RIP Clare MacIntyre-Ross, who inspired the Harry Chapin song “Taxi”

She came from swank Scarsdale, N.Y. He was a guitar strummer from Brooklyn.

They met as summer camp counselors in the early 1960s, and the result was a weepy love song, “Taxi,” a hit for Harry Chapin in 1972.

MacIntyre-Ross spent her final years in Falls Church, Va., and died March 9 from complications of a stroke at age 73. Her father, Malcolm MacIntyre, was a lawyer who headed Eastern Airlines from 1959-63, and she had an on-again off-again romance with Chapin in the early 1960s.

Their split inspired the song, described by the musician as about 60% accurate, according to his biographer, Peter M. Coan.

In the song, a cabdriver discovers his old flame, now wealthy, in the back of his taxi. She hands him $20 for a $2.50 fare and says, “Harry, keep the change.”

In the song, it’s implied that the woman is a hothouse flower, living in idle dissipation in the mansion of a husband she doesn’t love, pining for her lost romance and dead dreams.

In reality:

Ms. MacIntyre lived in Argentina with her first husband before moving to New York and working as an institutional securities sales executive at Drexel Burnham Lambert in the 1970s, when few women held such jobs. Her Spanish-language abilities helped her find Latin-American clients.

[Clare MacIntyre-Ross, Woman Who Inspired Song ‘Taxi:’ 1943-2016 / James R. Hagerty / The Wall Street Journal]

I’m blogging again. Blogging is cool.

I’ve been blogging on social media for years. Recently I’ve been using Google+ first, and then automatically distributing those links to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

But I’ve increasingly become dissatisfied with that arrangement. Those platforms are owned by other people – Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Those companies control the format of my posts, and who gets to comment on them. Those companies can make changes to their service, or even shut down entirely, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

All of that was something I was willing to live with for the trade-off of connecting with other people. But in recent months, the kinds of connections I get through those services have been unsatisfying. I’m getting more comments from jerks and other unpleasant randos, and getting tired of blocking them.

So now I’m posting my links and kibitzing here. Because I own this site, I have greater control over the platform than I do over what happens on social media.

A blog is a home. Social media is couch-surfing.

Does this mean I’m leaving social media?

Not at all. I’ll continue sharing my posts from here to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and watching discussions there as before. Indeed, I’m looking for better ways to share on those platforms without taking up a lot of my time. Because this thing I do here is just a hobby.

I did this experiment once before, for five months in 2014, and ended up going back to social media. But now it’s different. At that time I was still concerned with increasing the numbers of people following me on social media – the size of my communities there. I’m less concerned now. My community numbers have been flat recently on all the services I use, and I don’t mind it. The noise from jerks and unpleasant randos is loud enough to make my social media experience less pleasant. More followers = more noise.

Also, social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are starting to become public squares. We’ve always talked about them that way, but I’m seeing that myself now and it’s a mixed blessing. We’re not individuals there, we’re just part of the group. I’ve had people commenting on my posts and refer to me in the third person – not even by name, just as “OP” (for “original poster” – a shorthand I first saw on Reddit). They start calling each other names. When I ask them to be civil with each other, they want to know who the hell I am to tell them what to do. I don’t bother to ask anymore. I just block them when they get too annoying. It’s tedious. It makes social media too much like work.

By moving off of social media to a blog platform, I make it harder for people to find and read my posts. Not a lot, just a tiny bit. And I like it that way. I’m hoping that tiny little speed bump will improve the quality of conversation. Anybody willing to make that tiny bit of effort to get here is welcome. But they have to make that tiny little bit of effort.

If my follower numbers grow by a little or a lot, I’ll be happy about that. But if they don’t, I’m fine with that too. I don’t plan to take any special steps to grow my follower numbers – no ads or search engine optimization or suchlike shenanigans. I want people to be able to find me easily if that’s what they want, and if they’re not interested, that’s fine too. 1 

Also: I recently read a blog post by a friend who’s taking a Facebook break. She values her privacy so I won’t link to it. But she, like me, is an introvert. And like me she finds social media connections to be a substitute for real life connections. She was finding going on Facebook often made her feel bad. I can relate.

I hope that by taking this baby step back from social media, I can understand better the extent to which I value personal connections, and how much I need of them, and to what extent I’m happy to be my introverted self. 2

If you’re interested in continuing to read my links and posts, thank you! Just keep on following me on social media, as you were, and click over here to read anything you find interesting. Or don’t – that’s OK too. Or you bookmark this site and come back regularly. Or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Also, you can get a daily email newsletter of my posts. I think the newsletter option is nifty and I’m surprised more people don’t take advantage of it. Perhaps I haven’t spread the word enough?

By the way, my blogging here might be temporary. I get infatuated with one technology or another and then lose interest rapidly and move on, much to the annoyance of a few friends who look to me as a technology bellwether.

On the other hand, I do stay with some things. I’ve been an online enthusiast for 27 years, longer than the Internet has been popular with the general public. I’ve been in the Appleverse for nine years now and am still satisfied. And I’ve been blogging like I do here for about nine years as well. So don’t be surprised if this blog is still up and running in some form 10 years from now, and don’t be surprised if I give it up in a few months either.

I do expect that if I stick with this for years I won’t always be on WordPress. But I do think whatever platform I’m using, I’ll continue blogging, continue doing it here at this URL, and hopefully all the archives will be in the same place too.

  1. Even friends and family should feel no obligation to connect with me online. This is my peculiar hobby that I’m happy to share with anyone, but have no interest in inflicting on people unwillingly. ↩︎
  2. “Introvert” has become such an overused word on the Internet. It makes me feel like an annoying hipster to proclaim myself to be one. On the other hand, maybe I’m missing out on an opportunity to ride the hype. I could start introvert clubs! Host an introvert conference! Just send me money and stay home and do whatever you want without interacting with other people. ↩︎

Retired New York police sergeant builds Chitty Chitty Bang Bang replica car

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Sgt. Tony Garofalo built the functional, full-size vehicle from the body of a 1914 Overland car with a 1928 Model A engine – the same engine used to make the motor sounds in the movie.

Garofalo also plays John Lennon in the Beatles tribute band Strawberry Fields. Hence his nickname: Sgt. Pepper.

The New York Times has more.

Mr. Garofalo said he had been a fan of both the film and the car since he was 4, when he and his mother, Anna, attended the movie’s premiere at Radio City Music Hall.

“The cast was there and the car was parked out front,” said Mr. Garofalo, who was dumbstruck by the car and promised his mother that he would one day make his own version.

To copy the car exactly, he said, he watched the movie some 200 times on DVD, pausing constantly to scrutinize the vehicle from different angles. He also went to look at two of the several models used in the movie, which are privately owned.

“It was seeing the real Chitty that helped me make mine exactly like the movie car,” Mr. Garofalo said recently at his home in Ridge, N.Y., before driving his creation out of the garage.

It had a wooden passenger compartment and wings, and he thought it might even float, just like in the movie.

Also:

With a flick of a button on his key chain, the car’s red and yellow wings extend from under the running boards, “for when people ask if it flies,” Mr. Garofalo said.

Read the whole thing – delightful story:

[Sgt. Pepper Builds a Real-Life Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on Long Island / Corey Kilgannon / The New York Times]

[Via reddit.com…]

Also: Watch Dick Van Dyke sing the “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” theme on Conan O’Brien in December. Love this.

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How GE Exorcised the Ghost of Jack Welch to Become a 124-Year-Old Startup

Under CEO Jeff Immelt, GE has shed its apppliance and GE Capital business, and is making a long bet on imbuing intelligence into its lines of industrial equipment – aka the Industrial Internet, or Internet of Really Big Things.

GE’s ambitions were greeted with skepticism in the Valley. In 2012, when Immelt promoted the software venture in San Francisco during a company-sponsored event with Marc Andreessen, the star venture capitalist and a friend of Immelt’s warned that it would be difficult for a hardware company like GE to assemble a team of data scientists that could perform the kind of tasks that GE had in mind. “It’s hard to be really good at that,” Andreessen said. “It’s really complicated.” (Bloomberg LP, which owns Bloomberg Businessweek, is an investor in Andreessen Horowitz.)

Jennifer Waldo, GE’s head of human relations in the San Ramon office, says recruiters had a hard time just getting people to come in for an interview. Nine out of 10 software developers they contacted had no idea GE was in the business or that it even had operations in California. Nor were they necessarily interested in learning anything more: Almost all had jobs and couldn’t see any upside to working for an East Coast microwave oven manufacturer. In 2013, Waldo appealed to Immelt for help when he visited San Ramon. “I walked him through all those issues,” she says. “I needed to compensate differently. I needed to in-source my recruiting team. We were competing in a marketplace where we’re not even a recognized player.” A former GE recruiter says the company offered stock options to job candidates, but not actual stock, the norm in Silicon Valley. There were also no nap rooms, no on-site child care, no dogs wandering around the office.

Waldo and her team found they could make headway by telling prospects that they would have a chance to develop trains and power equipment rather than some inconsequential social-networking app. “I had a candidate in the early days,” she recalls. “She came in and said, ‘I’m sitting there trying to figure out how to put a Pinterest button on something, and I get this phone call from GE, and you’re talking about making aircraft engines fly more efficiently.’ ” (A GE spokeswoman says the company now includes stock in its compensation for software developers, too.)

GE also targeted startup veterans who’d spent years putting in hours for low pay hoping to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. “They went around to guys who were in their second and third startup and had been eating ramen noodles for eight years,” says Nick Heymann, an analyst at William Blair. “They said, ‘Look, how would you just like to have a normal lifestyle, live an hour outside the Bay Area, make a quarter of a million bucks a year, and give your kids a really good education?’ ” At the end of 2013, GE had 750 people working in San Ramon.

The recruitment paid off.

Head count at the San Ramon office is 1,300, including some refugees from Google and Facebook. It already has aviation customers using Predix applications to monitor the wear and tear on their jet engines and calibrate their maintenance schedules based on that data rather than an average for the entire fleet. It’s created smart wind turbines that tell each other how to shift their blades to catch more wind, which GE says can increase their power output by as much as 20 percent.

GE is developing Predix, an operating system for the Industrial Internet.

GE says it’s beginning to sell Predix-based services to customers who design their own industrial equipment. Pitney Bowes is using Predix on its mailing-label machines and letter-sorting devices in corporate mailrooms; Toshiba is using it on elevators. “The Industrial Internet is going to be the dark matter of the Internet,” promises Harel Kodesh, chief technology officer for GE Digital, which is what the company now calls its software division. “It’s something you don’t see, but it is actually the bulk of what’s happening on the Internet. Other than porn, I guess.”

[How GE Exorcised the Ghost of Jack Welch to Become a 124-Year-Old Startup / Devin Leonard Rick Clough  / Bloomberg Businessweek]

70s one-season wonders: TV sitcom themes

Featuring:

  • “CPO Sharkey,” with Don Rickles as a naval chief petty officer
  • “Quark,” a space opera sitcom starring Richard Benjamin
  • “Associates,” a James “Taxi” “Cheers” Brooks sitcom featuring a very young Martin Short
  • “The Paul Lynde Show,” with the zany premise that Paul Lynde was heterosexual.
  • The Bob Crane Show, with the zany premise that Crane was not a degenerate perv
  • “Lotsa Luck,” starring Dom DeLuise (I remember the theme for this – still an earworm for me, all these years later)
  • and “When Things Were Rotten,” a Mel Brooks Robin Hood parody starring Dick Gauthier and a cast of Brooks regulars. That theme is another earworm for me. They robbed the rich, gave to the poor, except what they kept for expenses. Yay for Robin Hood.

Nothing in today’s Apple announcement makes me want to open my wallet 

Julie will be relieved to hear that Apple didn’t announce anything I want to buy today.

I do see an Apple Watch and new iPhone in my future in 2016. But I’ll hold out for the new models.

I might be tempted by a 4″ iPhone if the specs were top-performing. I haven’t done a side-by-side comparison, but I suspect the new phone is a low-end model.

And I think I’m going to go in the other direction this year – get a phone that’s bigger than the one I have now, rather than smaller – the 5.5″ 7 Plus (or whatever they decide to call it). I’ll see if that plus the MacBook Air and Kindle can replace the iPad for me.

Or I might just choose one or the other – Watch or phone. Buying both in one year seems like a lot of money to spend.

Or maybe I won’t buy anything.

Year’s still young yet, with at least two more Apple announcements ahead.

[Price Drops Were the Only Surprise at Apple Event / Dawn Chmielewski / Re/code]

Elizabeth Warren: “Let’s be honest – Donald Trump is a loser”

The US Senator lets it rip on Facebook:

Let’s be honest – Donald Trump is a loser. Count all his failed businesses. See how he kept his father’s empire afloat by cheating people with scams like Trump University and by using strategic corporate bankruptcy (excuse me, bankruptcies) to skip out on debt. Listen to the experts who’ve concluded he’s so bad at business that he might have more money today if he’d put his entire inheritance into an index fund and just left it alone.

Trump seems to know he’s a loser. His embarrassing insecurities are on parade: petty bullying, attacks on women, cheap racism, and flagrant narcissism. But just because Trump is a loser everywhere else doesn’t mean he’ll lose this election. People have been underestimating his campaign for nearly a year – and it’s time to wake up.

More on Facebook.

Now we know what I would have been like as a parent

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Minnie comes when called, but only when she feels like it. If she’s comfortably set up in her bed in my office, or in the easy chair in the kitchen – two of her favorite spots – well, maybe she’ll come and maybe she won’t.

One recent evening I was leaving my office to go to dinner, and Minnie wouldn’t come when she was called.

“Come on,” I said.

Nothing.

“Let’s go,” I said.

She just stared at me blankly.

“I’ve had it up to HERE,” I said. “One of these days I’m going to lock you in my office and just leave you here. How would you like that?”

Treasure trove of wonderful midcentury American snapshots

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Ft. Wayne, IN, 1955

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Ice fishing from a ’46 Chrysler New Yorker, somewhere in the Michigan thumb district around 1955.

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Shopping at an IGA, Elkton, MI, 1958

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Daytona Beach, Florida, 1953

Hiawatha Steamship — 1952
Hiawatha Teamship, 1952. Built in 1904, abandoned 1919 at Hart’s Point, East Palatka. Removed in the early 1980s. I wonder if George R.R. Martin had this in mind for the ending of Fevre Dream.

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Howard Johnson’s, North Carolina, 1964

Beer, Martini & Plastic Coating – Chicago 1959
Chicago, 1959

[Electrospark / Flickr]