPhone6 is coming out soon, and I can use it for that.”

“Steve? Jobs? You’re friends with him?” I asked.

“I’ve still got the looks,” she said. She was offended again. But then she waved a hand to dismiss my question. “Steve’s impressed I know the lingo.”

“OK, Mom, no problem. In a few minutes look in your iCloud, and the gift card will be there,” I said. “Happy Birthday! Love you!”

“Love you, too!” she said. Then our screens went dark.

Friday, June 28, 2013

How To Add A Website To Your Home Screen

If you’re reading this blog post on your iPhone or iPad, you may wish to capture the website address so that next time you want to visit, it’ll be an easier journey.

Apple’s Safari browser makes that simple. This tip will work not only for any of my websites that I hope you frequent, but for all of your favorites.

Here’s how to add a website to your Home screen. But wait, perhaps a definition is in order: the Home Screen on your iPhone or iPad actually starts on the the second page of your device. The first page is what I have named, the global search page. You use that when you can’t find, or remember where an email, document, or app is on your phone. Just type the description into the horizontal blank space, and a list of suggestions should appear.

The Home Screen is the page where all of your Apple apps (applications), as well as those you’ve added, sit. This screen can actually go on for several pages, depending upon the number of apps you’ve placed on our phone or pad.

So, when you visit a page in Safari that you want easy access to -- perhaps your own website -- just tap the Share button at the bottom of the Safari window on the iPhone and at the top of the iPad. (Share looks like an arrow that points to the right and is coming out of a box.) Several rows of options for how you’d like to Share this website are available. 

You choose and tap Add to Home Screen. Another box will open with a title Apple believes should be attached to the chosen website. You can pick this and click the Add button at the right hand top of the screen, or you can type in a name which you believes fit better.

Once you’ve hit the Add button, swipe to the last page of all of your screens and you’ll see the website added. It will look like your other apps. Test it out. Click on it and it should take you directly to the website without going on your Safari browser first.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tech for Rookies: private lessons for iPhones and IPads

iPhones and iPads are likely the most popular mobile devices purchased for personal use or holiday gifts. But sadly, too many people find themselves flummoxed when trying to use them. They’ve discovered that the rudimentary lessons given at the cellular phone stores leave them scratching their heads instead of adoring them as promised.

Private lessons at Tech for Rookies will take students  step-by-step through the basics, including these How To’s: turn them on and off, receive and send mail, populate the address book, use the calendar, download the most useful applications, create documents using the Pages word processing program, keep the device updated, and answer other questions that can turn rookies to fans.

The lesson may also appeal to those contemplating a purchase of one of these mobile devices, but need some assurance they won’t feel like a klutz after shelling out the purchase price.

For more information, contact:, or call 773-320-5681.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Taste of the Apple

It was my last day. My letter of resignation had been accepted by the store manager. I had already removed my name tag from the cord I wore around my neck. The blue t-shirts with white logo were on a pile in the recycling box. I emptied my locker of business cards no longer valid. Now, it was time to say goodbye to a job I had coveted for more than 6 years, a dream job I felt incredibly fortunate to have won.

I opened the door that led from “back of the house” to retail and found myself staring at staffers lined up on either side of the product displays. An Apple tradition for all departing members, my coworkers were clapping and smiling as I slowly inched down the gauntlet. Customers, who had never before witnessed this leave-taking, looked to each other to figure out what this older woman had done to deserve such treatment. Those that had previously seen an Apple goodbye, joined in the applause.

As for me, I cried. From the rear to the front, I cried. I paused to hug team members who had welcomed this woman -- old enough to be their mother or grandmother -- to the Apple store in Old Orchard. These “kids” who had listened patiently whenever I raced to their side, pulled on an elbow, and asked, "How do we...? What do you suggest..." or other questions.

Now, rewind the scene to three months earlier when I first learned my application, audition at a recruitment event, and responses during three interviews, won me a spot. When I received that phone call, I believed I was the luckiest woman alive. Imagine, to work in a wonderland of iMacs, iPods, iPhones, iPads; to learn the credo and policies, to understand the lingo; to wear the blue t-shirt.

Mind you, I have had impressive jobs in the past. I was a press aide to a Chicago mayor (Jane Byrne), a communications director for a Chicago school superintendent (Ruth Love), an account exec at a prestigious public affairs firm (Jasculca/Terman), and owner of my own public relations business until I retired to write a memoir. But none of those posts filled me with the awe I felt at becoming an Apple Specialist.

And as I suspected, I loved the job. Selling was easy because I truly believed (still do) that Apple products are superior to its peers. I relished taking customers on "test drives" and showing them how to operate the computers and mobile devices. Older customers were my specialty because I was able to say, "if I can do it, you can, too." They would stare at my grey hair and be willing to listen to my enthusiastic spiel.

So, why did I leave Apple? Because when talking to business customers, I found myself asking, “so, how are you promoting your company?” I couldn’t stop my PR background from leaking out. I realized I missed being my own boss, and decided I wanted to take another stab.

So, after exiting Apple, I re-entered entrepreneurship. I printed business cards, announced the launching of Elaine Soloway Public Relations, built my own simple web site, wrote blogs, and became active on Facebook. I hired myself to promote my business, and used the hook, “Is It Risky to Reveal My Age.” Amazingly, that pitch garnered an almost immediate story in the Chicago Tribune.

While the column brought me attention and business (PR works!), more importantly, it proved I did know a good story when I saw it, I could write an effective pitch letter, and that relationships cultivated through social media could help get my e-mails opened.

ESPR is over a year old now and I’m proud to say I manage a handful of clients -- just enough for this small shop to handle, and enough to supplement income drained away when the economy did a nose dive.

But, coupled with the satisfaction I had made the right decision in leaving Apple, is the feeling of nostalgia whenever I enter its stores. When I visit North Michigan Avenue or North Avenue, it takes me a minute to reveal, “you know, I once worked at Apple.” And, if I’m in the Old Orchard mall, my visit isn’t complete until I head to my old home, pull on the elbows of former coworkers, and win hugs.

Happily, the kids haven’t forgotten me. As for this former Apple Specialist, I’ll never forget them, my blue logo t-shirt, and the best job I ever had.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Time To Get Your Stuff Out of MobileMe

Imagine your folks are selling the old homestead and downsizing. You’ve been ordered to clear out all the stuff you’ve stored with them over the years. There are cartons in the attic, basement, garage -- all must find another home.

Something sort of  similar is occurring now if you've been a user of Apple’s MobileMe. Our “folks” have warned that come June 30, 2012, they’re tossing out our stuff. So, many of us are scrambling to find suitable storage for all the documents we thought safely tucked away over the years on MobileMe’s iDisk.

Fortunately, by now -- as opposed to when the iDisk was first born --there exist many other storage options. Some offer mega space for those who require acres, and others offer a more modest amount for people like me who don’t have the same giant needs

The Unofficial Apple Website (TUAW) is the place to start if your stuff has a hearty appetite. Remote FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, or Amazon S3 servers, none of which I understand, are there for the big boys.

But, if your demand is petite, like mine, David Pogue of the New York Times  speaks our language. He explains, “MobileMe’s most original feature was synchronization: wireless, automatic, seamless auto-updating of data among your gadgets. Your address book, calendars, e-mail, notes, Web bookmarks and other information were always up to date on all your machines ... and always backed up. That’s all part of iCloud now. But when MobileMe dies, three other useful features will die with it: iDisk, iWeb Publishing ... and Gallery.... Apparently, Apple wants to get out of the storage business.”

Pogue offers replacements for “those three orphaned services, that are not quite as slick, clean and well integrated into your Apple gadgets, but ...offer a lot of choice and a lot of power.”

For the former Gallery online photo storage, he picks SmugMug out of competitors like Flickr, Shutterfly, PhotoBucket, Snapfish, 5oopx, dphoto, Fotki, Picasa, PhotoShelter. As for me, I’ve been a Picasa user all along and will just stick with that service.

For the iDisk, which served as an online “hard drive” and sat on the desktop of my iMac, it was a great way to transfer and save files between computers. Pogue suggests Dropbox or SkyDrive.  I’ve been a Dropbox user, along with iDisk, because I’m obsessed with saving documents in the cloud, rather than on thumb drives or CD’s. Thus, I’ll stick with Dropbox.

iWeb Publishing was a simple way to create Web pages. After June 30, you can still use iWeb to design Web pages; you’ll just have to find a new company to host them. Another route is replacement web publishers. Pogue suggests Jimdo and Weebly. But,  I’m already a Google Blogger and website user, and here I shall remain.