Fragility

This was originally written right after Roy Hargrove’s passing.  I needed some separation from the time of writing until now.

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Woke up this morning with my mind staid on Jesus but wasn’t about to go to church while fending off the vestiges of some cold/sinus/whatever this thing is I have going on. So I’m home, in the bed writing those inconsistent morning pages and I started thinking about the foolery that is my life as I currently live it. I generally do this life assessment thing when something jarring happens. The jarring this time was the untimely death of the trumpet great Roy Hargrove. This brother just turned 49 and now he’s gone.

I didn’t write when Prince passed. Though I loved him the majority of my life, there was nothing to say, too much grief,  too many well known, highly talented, music writers and cultural critics filled that space. Besides, I’m just a fan. The same holds true in this instance as well but something mundane happened this morning that put my thoughts about Hargrove and life in perspective. I broke a bowl into a million pieces.

Hargrove’s death is personal. When I discovered his music, all I lived, breathed and  spent money on was jazz. This was the early nineties. I heard everything,  I knew what was hot, I was down for sure but my genre of choice was jazz and as far as I was concerned,  Hargrove was the hottest with his cool. What I loved about him was that he wasn’t trying to blow up the trumpet,  the mic or my ears. His tone, his phrasing, his technical aptitude, his respect for the artform was all I heard and it was beautiful.  The brother was a hard bopper, a balladeer, a funkateer, soulful and hip-hop. He did it all. He was the soundtrack for my life, his music felt good.

Whenever he dropped something I was on it. When he dropped Habana? It was over. People often talk about seminal recordings, landmarks what have you, Habana was it for me. As I write this I hear the opening cut O My Seh Yeh clearly. I felt the music, I felt him, the musicians, Cuba and the continent of Africa.  This was soul music, for real. And I’m thankful for having experienced it.

I listened to it all, his quintet, fronting a big band, the Soulquarians, absolutely bumpin’, always stellar. I kept Hargrove on my hotlist of artists to see. I saw many that he collaborated with from Herbie Hancock to Erykah Badu, but I never saw him. When I heard he was gone I literally clutched my heart, it was broken. As I read about his death I learned that he was broken, fragile. He had kidney disease, was on dialysis for years. He had some ups and downs, but he was still playing, still recording, still working though he was clearly ill.

Maybe that’s what I’ve gotten from his life, his work. He didn’t have it all together anymore. He was fragile, yet he continued to keep it moving. He continued to inspire and mentor, he continued to do the work that he loved regardless of his fragility. So I say,  thank you Brother Hargrove for sharing your art with us. May your trumpet sound all the more beautiful in eternity.

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Photos: MsThorns
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Not a Photographer on Weather, Food and Wine

Atlanta shut down in February for a bit as well.  These photos sum that time up for me.

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Photos: MsThorns

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Not a Photographer But… I Keep Taking Pictures

As chronicled before I participated in the Google+ 365 Photo Project for 2012 and 2013. For 2014 I decided against it, because I found that trying to find something new and/or inspiring on a daily basis was quite challenging. Then a funny thing happened I found that I was still taking photos quite a bit, not every day but certainly more than I expected. I actually missed doing it as it was a routine and made me pay attention to things that I normally would not pay attention to. As such I’m going to begin publishing some of those photos here. A story may be attached, a story may not. At any rate I hope you enjoy it.

H/T to M Hardy, I needed to do this anyway. Thank you.

First up, a couple of shots from January.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I am fascinated by heavy equipment.  I blame my father an automotive guy and being Hoosier surrounded by farmland, tractors and such.  The photo above is of construction near my job (the old location).  What made me take this photo was the giant “screw/drill” entering the ground. If you know the proper name, please feel free to drop that in the comments.  I’m curious.

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The two icy looking photos are from Snowmageddon/Snowpacalypse I in Atlanta on January 28-29 of this year.  I’m sure you saw all of the hoopla and jokes.  They were all TRUE.  We were shut down until that Friday. The shut down was pretty fab as far I was concerned as I had plenty of food, wine and naps to pass the time away.

Look for the next installment of whatever this is going to be called on Not an Expert soon.

 

photos: MsThorns

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Not a social media expert but Twitter ain’t what it used to be

Twitter Born Day---------------------------The 2008 presidential election is what brought me to Twitter.  It was an exciting time for folks who are activists, zealots or fans of politics and political theater.  I created an open account, dove in and started tweeting and responding to tweets about the election, following folks who were thoughtful and sometimes comedic on the subject of politics.

Post-election I began following folks people who tweeted about things I was interested in like football, technology and so on.  I consider myself fortunate in the sense that those I followed were nice, knowledgeable, passionate and entertaining. Twitter was enjoyable and was my go to social media source. As it grew it became a great source of breaking news worldwide and now at least here in America it is so common that it’s joined at the hip with traditional media formats. It’s also a bit more than social, and a bit more than news.

Twitter is now the go to place for isms, none of the good kind. Because we now live in this always on always connected world we get wind of all those things that were backroom whispered things or things that may not have even been spoken at all. Isms are now tweeted, re-tweeted then amplified through other media. Now let’s be clear Twitter was never to my knowledge tame, what I am saying is that it’s reached an all new level of nastiness and that’s disappointing.

There is no “putting the genie back in the bottle”. I expect Twitter to continue to change and as that happens I will continue to adapt to it. My own ism, Optimism has me believing that the format is still good at disseminating information and getting people talking. That same optimism has me hoping that when we tweet we can do so without the negative isms.

I’d like to hear from you. Are you a Twitter user? How do you use it? Is the experience enjoyable? Let me know in the comments, on Google+ or Twitter.

 

Photos: MsThorns

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Not a privacy expert, but is there anything we can do about it?

ImageSeveral months ago I came across this article, “Gmailers Beware: Google Says You Have No “Reasonable Expectation” of Privacy” and it got me thinking about this issue of internet privacy and how un-private it is.

As a Gmail user most times I pay no attention to the ads that pop up.  Around the time of this article I recall having an email discussion with some friends about these same ads and how our emails are “read” in order to target the ads.  I laughed because while we were having the conversation I checked my email to see ads were for luxury baby clothes, a European cruise, on-line universities and loans.  The luxury baby clothes was particularly hysterical because I was 46 at the time, so babies were NOT in the future, the rest of them made complete sense based on the mail that was in my box at the time.  Could this info been intercepted just by scanning the headers, sure, the email content? Sure? Do I care? Yes but…

I don’t know why, maybe its cultural, maybe its big brother paranoia but I’ve never felt secure about ANY communication method other than face to face and even that is dicey depending on the content of the conversation.  I always assumed that there is some level of snooping that goes on by the government, having come up in the era of wire-tapping and Watergate and all.  That’s not to say that I’m in favor of the government snooping on its citizens, I am not and that’s a discussion for somewhere else, but I assumed that it happens.  However, the idea of a for-profit company snooping, even if its only by electronic means and it’s only for targeted advertising is kind of unseemly.  What’s even more disturbing is that users of the service supposedly accept snooping when accepting the terms of service. What? I certainly didn’t agree to that and I doubt that a)anyone would agree to it and b)many people even read the terms of service in the first place to figure it out.

What do we do? I think we watch the progress of the original lawsuit.  Links to the source documents can be found in this NYT article As a non-expert, that is all that I can offer.  Is Google within its right to read scan email headers for targeted ads? Do you believe your right to privacy has been violated?  Is there anything an average Jane/Joe can do about it? Please feel free to let me know either way in the comments or consider a guest post on the subject.

Photo(s): MsThorns

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Not a Technology Expert but the Chromebook Eases My Nerves

A few weeks ago I expressed my displeasure and disgust with my Windows machine, particularly its chronic requirement to update at the most inconvenient times.  I’m still using said machine, but for music and photos only.  That may change soon as well.  However for writing I’ve chosen to use a Chromebook.

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Most of what I do is on the web and a lot of it is in the Googlesphere so it made sense for me to go with the Chromebook because I knew everything would work seamlessly, play well with my other devices and it came with ports for me to plug in anything else I may need. The next decisions were size (11″ or 14″) and brand.

The size question was easy.  I wanted something small and light that would fit in just about any bag.  The 11″ filled that requirement.  I was leaning toward the H-P but read (repeatedly) that there had been a problem with the charger and that the HP 11″ had been pulled from retailers.  It has since returned but with my nerves reaching the fraying point and not wanting to wait I went with Samsung.  Their products are familiar and their Chromebook placed better in reviews than the Acer version.

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How I use it
Writing – All blog drafts are written in Evernote most other docs are created on Google Drive (except when working with other Windows/Microsoft users).  Evernote and Drive can be used on all my devices and I was starting a lot of blog posts on my phone anyway so the Chromebook made it more convenient and comfortable.

Photos – I don’t do much with photos on the Chromebook except add them to blog posts. if the photos were taken on a camera I pull and edit (if necessary) on my Windows machine, if there is no editing photos are uploaded from the SD card to Google Drive and pulled into the blog. it’s pretty convenient and simple.

Video – I have watched a few videos on the machine and was underwhelmed.  I don’t know what the resolution is on the Chromebook but the colors are not dynamic.  However for Exercise video I use the Chromebook exclusively.  I workout in the morning and have ZERO time to wait on my Windows machine to do all that syncing and updating.  I open the Chromebook, sign in, click YouTube and start working out.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Drawbacks

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When I first used the keyboard I was a bit annoyed that the delete, end, home and caps lock buttons are non-existent.  That was fixed by Googling the keyboard shortcuts of which my most frequently used is “delete” which is alt+backspace. Additionally using a web machine requires some organization in terms of files and workflow.  I’d been subconsciously prepping for the move to mostly web-based work for a couple of years so it wasn’t a bad transition.  However if you’re heavily dependent on local files you’ll have a bit of work to do.

Recommendations
I highly recommend the Chromebook for writers.  It’s so simple, fast and convenient I really wouldn’t think of writing on anything else especially if the majority of that writing is web-based and you want to spend your time creating instead of waiting.

Do you work mostly on the web or are you a writer?  Do you use a Chromebook to meet those needs or another machine? Let me know in the comments, Twitter or Google+ and let me know your experiences.

Note: I’m not a paid spokesperson for Google or Samsung. Remember, I’m not an expert 🙂

Photos: MsThorns
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Not an OS Expert but Windows Is on My Last Nerve

20131215_221200I live a fairly regimented life. A certain amount of time is allotted for all the things that I have to do throughout the day.  This doesn’t always work to perfection at my 9 to 5 but my expectation once I walk out of the doors of my employer is that I’m the master of my universe.  Part of that universe involves writing and managing my photo and music libraries.  Out of those three things it takes me the longest to do the writing, specifically the editing.  The last thing I want to do, on a tight schedule is wait on Windows.

Scenario one:  After looking for my wireless and syncing all my cloud stuff my three year old HP Pavilion is still pretty zippy and does everything that I want it do, and do it quite well.  However it never fails that when I’m writing that BOOM an “important Windows update” needs to happen that will require me to save my work because my machine will restart in x minutes.  I usually delay it, but to have it even pop up in the first place totally messes with my writing chi.

Scenario two: Posts written and scheduled, photos uploaded, etc. Mission accomplished. I’m tired and ready to shut down but I can’t go to bed.  Windows needs to load updates and says to me  “do not turn off or unplug your computer”. This is problematic because I shut down and pack up everything at night to avoid the mad rush in the morning. Small updates usually finish while I’m prepping for bed, big ones require me to leave it on.  Windows is messing with my bed time.

Scenario three: I just remembered something I need to pull before I leave for the gym/work/wherever in the morning.  I need to  turn on quickly to retrieve said item and hop off.  Windows says no can do, it has to load the previous updates. Windows is now messing with my morning flow which always elicits a couple of F bombs and promises to myself to never try to do something “quick” on my machine in the morning.

Windows has danced around me, teased me, taunted me and is now on my last nerve and I must do something about it. Any ideas on how to get Windows off my nerves?

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Not A Literary Critic Reads – Things Fall Apart

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve read plenty of books over my reading lifetime however I don’t seem to do well on any of the “must read” books of our lifetime nor former lifetimes for that matter.  I just read what I’m interested in.  I came across one of those must read/important books lists recently and one of those books was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I’d seen it reference many times, heard those who’ve read it loved it and it was decided on Google+ that we’d discussed it.  Also Mr Achebe recently passed away. No time like the present to get this in.

 Things fall apart follows the story of Okonkwo a man’s man, warrior and leader in the village of Umuofia. He was the son of Unoka, a lazy man of no means in the eyes of Okonkwo. His disdain for his father (who had already passed) was palpable. So much so that he just assume disassociate himself from him.  Okonkwo rules his children, his women and others entrusted to him with an iron fist as that is the way of real man.  There is no bend in Okonkwo and for that he is respected and consulted with on decisions as it relates to his village.  A staunch upholder of tradition, he’s done all that he’s needed to do to ascend the ranks in his village he’s ever so close but yet so far once he commits an act that sets him back and exiles him from his home village to be with his mother’s family for 7 years.

For a man of action and work, seven years was an eternity.  Though gratefull to be taken in and provided land to make a living he was eager to get back and re-establish himself.Upon his return to his home village he finds a place very different from whence he came due to the arrival of missionaries.  The impact these missionaries had on his village proved to be one in which even he could not overcome.

In Things Fall Apart, Achebe tells a story that is beautiful and frightening at the same time.  The stories told by the women and children, the ceremonies, the colors and the foods rest  alongside the brutality, disregard and disrespect laden upon persons who are considered “lesser”.  Achebe was successful at pulling this reader in and making her leave the book with eyes and mouth wide open.
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Not a Music Critic Benefits from the Robert Glasper Experiment

Thanks to WCLK I learned of the Schemes and Dreams Foundation benefit concert on May 5. The featured performer for the evening was the Robert Glasper Experiment.   At last I would finally get to see Glasper and the group in action after missing the opportunity to do so at Jazz Fest last year.

About the Benefit
Schemes and Dreams “is a 501(c)(3) based in Atlanta, Georgia that teaches our youth the value of nourishing their creative outlet while also creating a path to wellness and personal success. We provide programs for at-risk youth that avidly support them in formulating progressive schemes to follow and become their dreams.” The audience was able to enjoy the fruits of the foundation’s music program in the form of Jazz Future, a group of high school students.

Openers
20130505_195825Jazz Future played a short set featuring a few standards and closed with a lively take on Roy Hargrove’s Strasbourg/St. Denis. Following Jazz Future were the Be-Hip All Stars. A collective of musicians who are all artists on Be-Hip Records. Standout performances from the collective came from Akeem Marable on saxophone and Lester Walker on trumpet. The collective closed with a nice rendition of Donald Byrd’s Alter Ego.

The Closer
20130505_214129The Robert Glasper Experiment entered the stage with Glasper thanking the audience for supporting Black Radio while making jokes about his belly, the Best R&B Album Grammy awarded to the group for the album, and how people think that he has all the artists that appeared on the album in his pocket. What we found out on this evening, was that it doesn’t matter who this group has in its company, it can play with anyone and play anything.

Set List (as I recall it)
All I Need (Radiohead)
Think Twice (Donald Byrd/Erykah Badu)
No Church in the Wild (Jay-Z, K West, F Ocean)
Cherish the Day (Sade)
I think I’m In Love (Unknown title and artist)
Onstage Intermission
Ah Yeah (Glasper/Musiq/C Michele)
Solo
All Matter (Glasper/Bilal)
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
Letter to Hermione (D Bowie/Glasper/Bilal)
Encore -Say Yes (Floetry)

This set list is an excellent representation of what the Robert Glasper Experiment is about, a cross genre musical exploration, with a jazz foundation.  All the songs were at once recognizable, but were interpreted to be more funky, more mellow, more jazzy or more striking than the original.  I loved every single minute of the performance but was particularly enthralled with their interpretations of  No Church in the Wild, Cherish the Day and Smells Like Teen Spirit.

The Solos

Drummer Chris Dave is THE Funky Drummer that James Brown sang about it. Bassist Derrick Hodge has some bass virtuoso chops and is newly signed to Blue Note Records.  Saxophone, Flautist, Vocalist Casey Benjamin can do everything.  I’m not much of a vocoder person but Benjamin is GIFTED, he makes it sound sweet and there was all manner of swooning going on during Ah Yeah and Say Yes.  Then there’s Glasper.

20130505_223904Glasper sat alone on stage under a red light. His playing, I’d like to describe as  waves of sound.  Not crashing waves, but continuous, consistent ones.  These waves are produced on what sounds like five pianos/keyboards at a time.  I did not recognize the songs that he played, what I did recognize was his technical prowess and his touch — waves.

Wrap-up
This Experiment is successful. The versatility, skill and musicianship of the band was on full display as evidenced by the set they played.   The performance was seamless with some playful bits from Glasper interspersed.  What I really enjoyed about this show was that the music was the star.  As great as Glasper and his band mates are, the music they played moved the crowd and at the end of the day what else can you ask for.

If the Robert Glasper Experiment comes to your town, queue up for a ticket if you want to hear and experience something that will stretch your musical sensabilities.
For more information about the Robert Glasper Experiment and upcoming tour dates please visit the website.

(Note: Black Radio 2 is complete, some of the artists on the next release include Brandy, Faith Evans, Jill Scott and Dwele.  Stay tuned.)

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Not a Smartphone Expert, Just Heavily Dependent

RIP Samsung Infuse 9/3/2011-3/28/13
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The dates are a bit misleading, I killed one in July of last year, this was actually the insurance replacement.

The Infuse was my first Android phone and my first GIANT phone. I was a serial killer of Blackberries, and had maxed out but did not kill an iPhone 3G before I got the Infuse, which was purchased out of iPhone frustration.  As a heavy Google user, my inability to get full cooperation between the iPhone which was old and slow and Google products sent me running to the AT&T store. The crafty folks there talked me into an Android, the Infuse.  I thought it was da BOMB for all of two days before it started cutting up. Shutting down, dropping calls, battery dying fast.  I cussed out AT&T repeatedly, went to the factory story to get it fixed, tried to update from Froyo (remember that) to Gingerbread and the update failed, experiencing problems upon problems.   In spite of all that and requiring a replacement, I made it work.

My smartphone is my main computer and my part-time camera. I dog it like every phone that’s ever been in my possession.  This one was particularly nice because of the screen size and the resolution, it takes great pictures.  I’ve written blog posts on it, shared documents from it, sent emails and engaged on my social networks from it, then it died, it stopped taking a charge on a Thursday.

Friday morning I called AT&T about my options and went to a store.  I ended up ordering another insurance replacement (not an Infuse, praise Jesus) but had to wait on it to arrive.  I have a work phone but I don’t take personal calls or texts, nor run any apps on it, so I purchased a GO phone. I’ve had withdrawal ever since.

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First of all this thing has physical keys, no touch screen.  Everything is menus and navigation and what you need at any given moment is difficult to find.  You can browse the web, and there are Twitter and Facebook apps, but they are barely usable.  Multimedia messages come through but they come through in parts and you have to “play” them.  The camera is serviceable but is 2 megapixels.  Over the weekend I ended up using my work phone and the mobile versions of Twitter and G+ which were slow but doable because I just couldn’t take it anymore and am too lazy to be fulling with a laptop for everything.

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In the end this post is really a “first world problem” post.  I don’t need a smartphone, I don’t know that it’s a real need for anyone, it is a convenience, one that lets me stay immediately up to date on everything around me.  GO phones or any variation of them is an excellent low-cost, low-maintenance option and trust me I’m thankful they exist and pray they continue to do so. A couple of good things happened while I was without a smartphone: I got more reading done, actually watched some TV over the weekend and most importantly learned that if need be I can do without.

By the way, I’m keeping the GO phone. I won’t be without back-up ever again.
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