Saturday, December 29, 2012

Eating and drinking and apps, oh my!!

Hey there,

This is a post about three apps I've come across, have downloaded, and will try to start using more, apps related to eating and drinking. And it all started with a crepe.

I was at a crepes place on U Street, DC Scoop Shop, to be specific, after a late night of dancing at U Street Music Hall and an even later meal at Busboys & Poets. Yet my hunger wasn't satiated for when I saw the scoop shop, I knew exactly want I wanted. A crepe...with banana...and Nutella.

So I go inside and order it, and as I'm waiting I see signage at the register for LevelUp. Honestly, I had almost forgotten about this, but their branding's memorable enough that it didn't take long to jog my memory that I had already signed up and downloaded the app.

What does the app do, you are probably asking? It allows you to pay with your phone (you can find out  more about how it works on their website). Yes, you're still using a card which you've sync'ed to your account, but it's pretty cool, right? Kind of kidding. There is something appealing to not needing to pull out my credit or debit card yet again, when I've probably already got my phone in hand. The neat thing is, not only does it allow you to pay with your phone, but they even give you a few bucks to spend when trying out a new place.

Whoa...there's a Funnel Cake place near me...

Anyway, so I need to remember to start checking this out more. I already have a habit of checking in on Foursquare, Yelp, Google Latitude, and sometimes Facebook, usually I do this only when I'm by myself, or with an apology to and the permission of the company i'm with.

So why not pull out an app that's actually functional?

Now the next one isn't necessarily functional. Belly is something like a cross between Foursquare and a frequent shopper's card. It basically outsources the infrastructure of a rewards program for places...yeah, I think that would be a good description. That being said, I think it provides a distinct challenge to Foursquare simply on the rewards aspect.

It's not social, which is a bonus for people that don't want to share where they are with their friends or anyone else that is on a particular social media platform. It's tangible. There's a card that comes with it (which, you can still redeem rewards without, just use the app, but there's familiarity with what the card means and does, in terms of being similar to other customer cards. It's just communal, shared by all the establishments that opt-in to the program.

And you get points!! So all the bonus of the rush we humans are programmed to get whenever our actions result in an increased quantity of something, but (again) without the worry of making one's self stalkable for individuals that have those concerns, which I completely respect and understand.

Also, because the Belly check-in station is so prominent, there are less chances of employees wondering what the heck you're talking about when you mention the reward, than with some of the blank stares I've gotten when trying to claim Foursquare deals for checking-in.

Last, but not least, is Tabbedout. While good for dining, I first noticed signage for this at Nellie's...after I'd already started a tab...

 Similar to Level Up, you simply enter your credit card info and then you don't have to worry about opening or closing a tab at a bar (crucial) or even splitting a check at a restaurant (wish I'd known about this much sooner!!):
"Join a tab or share your own to make splitting the check simple – no server required."
I actually can't wait to try that.

Seems fairly simple.

And all these apps will let you know what participating establishments are in your immediate vicinity.

Now, I write all this knowing that I am not breaking news, these apps have been around for a while, and I am not the first person to ever use them.

So I think I've started figuring out one of my New Year's resolutions. Taking advantage of exploring apps like this to make my life, not just simpler, but a little more secure.

If it gets to the point where I don't even have to carry my credit card with me except for when I really need it, then less of a chance I have to lose it.

Anyway, have you used any of these apps/services as the customer? The business owner? What do you think, or is the verdict still out for now, as use still approaches critical mass?

Not hear of any of these until now? Well, do you think you'll try 'em out? One over the others?

Curious mind wants to know,

- JR

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Les Miserables movie as arts advocacy?

Hey there,

First, the term arts advocacy means many things, both what it actually is, as well as the call to action. I actually wrote my thesis at American University on how working performers in DC defined "arts advocacy", as well as "community", but that's definitely a subject for another post. For the purpose of this one, while there isn't necessarily a call to action, if the movie functions as incentive for audiences to see more theatre than they did before, then I'm using that as just one example of arts advocacy.

So, ever since I first heard about the Les Misérables movie, the arts manager in me immediately begun to wonder not only if people who saw this and don't normally see live theatre regularly would be motivated to do so...see more live theatre, particularly musical theatre, in this case.

Yes, this is also the first thing I wonder anytime I ever see any artistically driven movie, which is to say a movie where art, particularly the performing arts, are a major element and/or plot-device. I wondered this with other movie adaptations of musicals, with the Step Up series, if seeing it inspired more people to see and maybe even take dance, and I especially thought this with Pitch Perfect, in terms of individuals seeing more concerts or even joining a vocal ensemble.

But I digress. When I realized that this was partially a knee jerk reaction, my interest and excitement subsided for the most part.

And then I saw a Regal Cinemas first look at the movie:

Mind blown. I mean, maybe I heard about it and then dismissed it because I didn't really understand. But that the are recording their sound, their vocals LIVE as they're filming. Even for non-theater folk, the difference can be pretty obvious, to the detriment of the piece.

I can't even count how many times people have complained about how over-produced (sorry, I really don't know how else to describe it, maybe someone with more audio/music/studio experience?) the sound on Glee is, and the glaring disconnect between what is heard versus what is scene on screen.

So, will this production of Les Miserables not only introduce people to real-time singing/acting (as real as a movie can get), but get them to want more of that in real life?

I'm obviously not the only one wondering that, but this post was inspired after reading a friend's comment about it on his Facebook page today. Here is Billy Bustamante's comment in full:
Sooo... In place of a Les Miz movie review status I will affirm the lesson the movie taught me: 
For every person who hated it there will be someone who loved it. 
For every person raved about it to your face there is someone who trashed it behind your back. 
But in the grand balance of things, the scale's, for now anyway, tipped a bit more in our favor because we as musical theatre artists are a bit more visible in the world's eye. And if there were a few people who see the movie and decide to one day buy a ticket for the real, live thing, then bonus points for us.
No, he doesn't necessarily mention the bit regarding the recording methods. That's my own bit of value added. But he touches on the basic issue, in terms of the movie at least raising the visibility of musical theatre, both the art and the artists.

And as someone who certainly inspired me as a performer when I first started pursuing it professionally a decade ago at Montgomery College, who went on to study at the University of the Arts in Philly, and who's also currently an awesome photographer based up in New York City now, he is a person who's had his pulse on things, through his own work and those he works with, and as such, his insights are informed and thoughtful.

Fun fact: he took my first set of headshots YEARS ago about when he first started. And even though I thought they were great, he has certainly come a long way in continuing to refinie his style, look, and technique.  You should definitely check out his website, because his work is amazing.

Anyway...digressing, again. Regarding Les Miserables? Let's see what happens. I personally share Billy's sentiment. That if this movie even leads to one more person buying a ticket to a live show that might not have otherwise, it's a win for us. I certainly don't think that this movie will make anyone who normally sees shows stop seeing them, if they don't like it.

But if you disagree, please leave a comment about why. If you agree, or even if you're not sure, please leave a comment as well.

And did you see it? What'd you think? Do you normally see live shows? And if you don't, do you think you might start?

Curious mind wants to know :-)

- JR

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ingress: Creating fields within fields.

So...not sure if this is a glitch or not, but I created a control field within a field. Sorry if this has already been discussed and I'm just late to the conversation.

Unfortunately I didn't get a screenshot of the portal you can see below as a farm, without any links. And I even tried seeing if I could link to any of the portals that anchored the field it was within, but I couldn't.

However, curiously, when I went to one of those anchors, I found I could link in. Then I did it with another one, and not only did it link it, but it confirmed that a control field had been created...within the one that was already there. So I had one more anchor in the larger field to go to, and I do have photos of the change.


Here's the confirmation message that fields were created.

And here's the after: 

I was afraid it was just my imagination, but the double field actually shows up as a stronger green. In case you can't see the difference from the screen shot, here's one from the Intel map online:

Thoughts? What's going on? Does that mean that the mind units are counted twice because they are twice as influenced by the control field? Or is this probably just a glitch?

Like I said, while I couldn't link from the interior portal to the anchors of the larger field, so from inside to the perimeter, I could link from the anchors to the portal within the field.

Anybody else come across this already?

Curious mind wants to know,


Monday, December 24, 2012

Tracking Santa: A tale of two S.E.'s


I realize I kinda forced the reference in the subject, but just in case you were wondering what S.E. stood for, it stands for Search Engine. I pulled that from SEO (search engine optimization), but I realize search engines are not usually abbreviated

Anyway, just wanted to post about tracking Santa, and two options to do so. The first I came across was Google's Santa Tracker.

It's pretty cute, and even has some mini games, if you go to Santa's village. You can also catch Google Maps keeping track of Santa on Google+.

So I was curious about other Santa trackers out there, and came across a familiar one, Norad's Santa Tracker.

Yes, that video was from their YouTube channel. They've also got a Facebook page, and a handle on Twitter.

In looking up Santa trackers, I came across articles talking about this Norad using Bing instead of Google this year, for their mapping tracking. Here's a quote from the Telegraph:
Since 2004, Norad has been sharing its official government data online with the help of Google Earth and Google Maps, but this year the mapping software is being provided by Bing Maps.

"Norad and Google have decided to go their separate ways and pursue other opportunities,” said Michael Kucharek, a Norad spokesman. Read more
I also came across an article urging its readers to use one "service" over the other.  It starts off with "Every time you ignore Bing, an angel gets his wings…" (read more at Tech Crunch).

Either way, I have a feeling that whether your children and/or your inner child decides to track Santa, the best part about the internet (especially since multi-tabbed browsing came around), is that "All of the Above" means we don't necessarily have to choose one over the other.

However, if you do follow both, and notice any discrepancies in Santa's flight plan between the too, I'd just chalk it up to a little more holiday magic!!

Happy holidays,


Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Fatburner program on Stairmaster


So, I've been working out fairly consistently for almost the past two months, at Vida Fitness. Last time I went to the gym to work out this regularly was probably in high school.

Part of my goal has been to lose some of the fat that's been accumulating, particularly around my belly, and to that end, I've resorted to the Fatburner program on the Stairmaster machines. Now, depending on the model, the Fatburner program is slightly different, but there's definitely some similarities at least to both of them.

I wanted to look in to the science behind what makes these programs Fatburners. Now, some context. In addition to my roomie Jeremy being a firm believer in the Stairmaster, I also was recommended to use either stairmachines or rowing after a lovely dinner conversation with two personal trainer friends, when the subject of my own personal fitness goals came up. Cycling or treadmills were not recommended in terms of burning calories the way the other two types of machines could.

So then the first thing I do is google: "stairmaster fat burner program".

An article I click-through to, on confirms one part of the conversation with my friends. That reducing body fat is partly a matter of not caloric intake and output, but caloric deficit.
Losing fat requires creating a caloric deficit with diet and exercise. When you eat fewer calories than you burn, your body turns to fat stores for energy, and when the caloric deficit grows to 3,500, you've lost a pound. Read more
And although spot reduction isn't a thing, it was reassuring to read that belly fat is one of the first areas to respond to exercise and a corresponding change in diet.

Another article also addressed something I do when on a Stairmaster, I don't hold the handrails, which I've noticed tends to be the trend for most others. Part of the reason I don't is, as a dancer, I focus on balance as well as letting my body move as naturally as possible, which means allowing my arms to swing in opposition to my legs. The piece also said:
If you do not lean on the hand rails, or touch them only lightly, you also engage your core muscles to maintain your balance during climbing. These elements of a stair-climbing workout make it a strengthening regimen. You build new muscle tissue, which makes your body burn more calories to support it. Read more
Engaging my core muscles is also part of why I don't use the handrails, which isn't to say that you can't do so if you're not holding on as well, but it would decrease how much they're engaged, I'd think.

But this still isn't addressing my initial inquiry, regarding what about the Fat burner programs, with its intensity changes over the course of the workout, makes it a program to burn fat, as opposed to the others, like the Aerobic Training or Constant Heart Rate programs.

To that end, I found a PDF of the manual for one of the machines in one of the gym's locations I frequent.  But still no breakdown of why that particular routine is that burns fat more than the others.

Speaking of fat, knowing what fat is, is helpful. Check out this link, The science of fat burning. Also, understanding the complexities of exercise and diet is crucial, because creating a caloric deficit might be oversimplifying a complex process. Check out this piece, The Scientist and the Stairmaster.

At some point I realized I probably needed to broaden my search, as none of the results that were coming up were specific enough. So I plugged in some key words that were relevant in a few of the links I came across, and google'd high interval cardio burn fat.

Jackpot. I should've thought about this sooner. This kind of interval training obviously isn't specific to stair machines, and I certainly did enough of them running Track & Field in high school. The best piece I found, was actually updated just several days ago, "High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): Best Cardio to Burn Fat".
At higher intensities, you are burning far more fat, even though the fat/glycogen ratio is lower. In addition, Interval training allows you to exercise at very high intensities for a much longer period of time than steady state, so you burn more fat. Read more
So there it is.

Obviously, this knowledge is only as good as the accuracy of the source I've found, so I'm still open to learning more. If you'd like to share anything to clarify or even dispute the information I've come across, please do so.  And keep an eye out for future blog posts on fitness and health, as I carry on my pre-emptive New Year's resolution into 2013,


Friday, December 21, 2012

Town is no longer accepting Foursquare

Hey there,

So this post is a bit belated but, yeah.  Town Danceboutique is no longer accepting Foursquare. I first noticed this a couple of weekends ago, but didn't really think anything of it until I went back for a SpeakeasyDC event earlier this month.

Now this might be old news for some of you, but if it's not, and if you don't even know what I'm talking about, Town used to give free admission to people who checked in on Foursquare before 11pm, and showed box office staff their phone.

I actually talked to a friend who didn't know about the change in policy, and we were talking about going to Town and getting there early specifically because of this, and now that they're not accepting it anymore he actually said he wasn't sure how motivated he'd be to go there anymore, not just early, but period.

But as with any business, this was obviously a carefully deliberated decision, profit and loss and all that.

Still curious to see how they have been and will deal with any negative feedback to this choice. I definitely can think to a handful of times where I've been in line myself right before 11pm and could see those in front and behind me checking their phones and checking in to Foursquare, hoping to make good on the deal.

Personally, I know it won't affect my own attendance at Town, as it really is circumstantial when I end up there. But I'd like to hear from anyone who does or doesn't care about this bit of news. Will this affect when you go to Town? Will you still go but just later? Will you not go because of this?

Curious mind wants to know,


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Flash Mobs

Hey there,

So I have to thank Azie for this post. I was inspired after she shared a vocal holiday flash mob and thought I'd look up some others.

I'm personally fascinated by flash mobs as an artist and arts administrator because, there's just something delightful to see these community (and sometimes commercial) acts of art in public spaces.

That being said, here are 12 videos to help count down the 12 days of Christmas.

And of course the first one I find is a dance one. Lovin' it.

And here's another dancing one, which happened at an airport I flew into this summer!!

And now something more song and less dance.

But now back to some more dance.

Did you see those kids rockin' the sprinkler? And now some adults doing a flash mob for their students.

And here's a flash mob that happened somewhere near my own stomping grounds of DC, at a mall in Columbia, MD.

And now a litte more song, again. This one's just adorable.

Back to more dance.

this one's from a dance and fitness studio.

and one in central park, another marketing one.

This one, a friend shared and it's pretty phenomenal, a Hanukkah flash mob in Israel.

Finally the one that started me on this journey, which Azie shared on Facebook:

So that's that. Do you have a favorite? Have you seen any others that you like?

Share 'em in the comments, and happy holidays!!

- JR

Alicia Keys brought me back to my Disney Afternoons

Hey there,

So just wanted to blog about this really quick. Two friends of mine from St. Albans School shared this video on Facebook, which I promptly reshared upon viewing.

Alicia Keys did a rendition of a cartoon theme song on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon that completely flipped it, being both fun and beautiful at the same time. This cartoon theme song was one from a show that was part of The Disney Afternoon, a block of half-hour shows that I would argue remain the height of children's cartoon series.

It's all gone down-hill since then, but I'm probably just saying that because of my age.

So, here's the original opening of the Gummi Bears:

And here is Alicia Keys rendition of it, performed on Late Night this past November:

Wow...that's still all I have to say.

Out of curiosity, anyone have other covers of cartoon theme songs that were particularly moving or just surprising? Please share in the comments,

- JR

Monday, December 10, 2012

One Friday night, I turned to Foursquare

Hey there,

So, it happened. I mean I've done it before, I realize now. But I guess now it's becoming a regular part of figuring out where I'm going to go, when all I have are no plans and a spontaneous impulse.

Checking Foursquare.

There were two venues I was considering going to, this past Friday night. So I opened up Foursquare on my mobile device to see two things. First, how many people had checked in, in general. And, second, how many of my friends had checked in.

I do do something similar on Facebook, but it's Event specific. I'll see how many of my friends have RSVP'ed Yes or Maybe, and especially if it's the day of, if anybody's written on the wall talking about heading to it or being excited about it.

So yes, peer pressure works, we're all just sheep, and...wait a minute, social media can actually facilitate social activities in real life.

A survey whose results were shared just a couple of weeks ago from the Active Network, Research Reveals the Link Between Online Interaction and Offline Activities, speaks directly to this:
"According to the ‘Beyond the Click’ survey, the three most popular offline actions taken as a result of online engagement are to contact a person directly, attend an event and participate in an activity such as a sport or a class."
So, yeah. At least from personal experience, social media seems to be just another tool for communicating, informing, and organizing, and as with all tools, its up to the users to choose how to use it and let it affect their lives, for better or for worse.

Yes, I'm speaking to the many fears people have brought up about Social Media's adverse effects. Even just typing into Google "social media dest" the auto-fill results that come up are:

  • social media destroying society
  • social media destroys relationships
  • social media destroying social skills

But again, ultimately I would argue that all this is up to each user to choose for him or herself.

In this case, I chose to use social media to figure out what I would do on a Friday night. And I ended up dancing until I and my friends (one of which was the deciding factor when I checked Foursquare) closed the club down.

Which I haven't done in a while.

Anyone else occasionally use social media to crowdsource their plans? Any particular stories that come to mind? Or do you not consider or check social media at all? Please share in the comments.

- JR

Monday, December 03, 2012

Facebook is to bulletin board as Twitter is to chat room

Hey there,

So this past weekend, I had yet another friend casually ask what the deal was with Twitter because they just didn't get it. And this is someone who is on Facebook.

And as I like to over-analyze things, there are a couple of (what I would call safe) assumptions that I make about what someone is REALLY asking with this question?

The first is that part of the essence of their inquiry is "I'm already on a social network, why should I put time and energy into another one?" Another part of what's behind their query is "How is this different from what I'm already on?"

To answer the first question, I'd actually that for some people, they probably shouldn't be on Twitter. The best comparison, which I've shared and others have generally agreed with, is that Facebook is like an online bulletin board while Twitter is the chat room. I'd also say that in general, Facebook is more on the private, friends and family, end of the spectrum, while Twitter is more on the public end, friends as well as people you might not even know or ever meet in real life.

And, yes, there is an option to make your Facebook profile public and subscribe-able, and one can have a private Twitter account, so this obviously isn't speaking of individuals who would like to use each platform as such. But those users tend to be the exception and in terms of the general, intended use, I would say Facebook is more for building on and maintaining existing relationships while Twitter is more for cultivating conversations among friends and strangers alike, particularly when you take hashtags into account.

Again, think public chat room with Twitter. It's a much more immediate sense of engagement compared to Facebook.

As I type this, I realize that one thing that clearly illustrates how the two platforms differ are by the tools they give you to interact with other people's content.

On Facebook you can Like, Comment, and Share. On Twitter, you can Favorite, Reply, and Retweet. And that's a blog post for another day, but if you have time and you aren't familiar with either set of interactions, definitely take a couple of minutes to just look it up.

And I digress. What's interesting is that even when I get through this, there are some people who've already made up their mind, and say they just don't have the time, which I call bollocks on if they're on Facebook. Or they say Twitter's just a waste of time, which might actually be true for them.

Whether personally or professionally, it isn't a platform to hop on just to do so. And it certainly isn't one to sign up for if all you're going to do is sync it to push from your other social media.

But if you're curious, I'd say the best thing to do is to find your friends, follow others who share your interests and passions, and just start by listening and replying to what shows up in your Twitter feed. Because ultimately, if you're not willing to engage with and share what others are tweeting, then...well you get what you give, or don't give in this case.

Let me know what you think about any of this. Are you a recent Twitter convert? Did you try it out and it just didn't jive with you? Are you the one your friends ask to explain it to them?

Leave a comment, as well as thoughts on other related topics that I should consider blogging about in the future.

- JR

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Totally addicted to tech

Hey there,

Okay, so I realize the title might be a big vague. Let me just clear up any confusion as to what this post might be about. This is specifically regarding several...settings in which the seemingly irresistible urge to be on one's cell phone has come up in my own personal life (as far as observing others, not my own personal use) that I just had to share.

And these aren't in any particular order.

The first is, with men, the urinal.

Really guys?? C'mon can't wait to finish your business and wash your hands before you check Facebook?? I seriously don't anything is that urgent.

We survived before cell phones and social media long enough to take a wiz. I'm sure we can continue to do so.

The second is when working out. Okay, yes, fine. This is excluding the individuals who use the multimedia aspects of their mobile devices, regarding music and whatnot. But even then, shouldn't you already have a playlist ready to go?

I guess, what I'm really commenting on is when people start focusing on whatever they're doing on their smartphones, more than they're actually working out. I suspect many of them are falling victim to WWILF'ing, aka "what was I looking for"'s that phenomenon that happens when you start of by checking one thing, then see a post, or a link, or an article, and you click on that, and before you know it, your 10 clicks away from what you originally opened your browser or app for and you have no idea what it was anymore.

But hey, it's your time

The third and final thing, as a performer, is on stage. I did a production in which our stage mother had to yell at us after the first performance, because people pulled out their cell phones, on stage, in the middle of the show!!

Now there was a backdrop of sorts that was downstage of us, but when you're in almost complete black, cell phone screens are quite bright. And while there weren't any more illuminating incidents, one of the following shows another performer's phone went off IN THEIR POCKET!!

Thankfully, they were quick enough to hear it and almost unnoticeably turn it off. I mean, I'm sure none of the audience could see it from the house, but I'm sure you can imagine how jarring it was for the other performers around him.

Anyway, so it's all still relevant to the subject of the post. It's just having to do with how mobile technology has encroached upon certain areas of our life, in addictive ways, both perceived and actual.

I know I'm not the first to write about this, so I obviously encourage checking Google News for "addicted to tech" (which you can do by just clicking on the link). I'd also like to hear if anyone's had similar experience, either in the same environments or other ones.

Do you think we'll eventually balance this behavior out and see a decrease in incidents where our mobile devices don't distract us from what we're doing in the moment as much?

Curious mind wants to know,

- JR

P.S. Whether you did or did not get the song reference in the subject (although I changed a word), here's a music video:

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Behind the scenes photos for GMCW's Winter Nights

Hey there,

Just a quickie.  Wanted to share some photos I took from dress & tech rehearsals for the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington's Winter Nights concert at Lisner Auditorium this weekend. We had a great show last night, and two more today.

The last one is one of the two costumes I have in act 2, a Bollywood number and a Rockette one. Guess which one this is. :-)

Winter Nights also has pieces and more photos in:

Friends in the area, if you don't have any plans today, hope to see you there.

Otherwise, definitely keep an eye out for info about our March musical, Xanadu. I got cast as the muse, Urania!! :-)

Until next time,