Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Song: Blue (Monkey Butt)

It's weird what sorts of things pop up when I play around with the many sounds and options in GarageBand on the iPod Touch or iPad. Often an instrument sound, automatic pattern, and rhythm will lead to a new song. This new one sounded bluesy (not surprising since the progression is like Em Bm C F#dim), so I started using the word "blue," and before long I had a demo. Although most of the things I mention are not actually blue, monkey butts sometimes are. So there. Like much of life, this song is something of a joke, but not completely.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Music in Space

This video was posted by NASA about a year ago, but I somehow just stumbled on it. Among many other things, astronaut Cady Coleman is a flute player, and when she was on the International Space Station last year, she carried several flutes with her, including one belonging to Ian Anderson (best known as the leader of Jethro Tull). Last April, as a tribute to Yuri Gagarin on the 50th anniversary of his first spaceflight, Cady performed a flute duet with Anderson - she on the ISS, he on the ground. The song was a version of Anderson's "Bouree" which is in turn an adaptation of a Bach piece.

I really like Cady Coleman. She is one of the few astronauts I've had a chance to meet. She visited my space flight simulator demo booth at a Space Expo at the New England Air Museum a few years ago, and we spoke for a few minutes about educational outreach. She struck me as incredibly down-to-Earth (when she's not in space). I didn't realize at the time that she is also a musician.

Friday, April 06, 2012

iPad Rationalization

I swear, it wasn't my fault! I was simply helping to configure an iPad 2 bought for my mother-in-law. I never expected to fall in love (who am I kidding - of course I did). For the few decades that the iPad has been available (allegedly only two years), I've thought about getting one, but I managed to convince myself that it was really just an overgrown iPod Touch, which I have been using for centuries (since fall 2008). Pretty much runs all the same apps, right? Besides, I travel a lot, and the iPod Touch is so handily pocket-sized, while the iPad is nearly laptop size, right? Another thing to lug around and keep charged. Who needs it!

Well after I spent a week or so setting up that iPad 2, I could feel my anti-iPad rationalizations cracking under the strain of a nearly life-size HUD on my simulated space shuttle and the large instrument and control interfaces in GarageBand (yes, I was testing out a few apps my mother-in-law wouldn't need). I tried out a few magazines like WIRED, Newsweek, National Geographic, and Discover Magazine, and they were definitely much more enjoyable than on the pathetically tiny screen of the iPod Touch.  Mainstream apps like web browsing, email, YouTube, and the like are easier to use too. FaceTime and Skype are wonderful on a face-size screen. My willpower was crumbling...

Apple delivered the final blow with the "new iPad" ("3G") announcement - super-high-res screen, faster graphics processors, and a better camera for the same price points as the iPad 2 (though they did drop the price of some iPad 2 models). I was sold. So I gave in and ordered one (wifi only) - telling my wife that this would be a family iPad, not my iPad. I can share (sometimes). I promised I would still use the iPod Touch for travel. And so far I have not taken the iPad on a trip (so far haven't taken a trip...).

The new iPad is really great. Many apps have already issued updates to take advantage of the 2048x1536 retina display, including F-SIM Shuttle (above). Gorgeous rendering of my still less-than-perfect landings. Music creation apps are wonderful on the larger screen. Apple's free movie trailer app was upgraded and the HD previews are amazing. One surprising fave is the NPR Music app (also free). With more room for interface controls and graphics, and plenty of video, it makes it a pleasure to explore new music. I really appreciate that many of the apps I had bought for the iPod Touch are "universal" apps that also work great on the iPad. I've only bought a couple of "HD" apps specialized for the iPad.

Who knew that apple flavored kool-aid could be so tasty?

Too Cool: Driven to Fly!

This is incredibly cool (7 minute video here). A flying car! The Terrafugia Transition® is more like a drivable airplane. It's very light for an airplane or a car, something like a two-seat smart car with wings. It's considered a Light Sport Aircraft.

Terrafugia's FAQ has some useful info including this comment:
The Transition also reduces the cost of ownership of an airplane by burning automotive gasoline, parking in your garage at home instead of renting a hangar, and nearly eliminating ground transportation costs.
Good points! So OK, I have a private pilot's license and a two-car garage that's within a 25 minute drive of at least three airports. I would love to have one. But aside from gasoline, hangar charges, and various insurance issues, a key factor in "cost of ownership" is the price - $279,000. Maybe not this year.