Graturday (Extended Get Up and Go Mix)

I didn’t post a Graturday post this Saturday because I was busy having an absolutely smashing weekend. I have a lot to be thankful for, so I’m going to weave it into this tale of my adventure in…WICHITA, KS!

But first, let’s go back a few years. Through my online friend Bonnie Burton, I found out that Jane Wiedlin, guitarist, back-up singer and songwriter for the Go-Go’s, was on Twitter and was a massive science fiction nerd. I immediately started following her. Jane tweeted about Jon Stewart being her “#imaginaryboyfriend” and said she wanted to get that hashtag really going on Twitter. I tweeted at her, “Would you be my #imaginarygirlfriend?”, and much to my amazement, she replied with, “Yes! I’d be honored!” This began an exchange on Twitter in which she would often refer to me as her “imaginary boyfriend” (or “IBF”). Meanwhile, back in 1983, 13-year-old Josh was utterly astonished at how this could be happening.

Jane was a guest at the 2010 Planet Comicon in Kansas City, promoting her (sadly short-lived) comic, Lady Robotika. The first day of the con, I nervously walked up to her booth, fully expecting that she wouldn’t remember who I was at first. (Surely she gets a lot of people tweeting at her, so why would she remember li’l ol’ me?) I stood in front of her and said, “Hey, it’s my imaginary girlfriend!” She smiled and said, “Josh!”, then came out from behind the table, gave me a hug, and posed for a photo with me. She insisted Berkie and I stay and chat with her for a bit and asked us to come to her panel the next day. Which we did. In the middle of the panel, she saw me sitting in the middle of the second row, stopped what she was saying, waved to me and said, “Hi. Josh!” She then informed the entire room that I was her Twitter friend. I blushed. Berkie tweeted about me being a rockstar.

Since then, Jane and I have continued to tweet to each other, usually about nerdy stuff like Star Wars or Star Trek, sometimes about more serious stuff. I have been very grateful for Twitter for giving me the chance to interact with someone who I consider a major star, but on a level where we’re both equals, just goofy nerds becoming friends.

A couple of weeks ago, I found out the Go-Go’s would be starting their new tour with a show on the last night of the Wichita River Festival. What with it being so close, I absolutely had to go. I never gotten to see the band perform when I was younger, and their recent tours haven’t taken them anywhere particularly close and affordable. I sent Jane a direct message on Twitter to let her know I was going, and she said, “I’ll get you some after-show backstage passes so I can say hi!” Not “so you can meet the band and bask in our glory” but “so I can say hi.” I asked 13-year-old Josh how he felt about that, and he said, “ASKJMFTHPFRTLN!!”

On Saturday morning, my daughter and I lazed around the house for a bit before getting in the car and driving down to Wichita. (Sadly, Berkie couldn’t go, due to work and other commitments.) I’m very grateful I had Morgan with me, because although she’s a 16-year-old, she’s very calm and easy-going. When we got lost in Wichita trying to find our motel (thank you, Google Maps!), Morgan merely shrugged and said we’d find our way eventually. It helped that she was using her smartphone to navigate. She makes an excellent co-pilot. I’m also very grateful for pharmaceuticals, because when we left for Wichita, I was rocking a powerful, stabbing headache and was feeling anxious about that night’s plans. I loaded up on decongestants, ibuprofen, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds and was feeling much better by the time we reached Wichita.

When we finally found our motel and got checked in, I pulled out my laptop, got online, and found a message from Jane that the plans had changed. “Meet us at our hotel, in the lobby or bar, after the show.” Ummmm, OK? Like…this is my life? Meeting the guitarist from one of the biggest bands in the ’80s at her hotel after a show? It seemed so unreal.

Morgan and I got to the River Festival as Me Like Bees were finishing their set as part of the “Go-Go’s Beach Party.” (I’d never heard of Me Like Bees before, but they were quite good.) It was starting to lightly rain, but I didn’t think much of it until a woman came on stage and announced that a thunderstorm was heading in from the west and should be hitting the area in around 15 minutes. They didn’t consider the weather safe for performing or spectating, so they were asking everyone to head inside the convention center to wait out the storm. Despite this setback, the show did go on, albeit about an hour and a half later than scheduled, with rain still coming down at the beginning of the show.

It was their first show of their tour, the weather was pretty miserable, but the Go-Go’s put on a hell of a show. Yes, they played all of their big hits–“Get Up and Go,” “Vacation,” “Head Over Heels,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and “We Got the Beat,” which they mashed up with Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Nite”–as well as classic songs from their early albums, Belinda’s “Mad About You” (my favorite of her solo songs), the song Jane sang with Sparks, “Cool Places” (with Belinda singing Russell Mael’s part), and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” Jane wore a classic Star Trek dress (blue, which maybe makes her Nurse Christine Chapel?), further endearing her to me. Belinda commanded the stage effortlessly; she just radiates this sort of zen confidence. It was also a lot of fun to see the way Belinda and Jane interacted with each other on stage. There seems to be a lot of love and respect there. Meanwhile, Charlotte, Gina, and their new bassist (whose name I don’t know) solidly rocked out for the entire show. (If you’ve never seen her on drums, Gina Schock is a fucking powerhouse. Seriously.) By the end of the show, I was all pumped up on rock and roll, bouncing down the streets of Wichita.

Morgan and I walked to the hotel where the band was staying and found Jane hanging out with members of her boyfriend’s extended family who live in the area. She jumped up and greeted me with a hug and a “How are ya, buddy?” She was very nice to Morgan and introduced us to her other guests (saying proudly, “Josh and I met on the internet!). We chatted about the show, then Jane posed for picture with everyone. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Josh was screaming, “THERE IS NO WAY THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!” But Jane is so sweet and funny and modest, it all felt completely natural to be hanging out with her. Thank you, internet, for making this experience possible!

The next morning, Morgan and I hit The Donut Whole to get some breakfast (and tasty treats to bring back to Berkie). The Donut Whole is ZOMFG AMAZING! I would spend so much time there, drinking coffee and eating donuts, if I lived in Wichita. It’s probably best for my wallet and waistline that I don’t. But damn, their donuts are tasty! Thank you, Donut Whole!

I’m so grateful to everything and everyone who contributed to this fantastic weekend I had! What a wacky, wonderful, nerdy world I live in!

Ad Astra per Aspera

I generally think of myself as an optimist. Yes, there’s a lot of bad in the world. Yes, a lot of people do terrible things out of fear, anger, uncertainty, selfishness. But I believe humans are capable of so much greatness. I look up at the night sky and think we are capable of moving out into the stars. And I don’t only think we’re capable of doing it, I think it’s imperative that we do.

I’d write about why I think it’s so important, but honestly, Christopher Quarry has already said so in ways that are at least as good as I would (and probably better). So go read “To infinity and beyond” right now. Join Christopher and me in asking “What next?” instead of “What now?”. Let’s move forward. Ever forward.

Open Source Angst

As many of you may already know, I use Ubuntu as my primary operating system. I’ve been using it for about 6 and a half years, and I’ve been using other Linux operating systems since 2002. Linux, being a free, open source solution for computers, fits with my philosophy of technology and software. I also like the way Ubuntu works and the way Gnome looks and feels. I love how I can customize my computer to a really fine degree in so many ways.

But there’s a flip side to using Linux. Desktops and laptops are not generally manufactured for Linux use, so not all of the hardware will always work quite right with it. (The sound on my laptop has vanished, reappeared and vanished again with the regular Ubuntu updates. I’ve no idea why.) It’s easy to ask questions on various internet forums to get answers, but those answers are not always easy to implement if you’re not at least a semi-serious coder. And sometimes, there are no good answers to be found. (When the sound on my laptop first disappeared, I posted on the Ubuntu forums for help. No one was able to figure out why my sound wasn’t working and no offered solutions fixed the problem.) There are a number of free, open source games available for Linux, but playing the commercially available games my friends are often playing is generally problematic. There are other software programs and apps that I would love to use which aren’t available for or usable with Linux.

As much as I love using Linux, I’m starting to think that a more commercial OS would actually suit my purposes a bit more. It makes me sad to think that. I feel like I’m betraying my own principles. And I know there’s no OS that doesn’t have problems and frustrations. But I’m not willing to put in all of the work needed to keep Ubuntu running smoothly on my laptop and I’m tired of missing out on some of the games and apps I can’t use on my laptop.

I’m not completely sure if I’ll go over to the commercial OS dark side…but I’m thinking pretty seriously about it.

After the Blackout

The best results I’ve seen of yesterday’s “internet blackout” to protest SOPA and PIPA? The Oatmeal’s brilliant anti-SOPA/PIPA animation (featuring a koala and a goat having sexy times) got mainstream news coverage and it appears that the blackout actually had a positive effect in turning more people (including politicians) against SOPA and PIPA.

Of course, correlation does not equal causation, so to the best of my knowledge, we can’t definitively say the blackout was successful. But all in all, I still think it was worth doing.

If we do at least accept the possibility that the blackout helped turn the tide against SOPA and PIPA, do I think my blog had a hand in that? Nope. I’ve seen my blog’s stats and there’s no way I could bring about any kind of serious change here. So why did I do it?

I was raised to never cross a picket line and to always honk your car horn when driving past a worker’s strike, to show solidarity for the strikers. I blacked out my site for the same reason: to help show my solidarity for the main strikers (Wikipedia, Google, Reddit, etc). I also did it as a personal reminder to myself to take further action, like contacting my representatives and telling them why I think it’s important for them to vote against SOPA and PIPA.

It’s also important to keep contacting your reps and campaigning against SOPA and PIPA. Who knows how much good that will do? The MPAA and RIAA have far more money and power than the rest of us. But some representatives have already reversed their support, so I’m optimistic enough to think more change is possible.

This wasn’t a one-day thing. The fight continues. Let’s keep going and do what we can.

The Fire This Time

My place of work recently ordered some new e-readers and tablets for staff to use. I had the opportunity to take a Kindle Fire home for the weekend to play around with it and see how it works. After a couple of days using it, here are my impressions.

As an e-reader, it’s pretty sweet. It’s got a nice interface with really fast, accurate touch response. As long as backlit reading doesn’t bother you, e-books and PDFs look really nice and crisp. The 7″ size is comfortable and handy, and with a case on it, it feels like you’re carrying a book or Moleskine journal around, which I like a lot. I was disappointed when calibre wouldn’t recognize it, although I assume it’s because the Fire is so new. On the other hand, it was easy to connect the Fire to my laptop through a USB cord and transfer e-books and PDFs from my laptop to the Fire.

But the Fire isn’t just being promoted as an e-reader, it’s Amazon’s entry into the tablet field, and as a tablet, it falls short of what I would want. There’s no camera, for one thing. Also, while it’s an Android tablet, Amazon does it’s level best to push you to the Amazon App Store instead of the Android App Store. I was only able to get to the Android App store by going through the web browser, but when I tried to search the Android App Store, the Fire would instead search the Amazon App Store. Obvious it’s an Amazon product, so it’s no surprise they want you to use the Amazon App Store, but…it’s still frustrating for what’s essentially an Android tablet. The web browser, Silk, isn’t bad. It’s no Dolphin (or Chrome or Firefox), but it’s perfectly serviceable.

If you want an amped-up e-reader, I think the Kindle Fire is pretty cool. But as a fully functioning tablet, it think it leaves a lot to be desired.

Don’t Call on Me

As much as I love to talk, I really don’t like talking on the phone. There are a few people I like to chat with, but for the most part, I prefer getting emails and texts to phone calls. Part of it is because I generally have some social anxiety when calling someone or answering the phone. Part of it is because (and this is something I’ve never told anyone), for one reason or another, I often have a hard time hearing clearly when on the phone, and it gets frustrating constantly having to ask people to repeat themselves. Part of it is because I rarely remember dates, times and addresses if told them verbally–I need to see them in writing.

I was pulling up an app on my smartphone the other day and got annoyed when a phone call started coming through, interrupting what I was doing on my phone. I realized that more often than not, I wish my smartphone wasn’t a phone, just a handy little computer I could easily use wherever I am. Now I’m contemplating scaling down to the cheapest flip phone I can get and carrying a tablet around with me. I would only give my phone number out to businesses and organizations who require you to have a phone number for contact. And to be honest, I’d probably never answer my phone. Well, almost never.