An Apple Car?

Have you missed me? Winter wasn’t harsh, just miserable enough to keep me inside and depressed.

It’s a well-known fact, at least within my family, that I’m an Apple fangirl. Doing stuff with an iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and two Macs is what keeps me marginally sane during the miserable months. I read media reports; listen to podcasts; keep track of my meager shares of Apple stock; and watch company events in real time.

The most recent item to incite the Mac Nerd media (some of whom are friends) is Motor Trend’s Apple Car Exclusive: Experts Look At What Could Be A Game-Changer. I’ve only heard of Motor Trend; does the publication usually focus solely on design?

Apple Car front three quarter render

The missing image icon above represents one view of the Motor Trend’s speculative Apple car that was previously here, but is no longer available to this site. If you wish to view their images, click on the link above.

From my perspective, with the car being at least a few years from realization, appearance is irrelevant. More important factors are: 1) Will each wheel have a separate electrical motor, or will the entire vehicle will be powered by a single driveshaft? 2) Will engineers find a way to efficiently translate wheel rotation into electricity that charges the batteries sufficiently that range is extended to a number worth reporting? (I admit to being a perpetual motion junkie) 3) Could solar cells be molded into an attractive exterior of the auto that would contribute to battery charge when not providing environmental control for the interior?

To that last point, the Solar Impulse 2 is a completely solar-powered aircraft in the midst of circumnavigating the planet. It zips along at about 28 MPH with a wingspan exceeding that of a Boeing 747, hardly worth mentioning, but it proves the concept that solar cells on a vehicle have the potential to contribute to overall electrical power.

When Apple released the iPhone, the size and shape resembled other smartphones of the day; the genius of the device was what it could do. In the same fashion, a vehicle made by Apple will resemble other cars. It will have a pointy-ish nose to minimize drag and a cabin that will accommodate however many people, and their stuff, Apple decides the car should carry. It will be stylish, as befits any design influenced by Jony Ive, not the rounded box Motor Trend proposed.

An issue not addressed by Motor Trend is self-driving cars. I agree, it’s a topic for another decade. Despite the extensive research currently being conducted, there’s no reason to believe implementation won’t require at least ten years. On the otherhand, there are cars currently in production with “autopilot” capabilities that will track within a lane and adjust speed to match the vehicle in front.

On one podcast, (The Accidental Tech Podcast, I think) the guys surmised Apple could budget a BILLION dollars, an amount that wouldn’t make a noticable dent to the company balance sheet, to study the feasibility of producing automobiles without breaking a sweat. I think an Apple developed car would be awesome. Whether it comes to fruition or not, an Apple engineering team will advance the science of automotive electrical propulsion. I hope I live long enough to see what they bring forth.

That’s Not What We’re Used To

Jen and I tend to watch a lot of reality television. Whether it’s Survivor or Tiny House Nation, we are all in. One of our favorite programs is HGTV’s House Hunters International. We especially like the episodes that take place in western Europe – we fantasize about moving there some day.

I’m especially fond of episodes that take place in southern Spain. The weather is always fabulous (at least it looks that way on television). Jen is more interested in being an ex-pat in the UK. There’s less risk when moving to a location without a language barrier.

Despite the fun we have watching and discussing possibilities, there is one thing that frustrates us — people who move to Europe expecting the same style accommodations they had in suburban Omaha, Houston, or Atlanta when they want to live in the city center of London, Paris, or Madrid. Apparently people think nothing of moving 5000 miles without doing research beforehand. If they did they’d know living spaces are smaller, and clothes washing machines could be in the kitchen.

Most irritating for us is when someone exclaims, “That’s not what we’re used to!”, or, “I didn’t think it would be this expensive here!” like they expected to be moving to a third-world country. Third-world countries aren’t all that cheap — you’d be surprised what housing costs in Namibia.

There’s one other possibility: These programs are heavily produced and edited. Despite what’s shown on television, there probably isn’t a lot of spontaneity. That could be why whenever a house only has one, small closet/armoire, one member of a couple will always claim ownership, smile wickedly, and say, “Where are you going to put your clothes?”

If we ever decide to take the plunge, we’ll pick a place that’s exciting for both of us. We’re doing our research, which includes sitting in front of the TV. We’ll know what we’re getting into, and won’t act like clueless Americans. Uh-huh, that’s what we say now…

War on Christmas

Sister Mary Agatha was an equal opportunity enforcer, so it came as no surprise when she rapped my knuckles for singing Frosty the Snowman more loudly than anyone else in my fifth grade class. I think I can trace my dislike of holiday music to that afternoon in 1956.

Christmas has become a parody of itself, and I don’t mean the fun kind. Stores have holiday decorations up before Halloween. That goddamned music plays incessantly in almost every commercial establishment as an inducement to buy more stuff; the economy depends on you going into debt even though you can’t afford to do so.

Then there’s the absurdity of the reason for the season. Historians, not blinded by religious ferver, have determined that even if the baby Jesus did exist, he was more likely born in July. Even more revolting are radical Christianists (just like radical Islamists only without the violence… yet) who demand that the employees of all of those commercial establishments say, “merry christmas!” to any and all, regardless of the personal preference of the speaker or recipient. Failure gets one labeled as an enemy combatant in the WAR ON CHRISTMAS

All that is to say even when I was the church lady, not too long ago, I didn’t like christmas very much. Christmas is boring, the same crap year-after-year. My birthday party as an eight-year-old was different than any party I would have been given when I turned sixty-eight. Yet christmas celebrations subject us to the same music, same advertising, same cultural expectations, and because time passes more quickly as we get older, it all happens more frequently, regardless what the calendar says. Adult Jesus must be weeping because we keep him in that fucking manger, and have been giving him myrh and frankincense each year for more than two millennia. What he really wants are the latest XBox and an iPad Pro.

Give Me A Little Air

I get most of my writing done at home in my dinky little office that was formerly a tiny breakfast nook. I have a near top-of-the-line, large-screened iMac, where all the apps I deem necessary have room to coexist. But there are days when I need to get out of my cramped, confining cubicle, to allow creativity to thrive.

At the bottom of my hill is an independent coffee shop independent coffee shop where the proprietor has been roasting a wide variety of beans forever. It’s more of a working class spot that doesn’t exude the pretentiousness of a certain Seattle-based chain, and the drink sizes aren’t written in Italian. Background music is sometimes Classic Rock, other times Classic Classical. I find either to be just right. When I’m feeling challenged, this is my writing spot.

I’ve been working on a lengthy piece about how the terrorists have won. It’s depressing. Today is the second time this week I’ve gotten out of the house with my little MacBook Air, which I still love. It’s extremely portable, and the four-year-old battery gets me through a few hours away from a plug without breaking a sweat. Screen real estate is at a premium, but I can write and grab links easily. As I suck on a Cincinnati Mocha I find myself inspired enough to crank out another few hundred words. This is as good as it gets on this kind of day.

I’m Not Black Pixel, Yet

All the speakers at the Release Notes conference were inspiring. The one that most met my need was Daniel Pasco from Black Pixel®.

Dan related how important a fully integrated Quality Assurance team is to his company’s success. Dan’s QA team is involved from defining the initial specifications through delivery of the final product. That means when the app gets to the testing stage, those doing QA know exactly what the app is expected to do and how it has evolved during the life-cycle of the project. They have a test plan capable of taking the app to its design limits because they know where those limits are.

As an independent beta tester I’m unlikely to have that kind of access to the design process. The greatest barrier for those in my situation is geography — I can’t run down the hall to sit with a developer. But there are ways to mitigate some of the disadvantages.

Dan has outlined how Black Pixel does Quality Assurance. It’s posted online. In a five-part series he writes about bad QA scenarios then discusses what his company has done to make great QA pay for itself.

I’m not Black Pixel, but I am incorporating as many of their processes as I can into my test plan. Good communication with the developer, early in the build, increases the probability of launching a best-in-class app right out of the box.

@cincygolfgrrl

Business Plan 1.0

As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, for me being retired means every day is Saturday. I really like being retired, except in the winter. When the temperature gets below 20ºF (about 6ºC), and the wind is howling, I don’t want to leave the house. I need something to keep my brain occupied.

I have a passion for technology, particularly that which emanates from that fruit company in Cupertino. From 1999 through 2011 I was employed first for two years working with Oracle databases, then for eight years performing low-level programming (5-years in Unix, 3-years in a web app using Jscript). In addition to writing my own code, I was responsible for QAing what other programmers had written.

Now, I’m a little old lady with a great big Mac (and some iOS devices). I think I can parlay my experience into doing beta testing for developer’s applications. Upon my return home from the Release Notes conference I began sketching out a business plan; I’ll have more on that in another post. In the meantime, I’m ready to do some testing.

@cincygolfgrrl

Untested Beta

“So, where are you from?” he said.

I looked up at the speaker — late–20s, curly dark hair, and a few days past his last encounter with a razor. “Cincinnati,” I said. “You?”

“Boston.”

We’re nerds at October’s Release Notes conference in Indianapolis, each checking to see if the other was a potential customer. He develops apps and I’m looking for beta test work. It’s a match, maybe.

That scene played itself out multiple times over the course of a two-day conference, where eleven speakers shared experiences building applications and businesses with over 140 attendees, many of them my heroes. Here I am in the midst of an Upgrade sandwich.

Myke Hurley (l) and Jason Snell

Initially I registered for the conference to meet people I hold in high-esteem. But the conference was about building businesses, and lately I’ve had an itch I wanted to scratch. Sitting around with nothing to do in the winter is boring, and bad for my health.

After some soul-searching, the concept of beta testing exploded out of my brain. During my two years at a dot-com start-up, I’d done my share of testing. Then I spent eight years at a market research company where half my job was QAing the work of other programmers. I’m experienced!

I went to the conference with loosely formed ideas. When asked why I was attending I struggled to get through my “origin” story; I did not have an elevator pitch. Thankfully, by the end of the week I’d edited myself to, “I’m starting a beta test business.”

Now I’m thinking about business plans, marketing strategies, and the processes of doing best-in-class beta testing. Presenters and attendees shared their knowledge. Now it’s up to me to make this happen.

A Halloween Fantasy

autumn_leaves

I’ve never written fiction. Here’s a first attempt, prompted by the Web site mentioned in the story. I liked doing it and look forward to doing it again.

When I got home that night, I noticed the smiling jack-o-lantern in my front yard was crushed. I reckoned the neighborhood kids had used it for a football, again. No bother, I’ll just get another — carving pumpkins is an enjoyable, artistic diversion for me.

I went inside. After securing the door, I dropped my purse and jacket on the nearest chair, then bolted for the refrigerator. I was famished. After pulling a couple of eggs, a salvageable block of moldy cheddar, a scallion, and scraps of ham leftover from a recent sandwich, I whisked, shredded, and chopped. While the eggs were setting in a warming pan on the stove, I poured myself a glass of rather tart Rosé, then layered the remaining ingredients into the pan.

I plated the omelet, grabbed the wine glass and utensils, then planted myself at the dining table. While eating, I opened my MacBook; I had mail. The one from medium.com contained an invitation to submit to Coffeelicious’s “first-ever writing prompt.” Buoyed by the prospect of writing something outside my normal fare, I contemplated my relationship to Halloween and how it’s evolved over the years.

As a child, I could hardly wait to play adult-sanctioned dress-up while charging around the neighborhood, collecting as much candy as I could, then stashing a couple of handfulls where my parents wouldn’t find it, I thought. As a young adult, the holiday became another excuse for excessive alcohol consumption, whether costumed or not. When I had children, I fussed over their costumes and monitored their trick-or-treat goodies as much as my parents had. I can still picture the fairy princess and the pirate returning with brimming bags of loot.

Now that I’m older, with children and grandchildren half a continent away, my participation is much more subdued. Tomorrow I’ll shop for candy and pumpkins, then carve a fresh face into one. I’ll keep the other in reserve in case the new pumpkin becomes the victim of third-and-long. When All Hallows Eve arrives, I’ll distribute goodies to the new generation ghosts, goblins, and Super Girls. And for a brief moment, maybe I’ll experience the all-encompassing joy I had when I was a ballerina.

An Amazing Year of Golf

What follows is a long, boring narrative. There are no photographs, it has footnotes, and unsurprisingly, it’s all about me. If you choose to read anyway, please accept my apology in advance—sorry.

I promised to write about the golf I’ve played during the 2015 season, but I’ve resisted because it will only be an exercise in arrogance, or false modesty. The fact is I had a pretty amazing season. I won some, exceeding my potential for a significant portion of the season.

Last fall I detailed my commitment to getting better. I had lofty ideas that I’d be able to power through last winter’s hated cold and snow, emerging from the chrysalis in mid-March as a new woman, able to make golf balls travel precisely by force of will—or some such B.S. The facts are the cold paralyzed me yet again. I spent the bulk of winter sitting in front of a computer. When I surfaced I’d gained a few pounds and my fitness level had dropped like an anvil. Despite those issues, in March I packed my golf clubs and camera, and headed south to play golf and photograph sunrises.

The 36 holes I played on my trip got me out of my funk. Upon my return home, I resumed lessons with Melissa and spent many hours at my local driving range trying to make a good swing something I didn’t think about. By mid-April, I was playing semi-regularly, surprising myself with the occasional good shot among the several I wish I’d hit better.

Leagues

My leagues began at the end of April with mixed results. I’ve played in two separate 18-hole leagues for all the years of my retirement. My Monday morning league was at a course that brings me to my knees. My first round there I actually played pretty well (95, with two birdies), then my game collapsed and I couldn’t break 100. In early June, I quit playing that course. I picked up a Tuesday morning league in July at a course that didn’t stress me out as much.

I played my Thursday morning league at my “home” course. While reasonably good results are my norm, my season there started rough too.

Dropping the Monday league in favor of Tuesday was a good decision. My attitude about my game improved and my Handicap Index1, which hit its peak for the year at 23.9 on June 15, finally started its anticipated decent. I was playing what I considered good golf.

Tournaments

I played some tournaments this year, and I think I did pretty well, although it didn’t start that way. The first was my EWGA2 Chapter Championship, which was held on a Sunday at the end of June in Sellersburg, Indiana. I did not do well—missing every three-foot putt; I had a lot of them. I had hoped my play would springboard me to the National Championship in Palm Desert, California.

The Met

The next day, Monday, the 100th Annual Metropolitan Women’s Amateur Championship began with stroke play3 which would determine seeding for match play4, the real tournament. The Cincinnati Country Club, in the conversation for most exclusive club in the city, (it’s so exclusive only members are allowed to see the Web site) was the venue. A large amount of rain had fallen in the weeks before and during the tournament so carts were never permitted off the paths. That meant a significant amount of walking up and down hills was required. After playing a practice round the previous Friday, the course was not a complete mystery to me. I got around with a fairly respectable 94, which put me in a tie for 24th place, middle of the field. I ended up being the number one seed in my group (flight) of eight going into match play.

My first opponent was Jean from the Four Bridges club. This was my first experience with match play; surprisingly I won convincingly, 5 and 3. The next day I played Kim, also from Four Bridges. I won that match 1-up. I got my comeuppance on Thursday when I played Tracey, another player from Four Bridges; she defeated me soundly, 5 and 3, but that was good enough for second place and a nice trophy. I like trophies. I have so few of them.

Club Championship

My home course Club Championship began in mid-July. The format was three rounds of stroke play, with the two best rounds of the three used to determine the winner. The best gross score and best net score in each flight were the winners. Due to weather, i.e., more rain, the Championship extended into mid-August before it was decided. I played all three rounds and did pretty well. I ended up with a win for Low Net and tied for fourth place Low Gross. There was no trophy, just bragging rights and a pro shop credit.

Senior Women’s

At the end of August, I played the two-day Metropolitan Senior Women’s tournament that was held at a country club in Northern Kentucky. This was also stroke play, flighted by age—I was in the 65-69 group. I shot 97 on day one, not good. I attribute the day two 89 to having a plan after seeing the course for the first time the previous day. As a result of my relatively high Index I managed to win Low Net for my flight. Again there was no trophy, but I did win a good pro shop credit.

Wrap Up

With tournament season complete, I was back playing in my weekly leagues; reasonably good rounds continued. At the end of July I broke 40 for nine holes for the first time ever, shooting 39 on the back nine in my Tuesday league. In early September I did even better, a 37 (that’s only two over par) on the same nine.

My season began with a Handicap Index of 23.0. By mid-September I had gotten it down to 19.4, where it remains at this writing. I achieved my goal of getting it into the teens and at my lowest ever. The work I put in has paid off. My leagues are over for the year and the official season ends October 31. I’m playing and practicing less frequently, and courses I am playing these days tend to be unfamiliar so my scores and Index are likely to increase a little. I’d prefer they didn’t. Already I’m looking forward to next season and a serious attempt to get my Index down to 15. To make that happen I’ll need to be more aggressive with physical conditioning and make opportunities to hit balls during the coming winter. Whether I achieve that or not (spoiler alert: I will), golf is still the sport about which I’m most passionate. I’ll do my best, but most of all I’ll have fun.

So there you have it, 1300+ words of self-adoration. As I said at the beginning—sorry.


  1. A Handicap Index, sometimes referred to herein as Index, is a calculated measure of one’s scoring potential based on posted golf scores. It allows players of differing abilities to equitably compete against each other. 

  2. EWGA is the Executive Women’s Golf Association, a national organization to which I’ve belonged since 2007. I’m a member of the Cincinnati, Ohio Chapter. 

  3. Stroke play is a method of scoring where every time a player hits a ball it is counted as a stroke. At the end of a round of golf the total number of strokes, plus any penalties assessed, is the stroke play gross score (note: some of my scores, especially those with three digits, are pretty gross). The net score is achieved by subtracting the course handicap from the gross. 

  4. Match play scoring is by holes won or lost. It is played between two opponents (although there are variations) rather than against the entire field. The match ends when one player has too few holes remaining in which to make up the difference. In the first example above I won when I was five holes ahead with only three holes to play. That score is written “5 and 3.” 

Comfort Food

Comfort food in our house takes many forms. My quick, go-to meal is spaghetti, generally with an easy red sauce I can throw together in my sleep. Jen leans toward mac-n-cheese. But there is one meal we completely agree is our favorite comfort meal.

On a blazingly hot evening last month, Jen and I decided the first time the high temperature for the day was below 70º that we would cook a pot roast for dinner. Today, September 12, is that day.

We did it up right with carrots and onions and a chuck roast, and mashed potatoes. The prep time was pretty quick—brown the meat, sear the veggies, deglaze the pot with a little red wine, then add everything back in with beef stock and water, cover, and put in a 275º oven for about 3 1/2 hours.

Here’s what it looks like when it’s done. pot roast

My only regret is I should have taken a photo that was in focus before I pigged out. It was so good, and there are left-overs for a few more meals.