Kvetching: #UX design

20180114_232231.jpg This morning, I went on a twitter long form kvetch due to a tech fail this weekend. I’m a mom, in addition to being a reader I’m raising one. The picture at left is my eldest, laying in her bed reading on her kindle with a booklight clipped to her pillow. Her brother is curled up in his bed, also with a Kindle — but this one is a Fire and he’s watching a movie. Like kids born this century, they took to electronics as a method of entertainment as naturally as the Legos scattered all over my living room floor and Transformers crashing into Hot Wheels while the Galactic Heroes stormtroopers fight off Voltron. They’ve learned letters with Endless Alphabet, watched videos, built robots, driven BB-8 around the living room, practiced writing and drawing without having to toss endless pieces of paper, learned about chemical elements and generally had fun.

Where we haven’t been raising Millennial kids is in terms of television. Until 2014, we had a CRT television, then we upgraded our component system with a new receiver, new BluRay player, new flat panel television and all run by our existing Logitech Harmony remote. Now, we’re thinking of cutting the cord. We figure, with both in school now is a great time to cut expenses. We’ve got Netflix, we’ve got Amazon Prime…we just need a few things until Disney comes out with their own streaming service to solve our need for occasional live television.

We watch mainly 6 channels: Disney, AMC, TNT, BBC America, and two local networks. Most providers for streaming offer the “local” channels without worry and almost everyone offers Disney. The rest (TNT, BBC America, AMC) are being debated based on what the show is and how much of a pain the network site is to get the show being missed.  For our first test, we try Hulu TV and YouTube TV.

Hulu we can stream via our BluRay, but not the live stuff. YouTubeTV is only available via Chromecast or newer televisions. The Chromecast is an easy $35 purchase to try out and I have no problem returning if this week fails miserably.

It fails. Mostly because I’m unwilling to use a tablet/smart phone as a remote. As you can see, we have no problem with technology in the house. That’s our charging station. It holds our Wii U controller and changing pad for the normal wii-motes, a spot to charge Android and Apple phones and watches, cords for the two Android tablets, the iPad mini, the Kindle Fire and the two reading Kindles as well as a drop zone for headphones, the BB-8 Sphero and Sphero Mini. Usually the problem is finding something that has a charge and the activity you want.

I thought that the Chromecast would look and feel like my BluRay or television menus — where I can use up/down left/right and select buttons to navigate between apps. From there, I’d be able to get to YouTube TV or Sling or Hulu or whatever — even Netflix if we’re so inclined. Nope. Not even a little bit.

I can turn Chromecast on via the Harmony remote. I get a gorgeous painting or picture from Getty Images to fill my television. That’s where I stop being able to use a physical remote. You want YouTubeTV? Great, get your phone, launch the YouTubeTV app and hit the cast button. You want to pause the show you’re watching? make sure you didn’t put it down on the charger since you’ll need it to pause / change channels / start a different show / rewind / fast forward over commercials. Not an actual remote, and not a different device. So if my husband was to turn on Disney channel with the YouTubeTV app on his phone after dinner while I’m doing dishes (he cooks, I clean), and then went to work, well…tough.

Help Desk guy: most people have a cheap tablet that they leave with the television.

me: why would I want to do that? I have a cheap tablet but we’re busy using it as a tablet and I have a remote for this purpose.

Help Desk guy: well, you could just tell your Google Home device to pause the tv.

me: the Google Home device I don’t have?

Help Desk guy: you could get one.

me: so you want me to buy a voice activated thing to turn on my entire system in a multi-step process in order to be able to pause/play/change channels later with one action instead of developing something that works with a remote?

Help Desk guy: …huh.

Yeah, let’s think about that. I love technology, it has amazing uses. But part of what drives voice activation is ease of use. If I have developed a routine on a device that can be voice activated it should be easy…. like right now, my 4yo can say “Alexa, turn on tv” and the device accesses a skill for Logitech’s Harmony remote which runs the routine to: turn on my receiver and set to HDMI in 2 and out 1, the television on and the DVR on and then set to channel 289. We could change that to be a routine that turns on the receiver for HDMI in 4 (chromecast) and out 1, the television on and then he’d get a pretty picture with the time and temperature. There’s no way, that we’ve discovered, to then turn on YouTube TV or any of the other available chromecast apps and put on a specific channel. To do this, we’d need to acquire another home AI device, teach the kids a new trigger phrase, and then the appropriate new clue words “cast xxx app to Disney” — something we can do with one button or one normal sound command right now.

What triggered all this? My little man stumbled downstairs this morning, realized he as chilly and after saying good morning to me asked our Amazon Echo for the weather tomorrow. He hasn’t figured out yet that he needs to ask for now or today instead since we usually ask at night to pick out clothes for the next day. Our Alexa responded to his request with the weather in Mobile, Alabama. We’re in North Carolina.

People in #UX…I’m not asking you design a thing to make it so a 4yo can watch television without adult interaction. I’m wondering how you answer an adult with a speech problem…or my mother who wants to turn on the news while she’s here…or someone who just wants to leave her phone on a charger across the room and pause the television to get another cup of tea.


TBR&R: Victorian Rebels (series)

The latest offering of Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series dropped this week with The Scot Beds His Wife.

The Victorian Rebels series has had a hallmark of men built in the deepest, darkest parts of the Newgate prison and underworlds of London exacting revenge for the harms done to themselves and those they love. Their methods can be violent, brutal and they don’t take no for an answer. In the pursuit of righting the wrongs done by the powerful, they have become the power in the back alleys and the Highlands.

This is a series that began dark with the forging of an anti-hero in the accidental murder of a priest while protecting his sworn love. In trying to keep her safe, he is sent to the hell that is Newgate and left there to rot by his biological father. (The Highwayman) In this hell, he makes aligns himself with the deadliest assassin for hire (The Hunter) and these two later rule London with an iron grip. These men are strong enough to withstand the society that shapes them. Lucky for the reader, these men also meet their match in the women they are determined to protect.

These books are dark. They fit the times, and the darkness in these heroes. To give you an idea, here’s how it breaks down:

The Highwayman: murder an entire family except for the girl who will be your forced bride, child molestation by a priest and a complicit (?) nun

The Hunter: borrowing Herod’s approach to dealing with unwanted children by stealing all of the male children of a certain age after viciously killing the mothers

The Highlander: beating a bride and keeping her strictly for her dowry, committing a bride to an insane asylum where she is beaten and tortured daily before threatened with rape and has to hide away in the country to get away from her husband and his family, the genocide in India under the efforts of the East India Tea Company and Britain

The Duke: women being sold to cover their father’s debts, male chauvanistic disbelief that a woman might know a subject better than he does, a young woman might only marry an older man for money, sex workers and their offspring are worth less than other people

These are not pretty walks in the park and sweet nothings. We have kidnappings, rape, and mental illness being disguised as demonic possession. If you are looking for something light in contrast to hurricanes, deportations, earthquakes and genocide, this is not the series to pick up right now. However, if you are after some gritty realism with your romance, these are a well told tale. In reviewing the earlier books for this release, I was able to see how early on the references to characters in previous books or discover the next books heroine. Lovely Farah, who is a match for Blackwell in The Highwayman lived above a cafe that is a preferred luncheon spot for Millie in The Hunter. Millie in turn is protected by a secret told by the auburn-haired Mena. This causes her incarceration and subsequent rescue by the ladies and their men, who then send her off to hide under the watchful gaze of The Highlander. These ladies protect young Imogen from The Duke. The men are all interconnected as well, by blood instead of circumstances.

This bring us to Gavin St. James. In an effort to declare his independence from his half-brother and laird, he wants the land that he once roamed freely to be his in right. He tries to buy it first, and when that fails bids that it is forfeit and can be his by right of tending and asking nicely. Instead, he gets Sam. Sam is on the run from her past in America and granted sanctuary on the lands Gavin hopes to possess…as long as she poses as the rightful owner of the land, with the option of eventually being the owner in truth.

With these two we have an interesting dichotomy — Samantha is posing as Alison Ross and a legitimate land owner and cattle owner trying to make a name for herself, while Gavin St. James is the legitimate second son of the previous, unlamented Mackenzie laird who wants to make a name for himself separate from his legacy. Over and over I wanted to lock these two into a room and smack their heads together. He makes no qualms about the fact that he wants the land, but he stops short of explaining why he wants the land repeatedly when it would solve problems Sam has with him. Conversely, if Sam would explain who she really is to anyone it would help avoid the troubles that have come hunting her from the Wild West. And let’s not discuss how many times if they’d just actually admitted their feelings to themselves they’d be able to start to trust each other with these secrets….

What happens is that these two would have to be locked in a room to get a declaration from either, because they’ve been hurt so many times by everyone that it makes it hard for them to trust anyone. The back story for both is very well developed and layered, which makes your heart ache as the two work their way through the pitfalls of falling in love.

Looking to learn more or buy for yourself?

The Highwayman

The Hunter

The Highlander

The Duke

The Scot Beds His Wife

TBR&R: Baring it All by Megan Frampton

What happens when you have a polite English lady stalking her intended? One that happens to be a very focused, academic mind and thinks marrying the female child of the family friend? A quick (48pgs) novella where sometimes academic pursuits can get a bit risqué.

Lady Violet knows Lord Christian Jepstow is interested in women. The problem is, he hasn’t seemed to realize that Violet is a living, breathing woman—a woman with needs. Which is a huge problem, considering the fact that Violet and Christian are betrothed. Violet has no intention of saying her vows without knowing if her husband has the capacity to love her properly, so she does what anyone would do in her situation—she steps into his study and offers to take off her clothes. What happens next could be an utter disaster . . . or it could be surprising, seductive, and sizzlingly sexy.


Lady Violet wants to have a marriage full of passion, and has been in love with her betrothed for a while. However, his academic pursuits have him hoping that this marriage to a family friend will be a polite affair that will not distract him. Lucky for her, her friend has left Christian with a task that requires a bit of help – writing about ladies foundations and the importance of these pieces to appropriate attire for the well to do lady. The academic gentleman agrees to a bit of research in the area by way of demonstration from his betrothed.

The plot is adorable and fun. I enjoyed the heroine being the forward one and seducing her disinterested husband. If you are unfamiliar with Frampton’s writing, this is a lovely, quick introduction to her style and her characterization. Keep in mind that this is not much past a short story, so the characterization is not very deep and there isn’t a significant amount of complexity to the plot. What is there shows well, finishes with satisfaction and doesn’t leave you frustrated at the abruptness usually found in a short or novella. Link to Amazon if you’re tempted.

Is art worth dying for?

Is art worth dying for?

According to Matt Damon, that’s one of the central questions asked in Monuments Men.

I’ve been interested in seeing this film since I first heard about it about a year ago. The cast sounds fantastic, and from the previews it looks like it will be gorgeous to watch. The brief late night visit on Daily Show by Clooney just made me more interested in the film, but only enough to put it on my IMDB Watchlist. But it was that snippet pulled from a video with Matt Damon that made me feel like I need to see this film.

I’m not sure what to think about that statement though. In an era where we’re seeing arts (in general) have cuts in funding and being dropped from our schools, what does the future hold?

BlogHer prompt: Tell us about your writing space.

Part of the reason I’m doing this effort of NaBloPoMo is to get into the habit of writing. I have a box in my craft closet that is full of the pieces for albums – our wedding, Gummi Bear’s first year, my college pictures and ones that go back even further in time. Part of my anxiety is that I know the finished project will sit on the shelf and be dragged out from time to time to be looked at by me and that may be the only one who sees it. But for that, I want perfection. And in waiting for perfection or just the right moment or just the perfect phrase, I might never finish. I have to remind myself that these memories in pictures will fade and if I don’t record them, though the words may be imperfect, will I remember?

I confess: I cannot remember Gummi Bear’s first word. I can tell you what we were doing when she took her first steps on her own but I don’t remember when she began to crawl. It has only been three and a half years since she was born and I’m already glossing over milestones and memories because I didn’t find the perfect word. How much longer until I lose hold of other memories? How many years in the future will we be sitting on the couch, with family & friends, and look through a photo album of smiling happy coeds and Gummi Bear asks “who is that laying on the back of the couch? and why would she do that?”

I don’t have a writing space. I don’t really have a place that is mine (and just mine). Then again, technically nobody in our house does. The aforementioned craft closet resides in the children’s room and is full of my stamps & paper, photos & patterns. The Bald One built in shelves to store things and a counter that folds up on a piano hinge or is supported by a chain when down. I can quickly do a little thing in there, but any major efforts end up being done on our kitchen table – where they have to be packed up in between to avoid children and cat destruction. Our home office is a shared space that is more his than mine and everything else in the house is a shared space. Pre-kid, I’d curl up on the couch and read or write on my laptop. Post-kid if I’m curled up on the couch, it is usually with a tiny human or in the event that they are sleeping, my cat comes to demand a few minutes grace. Both cat & kid are equally uncaring that a tablet in my lap means that I’m doing something that does not involve them. But that is the way of cats and kids.

Some days I think of the place we will have next where there is an actual office that can have a section for the office things and an area for the music to spread out and a wall for me to have a work surface and cabinets galore for my craft inclinations. And in the corner, there would be a chair and a half that I can sink into to write, long hand, in a journal or read a book. Until then, I write where I can and when I can so that the little things aren’t forgotten. Even when it is just the chaos of bedtime punctuated by the giggles of an almost three month old boy as he’s tickled.

FTC – poking in where now?

You may have noticed something strange in my last post – a disclaimer at the FTC. As you may have seen elsewhere, the FTC has decided to watch out for you, the consumer, by making us Wild West critics fess up that we may not be completely honest with you because we are swayed by the big bad corporations.

I know, I’m exaggerating. But for a reason…do you really think 90% of us sit here and go “yes, free stuff! I promise to say I love it and have my throngs of followers worship you even if it’s crap!” In a word, no. But the FTC is worried about that 10% who might not be so scrupulous.

I know I’m a tiny little flea in the world of swaying the almighty consumerist dollar. I don’t have a large following, if I even have any following. I more often tell strange tales of my life working on shows and having a day job or the strange things that pass as “normal” in our family life than I do tell you about the books I read, products I buy or other things that qualify as a product review. Heck, I’ve even started to get a little snarky on book reviews because it’s fun to crack my girlfriends up while being honest about a book plot.

I can honestly tell you the only ARC I have ever reviewed here is one I blatantly said was an ARC. The books I’ve received as a give-away, either as a prize for a contest well-won or the one time I’ve gotten something from an author, have been noted. Unless stated otherwise, my books come from one of three sources: my local library, a PaperBackSwap trade or my own hard-earned cash. My husband works in retail – formerly for Linens ‘n’ Things, Best Buy, a wine distributor and various movie theaters. As such, we did receive discounts on some purchases but never have I received something for free because of this connection from the retailer. He now works for a retail servicer, and as such we get pretty much nothing. Any product reviews (like how I love my wash machine due to it’s delayed start), are based on experience and not because somebody gave me something to make it sound awesome. In the event this ever changes, despite my tiny influence, I’ll make sure to warn you.

And while I love the government…I’m siding with a folksong here (and if you’re really curious, I’ll go figure out which…but my recording is at home): Judge, the good folks don’t need your laws and the rest won’t listen.

Serious geek moment

I shouldn’t be left with a tv by myself.

The Bald One and I have been watching the original (and by far much better written) original star wars trilogy. Despite the fact there are a few issues with stupid continuity gaffs now that Lucas did the prequel (how does Leia remember her real mom?), there are a few things that you have to consider now. Since the entire six movies (in Lucas’ opinion) is now the story of one man’s fall and redemption, how does that change the moment where Darth Vader decides to toss the Emperor down the shaft? I mean, if he turned to Palpatine in order to save the woman he loved and the child(ren) she carried, does deciding to save the child that Palpatine is trying to kill in front of him truly redeem him or is it Luke’s belief in the goodness in him?

And if you watch SW:E3, it’s inferred that Quigon Jin (whatever) learned something cool that Yoda had not mastered yet – a total return to the Force and all that it is. Supposedly, this is why both Obi-Wan and Yoda disappear when they die, a feat that none of the others managed in all their deaths. So how does Darth, who dies shortly after having his masked removed, manage to later send his spirit to the same level that Obi-Wan & Yoda are chilling at.

And I like my special edition Return of the Jedi without that simpering whiny brat as the ghost of Anikin.

blog blog blog blog

okay….Take Two.

I had a journal, a while back, and realized I never did anything with it. To the point the service killed my account. Now, everyone and their brother is bloging. I’ve never been a follower? Why should I start now?

Because I need to get things out of my head, that’s all.

Simple things that I do feel I need to share on the two EZBoard groups to which I’m a member, because they don’t relate to the subject matter. (No, you can’t go there, the groups are both closed so we can babble freely without worry of whose reading.) One is a group of women who live with their Significant Other before getting married (or opting never to get married). The other is a wiccan group. Both of these spun out of iVillage, and we’re quite happy where we are now. And while both boards have grown as a little family type group to talk about anything, I’m just not as active as I could be so usually not everyone gives a crap.

That, and I talk about odd things. I don’t really worry about my shoes being the highest in fashion or about preventing the world from killing itself through needless innoculations or deforestation. So, usually, things don’t get there that suit me.

Back to what’s up…
There’s a skimpy little bio with my profile. Through it, you can find out who I am if you click enough.

I plan on just spewing my randomness out here, so away we go. 🙂