And Sometimes the Future is Bradbury & Orwell

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If you’ve read my blog before, then you know I love living in the future. I love the novel ease of a new bit of technology; I love having our corner of the universe at my fingertips. That’s not a metaphor either; if I want, I can visit Pluto:

Or see a galaxy more than 13 billion light years away:

It’s magnificent. Truly magnificent.

Until it isn’t.

With every new bit of technology, it seems we lose a bit of of our privacy. It’s not a de facto requirement, either, that we should. The reality is that the data collected by the companies who make the technology is the real goldmine.

Take those fun little app games. Ever consider the permissions they require? Or what the companies do with all that data they can mine from your phone?

Odds are, they’re selling it.

Which brings me to my real gripe. My productivity was greatly curtailed yesterday when I agreed to what turned out to be a massive Windows update. And now, sitting on the bottom left of my screen, someone named Cortana has invited herself into my home.

With Cortana, the computer’s microphone is always turned on. ALWAYS. AL. WAYS. Even on your login screen (though I believe you can turn that “feature” off). Cortana watches and records everything you do on your computer, ostensibly to improve her results.

Ostensibly.

I think I have her off right now, but I really can’t be sure she’s not still listening. She controls the microphone. Not me.

But beyond something that could be in 1984 or Fahrenheit 451, it seems like a collection of data like never before, and that’s considering Google, who knows what the next question on my mind is going to be after I’ve typed one in. Google, who knows where I’ve been and asks me creepy questions about it, like a stalkery ex who wants you to know he knows.

But Google doesn’t know when I start typing and stop typing in my word processing program, coincidentally also from Microsoft. It doesn’t know the content of my spreadsheets. It doesn’t know if I’m playing a game on my PC, or using photo editing software, or watching TV while I work on the computer.

Cortana would know. She’d be able to hear what the show was, too. The operating system sees all.

Take, for example, this reassuring line from the privacy agreement:

“However, we do not use what you say in email, chat, video calls or voice mail, or your documents, photos or other personal files to target ads to you.”

Note Microsoft isn’t saying that they don’t collect this data. They are tacitly admitting that they do. They are only saying that they don’t use it for advertising.

How very generous.

Our privacy could easily be assured, even with the use of this kind of technology. The data collected, for example, could just stay local and never be reported to Microsoft.

But that’s not how it works. Nope, we are simply money-generating units in the new future machine.

In or near Chicago in October? Come see “Me Inside Me Presents: Witch, Please,” on October 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Donny’s Skybox Theater at 7 pm. Tickets available at SecondCity.com.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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A Spider for a Role Model

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20160921_103851There is an enormous spider outside my window. It’s just building a web, as though building a web outside my window is the most natural thing in the world to do. It’s undeterred by the wind or the height or the fact that it finds itself smack-dab in the middle of a vibrating metropolis.

It’s just building a web.

I wish I had that kind of singular focus. Alas.

Last night I volunteered to create yet another prop. Why? Don’t ask me, I have no idea. But one of our actors is going to have to bite a blood capsule. A writer and I did some blood experiments, and apparently the pre-made capsules taste horrendous.

Horrendous.

So I wanted to make him some capsules that won’t make the rest of the show so unpleasant for him. Homemade blood is extremely easy to make.

Maybe I wanted to be a mad scientist. Just a tad.

Monday I talked about my magpie focus, and over the last few days, it really hasn’t abated. One task at a time. It’s so tough to take on one task at a time.

Unless you’re a spider.

In or near Chicago in October? Come see “Me Inside Me Presents: Witch, Please,” on October 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Donny’s Skybox Theater at 7 pm. Tickets available at SecondCity.com.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

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Monday Morning Magpies

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Rubens Peale [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Rubens Peale [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve got a little case of the Monday Morning Magpies. Well, maybe not a little one. Maybe kind of a big one.

What are those, you say, hypothetical reader? They sound like a minor-league baseball team, or maybe an indoor soccer league?

Why thank you for thinking I’d be so sporty, hypothetical reader! You always know the right thing to say. But no, not that at all.

My eyes are falling on everything and anything shiny. Oh look! An email! Oh look! A tweet! Oh look! Another tweet! That’s more tweets!

You get the idea.

I meant to use my go-to grounding technique, the humble to-do list, but something grabbed my attention before I grabbed the pad and pen. I’m pretty sure it was coffee, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

Didn’t quite catch that, hypothetical reader? Why not do it now? Because right now I’m blogging. See? The blogging? Of the blog?

In the genius words of a genius writer, so it goes.

Often this kind of distractibility precedes a spate of creativity. I think it’s my brain’s way of preparing to catch the ideas as they scatter, darting in all directions to collect them like some kind of video game. It’s a signal to get the net ready, because when they go, they go.

It’s times like these that my mind forges strange connections, stockpiles “what ifs.” That harvest moon isn’t only for crops.

I think the writing season has begun.

In or near Chicago in October? Come see “Me Inside Me Presents: Witch, Please,” on October 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Donny’s Skybox Theater at 7 pm. Tickets available at SecondCity.com.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

My Super Secret Vacation Location!

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Earlier this week, I mentioned my upcoming trip, and I’m so excited about it, I can’t hold it in anymore. So here’s a fun little game. It’s what these three things have in common (and Jon, Lorinda and Kristin, if you guys are reading this post, no fair guessing, you already know…though I’m going to tell everyone in a second anyway, so I guess they won’t hear you if you call it out).

So this guy:

and this one:

and this author:

What could it be? WHAT COULD IT BE???

Are you ready for the answer?

Yes?

OK, here it comes!

If you keep scrolling you will find out that I am heading to…

The home of Diego the Tortoise, host of the most famous finches in history and setting for one of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novels! With me? I’m going to the:

I KNOW!!! Believe me, I KNOW!! I’m still in shock that it’s happening, though it’s been set for a while. Can you imagine the photos?

You won’t have to. Because I will share them with you. I am not a religious person, but I imagine the feeling a religious person gets when journeying to her/his holy site is similar to the feeling of a scientific person having the opportunity to visit what could be considered the birthplace of the theory of evolution.

It’s far more adventure than I’m used to, but I think it’s just the kind of adventure I need. And I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

n or near Chicago in October? Come see “Me Inside Me Presents: Witch, Please,” on October 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Donny’s Skybox Theater at 7 pm. Tickets available at SecondCity.com.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

TV Talk: Binge It! Humans

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OK, sci-fi TV buddies, I’ve been going through some serious withdrawal since the gripping, “Orphan Black,” “12 Monkeys” and fantasy fav, “Grimm” fluttered away to hiatus. And don’t even get me started on our year-long time-out from “Doctor Who.”

So, thumbing through my various watch lists, I came across “Humans.” Wow.

A species of my absolute favorite British-American hybrid, “Humans” explores what happens if we have truly human-like artificial intelligence. I’ve got to wonder, given all the science-fiction writers who’ve warned of what will come, why we continue to pursue it, but hey, some people never read to the end.

Unlike much American-based sci-fi, British science-fiction isn’t about explosions and bullets and chases, whether in space or in the future or in the past or on the way from the past into the future. British shows tend to explore the cultural questions, the impact on relationships, the way technology shapes our interaction with the world.

There’s a deeply reflective quality to it, both in the examination of issues and in the sense that it — like all good sci-fi — mirrors us back to us through a more palatable filter.

“Humans” accomplishes all of these things while still remaining captivating television. It’s quick, the plotting inevitable yet not predicable, and the acting is phenomenal.

It’s also got Jen (Katherine Parkinson) from “The IT Crowd,” so, I mean, there’s that. And she’s amazing.

“Humans” airs on AMC in the US and Channel 4 in the UK, and will be released in the UK first; it’s coming back to the US some time in 2017. Plenty of time to catch up! It’s available to stream from Amazon Prime, or directly from AMC, though you’ll need your cable provider info.

In or near Chicago in October? Come see “Me Inside Me Presents: Witch, Please,” on October 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Donny’s Skybox Theater at 7 pm. Tickets available atSecondCity.com.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

Reveal! Sketch Comedy Show Title and Image!

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Well I promised you more on the sketch comedy show for which I’ve been fiendishly making props, and here it is! Me Inside Me’s new show is called “Witch, Please,” and will be running at Donny’s Skybox Theater at the Second City training center in October!

And we’re really excited about this one.

We’ve got our original cast from our first show, and I have to tell you, my co-writers are even funnier than ever, which you wouldn’t think was possible, but there you have it.

As always, there will be booze.

This show is fast-paced, really varied, and this time around, we’re doing music again. And let’s not forget about the props. Obviously the whole show is about the props.

Though the most impressive of the props is being fabricated by someone else, and that sketch alone should be worth the price of admission!

Was that all vague enough for you? Good, then come see the show!

In or near Chicago in October? Come see “Me Inside Me Presents: Witch, Please,” on October 1, 8, 22 and 29 at Donny’s Skybox Theater at 7 pm. Tickets available at SecondCity.com.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

 

 

Photo Time! Brookfield Zoo

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img_4646This weekend, I paid a visit to Chicagoland’s other zoo: Brookfield Zoo. About 4 times the size of Lincoln Park Zoo, it’s tucked away in the suburb of Brookfield, which is easily accessible, and when I say “easily accessible,” I mean you can get there, but you’re going to sit in traffic, even on a Saturday.

I got pictures, but none that seriously wowed me. I also learned that part of the issue I’ve had since getting my gorgeous new camera is that my SD card is too slow, so I’m not getting the full benefit of the burst. That will be remedied before I go on my trip, which I’ll be talking about later on in the week.

Though it was a lovely day, and the zoo not outrageously crowded, there was just something flatter to me about Brookfield Zoo. Sheds were faded with the paint peeling; the abundant gift shops felt halfhearted and uninspired. The light inside the animal houses was also pretty dim.

You might, if you read regularly, know my concerns about zoos, but I’ll say this: the animals all looked like they were plush versions of themselves, like a menagerie of children’s toys brought to life. Even the rhino seemed like he’d been plucked from the shelf.

Albeit a very large shelf.

Anyway, you’re not here for the words, you want to see some photos, so here we go!

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Condors. Huge doesn’t begin to describe them.

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This one knew what it was doing, and showed off its wingspan. ENORMOUS.

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People actually fed these small monkeys, who were not fenced off from us at all. Don’t feed the animals!

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Speaking of huge, this bison was shockingly large. And people are approaching them at Yellowstone?! UHHH…

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I mean don’t they look like you could have picked them up at the gift shop?

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Why yes, that IS a dead mouse these two American Bald Eagles are about to enjoy.

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I think this grizzly is soon to be featured in a shampoo commercial.

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Even the camel looked fluffy. Though she wasn’t named Alexander Camelton, like the new baby camel at Lincoln Park.

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Please go back to the mouse, eagle.

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There were two baby gorillas, but the mom of the little one did not like pictures.

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