The Devil You Know

Last night I had the pleasure of watching a performance of “The Devil You Know,” a two-act play written and directed by Andrea Daniels. Performed by the Barley Sheaf Players, the performance was a benefit for The Domestic Violence Center of Chester County.

The Devil You KnowThe play was a thoughtful and sensitive treatment of the emotional, psychological and social issues surrounding domestic violence. It is the story of Annabel (played by Mary Kate Kenney), a young woman who fled her childhood home where she lived with her two sisters and a physically and verbally abusive mother. Ten years after running away, she returns to confront her past and the family she left behind. But before she musters the courage to confront her mother, Annabel finds herself falling in love with the charmingly mysterious Gabe (played by Chris Tribel). Gabe also grew up in an abusive environment, and is in treatment for battering his former wife. The bittersweet romance that develops between Annabel and Gabe reflects the unfortunate tendency for victims of abuse to find themselves attracted to abusive personality types. The story provides a probing and sympathetic look into the lives of those caught up in the perpetual cycle of domestic violence, and the struggle to overcome “the devil you know.”

Laura ShayMaking a significant contribution to the impact of the performance was the haunting music of Laura Shay. I heard Laura’s music at last year’s performance of “Counting Mississippis,” where I also purchased her CD, “To a Place.” I subsequently wrote a brief review of this recording on iTunes, where it is available for download. I have to say that her music for “The Devil You Know” was particularly refined, and would hope that at least some of it will appear on a future CD release. In the meantime, you can listen to more of her music on her MyPlace site.

By the way, the above photo of Laura Shay was taken by Nicole Ulicney, one of my former teaching assistants in the large lecture class I teach at West Chester University. More of her photographic talent is on display on her web site, nicoleulicnyphoto.com.

Getting Mac software for less

There are a growing number of web sites offering discounts on Mac software. I’ve written before about MacZot, a site that offers a different discount every day. Sometimes I’ve found some good buys at MacZot, including a great deal on the Keynote enhancement products from Jumsoft. I like how they keep a record of your purchases on the site, just in case you lose your registration keys.

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In order to purchase software from MacZot, you do need to fill out a short form to become a member. It doesn’t cost anything to join as a regular member, but for a modest price you can get a “Zotgeist” membership which entitles you to even bigger discounts on selected products, and a free “Zot” on your birthday.

There have also been a number of sites cropping up recently that offer free software as promotional teasers, typically to drive traffic to their sites. Last month, the macappaday site gave some great apps away for free. Whether this will continue remains to be seen, but there is a tease page on their site now that suggests that they will.

At the time of this writing, there were also a few copies of Postino remaining to be given away to those who sign up at MacScoop. Postino is an excellent program for reading RSS news feeds, with support for audio and video podcasts.

One of the most ingenius sites to give away teaser software was MacHeist, which gave away “loot” for successfully completing web-based puzzles. Along with the freebies were discounts for a bundle of ten applications. Although the bundle sale is now over, supposedly there will be one more “heist” in the very near future. Given the length of time people have been waiting for this final piece of the MacHeist puzzle, I suspect it might be a very rewarding mission.

MacHeist inspired a number of “mini-heist” sites, including most notably theAmazon. They gave away copies of PhotoPresenter to those who successfully completed the first mission, and a second mission will supposedly start in the next few days.

iPhone on Saturday Night Live

Here’s a clip from Saturday Night Live where they parody Steve Job’s announcement of the iPhone on their “Weekend Update” sketch. It’s already a big hit on YouTube.
Actually, the battery life is supposed to be around 5 hours for playback of video, web browsing and talk time, and 16 hours if used for music listening. At least that’s the official specifications from Apple. Of course, since the product won’t officially be released for a few months, we’ll have to wait and see how the iPhone’s battery holds up in “real world” application.       

MacJournal

Mariner Software has just released an upgrade to MacJournal, which is the software I’ve been using lately to maintain this blog. I find it much more powerful than iWeb for blogging, and offers a number of useful features for writing any kind of journal. It seems like a worthwhile upgrade, and is free to registered owners of the 4.0 version of the product.

One of the reasons why I like this program is the full screen writing mode. This mode helps you focus on writing by turning your screen black and displaying the text you are writing in a large green font centered in the middle of the screen. It reminds me a lot of the kind of computer journal featured on the television program “Doogie Howser, M.D.”

Adding RSS feeds to Blackboard

Our Blackboard administrator keeps telling me that the ability to add RSS feeds directly to my Blackboard sites is coming, but so far it is not yet available on our campus installation. I’ve found a way around this limitation by using FeedBurner. I can set up a free RSS feed page at FeedBurner, and link it directly to an external link menu item in Blackboard. Then when students click on the link, the feed page displays in the main window. It’s not quite the same as having the RSS feed directly in Blackboard, but it does provide a workaround until better RSS support is added to our Blackboard installation.

Publishing podcasts

Today I published on DrThompsen.com a podcast of my lecture in COM 212, an introductory course in mass communication that I teach at West Chester University. This is the fourth semester I’ve recorded my lectures as podcasts, but until now I’ve kept the files in a directory on the course’s home page on blackboard.wcupa.edu. By publishing my podcasts on my own website, I’m able to more easily create the RSS feed needed to allow one to subscribe to the podcast series. This was something I was unable to do on Blackboard (although I understand they are working on including more podcasting features in the next version of the software).

Here’s the feed URL of this semester’s series of podcasts:

http://drthompsen.com/podcasts/COM212-S07/COM212-Spring07_20070116_232152-0500.rss

That’s a rather long URL, but it was the one generated by the software I’m using, a great program called Profcast. I used this program last year, and it just keeps getting better. I spoke with the developer briefly last week at MacWorld, and made a few suggestions for the next version. There still seems to be an issue with “back dating” podcast episodes, and there are some annoying transparent dialog boxes that I’d like to be able to turn off. But in general, this software is the best solution I’ve seen for easily creating and managing a podcast of lectures.

Now if we can just get the WCU iTunes Music Store off the ground this semester…