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March 2006
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May 2006

Crowd Goes Wild at Barbie Live

I was very amused by Emily Nunn's review of the Barbie Live in Fairytopia stage show, wherein she writes that the charming audience of young girls is the best part of the show:

"On opening night, the place was packed with prepubescent fairies wearing clip-on wings and a dazzling array of inventive hair ornamentation, many of whom waved their $12 flashlight fairy wands during the songs as if they were at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert, and some of whom shared their gummi bears with absolute strangers, shrieked entertainingly at surprising intervals and ran down the aisles to do the twist, for some reason, during intermission -- all things you surely never see at the Goodman Theatre."

"Their joie de vivre was matched only by their good manners, which is to say: They went to the ladies room before the curtain, as instructed, rather than waiting until we were all halfway through the first act and causing a commotion. God forbid."

When you gotta go...

If you're in Chicago and longing for a fun night out, consider seeing Urinetown: The Musical. It's playing at the Mercury Theatre and the show is not only well-staged, it's really quite fun. The coziness of the Mercury Theatre really pulls you into the story and it's clear that the cast is enjoying themselves, which makes for an infectious spirit. I'm not really that fond of musicals, to be honest, but this one worked well for me. As a bonus, because it's playing in the Lakeview neighborhood and not downtown, the ticket prices are about half the cost you'd expect, parking is either free or very reasonable, and the nearby restaurants are busy but not ridiculously packed with patrons. Fun, easy, and fairly priced. What more could you ask for?

A Watchful Eye on Aging Parents

Demographers tell us that the US is soon to experience a sharp increase in the elderly population, to occur as the baby boomers begin to age. Perhaps that explains the growing interest in using home automation technology to improve the safety of, and sometime monitor, old folks. It's a common topic in the HA community and I get a fair amount of email about it, too.

That's why Kirsten Scharnberg's article Keeping Track of Dad in the April 9, 2006 issue of the Chicago Tribune really caught my eye. It gives a detailed look at a Oregon care facility that has embraced monitoring technology. Each resident is "tagged" so their movements and interactions with staff and other residents are available for review, their beds have built-in scales, and you can even see the room temperature of their apartments.

The article is well-worth reading, even if you have to register to see it, if this is a topic you're interested in. There's little doubt this center is ahead of the curve but the general idea will likely catch on elsewhere. One very nice benefit, which the center deserves credit for implementing, is that the technology doesn't just allow you to monitor the residents, you also get to see how quickly staff responds when they're called to assist, as well as exactly who responded so you can follow up with them later if you have questions about how your loved one is faring.

As I mentioned, I often get email about this topic thanks to "Hack #81 - Instill Peace of Mind for the Elderly" in Smart Home Hacks. In contrast to most of the readers that I hear from, people writing about this topic are likely to have little interest in home automation per se, they're just looking for something--anything--that might make an uncomfortable situation easier. There are several ideas in the book that can be adapted for this purpose but so far I've found that an emergency dialer is a popular method for adding a simple layer of technology to an existing home; it doesn't require a computer or anything fancy and it provides a way to signal when help is needed.

A Five Year Project

Levenger, one of my favorite stores, came out with a Five Year Journal quite a while ago and it really caught my attention. It's a page-per-day journal that allows you to see the same day across a five year span. In other words, there's room enough to write 2-3 sentences per year, and that's it, but you can easily glance up the page and see exactly what you wrote on the same day in the past.

I found it appealing because I'm not really a journaler (yes, I know that's not a word), but I am a minimalist, and the challenge of summing up an entire day in so little room seemed like a fun writing challenge. Additionally, it seemed perfect for obtaining perspective on life's progress over the years. And, I must add, not having to face a blank page, but just a few empty lines, seemed like less work than a traditional journal.

But, I didn't much like the price of the journal so I never ordered one. I did try my hand at the same thing using software, even going so far as to write an application that borrowed the same structure as the Levenger journal, but after about six months I lost interest and stopped updating it. One reason is that writing the entry using a computer, after an entire day of other writing using a computer, didn't hold much appeal. Another factor is that I hadn't yet put into place a method of remembering to complete regularly occurring, yet flexible, tasks.

About two months ago I was at the Levenger store in Marshall Field's and found that the Five Year Journals are on sale. I also got to see first-hand the quality of the binding and fine paper. I couldn't resist, I bought one, and so far I've been good about keeping it updated. There's something about sitting down for a few minutes at the end of the day, composing a sentence or two in my mind, then writing it down longhand that appeals to me; something I never felt with my faux computer-based version.

123456 coming soon

My friend Joe pointed out that a once-every-thousand-years moment will be occurring later this week. Just after one in the morning on Wednesday the date and time will be:

01:02:03 04/05/06

Seems like a good occasion to stay up and celebrate. Certainly more unique than the regularly occurring new years and eclipses. Cheers!