Angie's Leap

My dive into blogging: music, technology, saving money


Still here

Never thought I’d let so much time slip away between posts. All is well, I am happy to report. My dive into blogging has been a tremendous asset in my latest work assignment. As I blogged in a previous post, I can really relate to the lyrics in that Stevie Wonder song “As,” where Stevie sings about God knowing exactly where he wants you to be placed.

I have been placed in some very challenging places since my “downsizing” at the Chicago Sun-Times, and I know I have grown in ways I would not have had I remained there. Sure, I’ve picked up some job skills. Doubt I would have squeezed in going back to school while I was at the paper. But my biggest growth has been spiritual. And it’s made me re-evaluate what I want to blog about.

Yep, I’m thinking of starting up a new blog about my spiritual journey. So as not to pull a bait-and-switch on those interested in my passion for music, tech and saving money, it’s only fitting that I talk about my walk with God in another forum.

I’m mulling over how I’ll approach the new blog now, and I’m not abandoning this one. I just feel called to devote what little free time I find myself with lately to something that may help people in a more meaningful way.

Just wanted everyone to know I’m good, and looking forward to more blessings.




3 apps for music lovers

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TuneIn. One of the favorite things I love doing when I travel is seeking out new radio stations.  Discovering a station that kicks out the jams and keeps me engaged with entertaining local radio personalities is always a special treat. This is becoming even more difficult as radio becomes more homogenized.  Not hatin’ Tom Joyner or Steve Harvey, but I can hear you guys at home. Oddly enough, I feel more at home in a distant place when I can absorb the local sounds.

All this is leading up to my current love affair with the TuneIn app, which thanks to my college pal Dex, has reunited me with WHUR in Washington, D.C., or more specifically, “The ORIGINAL Quiet Storm.”  Howard University students and alumni know what I’m talking about. That late-night smooth R&B format imitated everywhere was pioneered at the Mecca,  and nobody does it better than Howard University Radio.

The app boasts more than 50,000 stations and 21 genres, from adult contemporary to world music. I browsed for stations by location and immediately started plugging in my favorites, but you use other criteria, as seen below:

TuneIn does require an Internet connection, so you might want to watch your data usage if you’re not on an unlimited data plan. Other cool features:

  • Pro version upgrade (99 cents) lets you record, pause and rewind what you’re listening to.

  • An alarm timer lets you wake up to your favorite station.

  • A “schedule” tab gives you the station’s programming for the day.

  • A “playlist” tab identifies the song you’re listening to and upcoming ones.

  • Integrates with Roku streaming players.

I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the capabilities of SoundCloud. Music lovers who like creating, exploring and sharing new sounds can while away hours (or longer) on this app. I use it to keep up with the creative doings of my DJ sister and beat-making son.  I can recommend both as a source of some serious party or workout music.

I also add podcasts of stuff I want to listen to later if there’s a SoundCloud share button on a Web page.  Want to hear mashups or remixes of the latest hits? Like I said, you can while away hours.

WhoSampled. I like all of these apps, but I feel as though the developers made this one just for me. As the site’s tagline proclaims, it’s all about “exploring the DNA of music.” Does it ever.  The site claims a database of more than 153,000 songs and 56,000 artists. If I hear a hook or lyric and I know it’s from another song, it will bug me to no end until I track down the DNA of that song. Now, thanks to WhoSampled, when you know you’ve heard that beat, lyric or melody somewhere you’ll be able to put your finger right on it. And when you need to school a youngster about the roots of two-thirds of today’s rap … well, you get the idea.

A photo gallery is worth a thousand words, so let me illustrate, via Biggie’s “Hypnotize.” I’ve already allowed the WhoSampled app to scan the music library of my iPad2, and it’s come up with 307 tracks and 200 artists.

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‘Doing it well: Gymwrap stands up to sweat

Editor’s note: Today’s guest blogger, Diane Hawkins, reviews a product aimed at saving women time and money by preserving their dos after a workout.

Actress Nicole Ari Parker released the “Save Your Do” gymwrap which has been featured by Channel 7 WLS-ChicagoEbony magazineThe Root and other media outlets. The gymwrap promises to wick away moisture, allow heat to escape, keep your hair flat and save your hairstyle.

Mission accomplished, somewhat.

After a few extremely sweaty workouts, which included 40 minutes on the elliptical trainer and 30 minutes on the treadmill, the wrap was satisfactory. It did wick away some of the moisture, but I wouldn’t suggest going to an “America’s Next Top Model” photo shoot after your workout. Similar to an elliptical trainer, the gymwrap has its ups and downs.

"Save Your Do" Gymwrap

I found that the key is to wear it comfortably — not too tight — during the workout and for an additional 15 minutes after your workout, allowing the gymwrap to absorb more of your hard-earned sweat. After using the gymwrap, my hair wasn’t completely dry, but I believe that the wrap prevented me from having to drag out my blow dryer as I have done in the past.

I bought the narrow gymwrap because I wear my hair in a ponytail most days. When I untied the wrap, the ribbons in the back were dripping with sweat — but my hair was not. The gymwrap definitely isn’t a guarantee that you will have beautiful, flowing hair after your workout, but it did succeed in preventing sweat from dripping in my eyes and keeping my hair manageable.

Parker’s hair-saving material ranges from $24.95 for the narrow gymband and wide gymband to $29.95 for the full triangle. You can purchase it at and receive a $5 discount if you “like” the product’s Facebook page. Also, the payment includes 10 percent of the proceeds benefiting Sophie’s Voice Foundation, an organization that brings attention to children and adults diagnosed with spina bifida.

My rating: 3-1/2 stars out of 5.

Diane Hawkins is a copy editor with the Louisville Courier-Journal and an adjunct journalism instructor at Jefferson Community and Technical College. She also has contributed to Rebellious Magazine and Soul In Stereo, among other blogs. You can find her at


Labor Day props to music faves

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She worked hard for the money. The hardest working man in show biz didn’t want nobody giving him nothing. They had a hard day’s night  and worked like dogs. He got the  job done. And though he’s a rock ‘n’ roll Boss, he’s a working man’s hero, too.

Thank you, Bruce, James, Big Daddy Kane, Paul, Ringo, John, George and Donna, for putting in the work.

Bruce Springsteen, James Brown, Big Daddy Kane, The Beatles, Donna Summer

Convert DVDs to play on iPad for free

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A  friend recently asked me how to convert DVDs to digital formats so that her daughter could watch them on her iPad during a road trip. I remember when some DVDs would come with free digital copies. Now I see Walmart and others are charging for the service.

Following is a tutorial on how to install the open-source application HandBrake and get those digital copies free.

1. Use the link provided above to download the software. There are other links using HandBrake in their URLs, but they’re ads for other paid programs, and some of them may contain malware. This tutorial focuses on the Mac installation, but Windows is available as well.

2. Give your computer permission to download the app. This may mean temporarily turning your firewall off under System Preferences. When you’re done with the installation, remember to turn your firewall back on.

3. After unpackaging the software, you’ll get a screen like the one below. Now you just have to show the app the movie you want to encode. Click “Source” and find your DVD.

4. I select my DVD, “Cooley High,” from the source pane to the left of the window that appears after I click “Source.” :

Locate your DVD (source)

5. Next, click on the Video_TS file. Click “Open” in the lower right corner of the window after the Video_TS file is opened.

Open Video_TS folder

6. A bump in the road: My older DVD is 32-bit, while the current version of HandBrake is 64-bit.  I click on the button to the far right, download a software package, and in three minutes, I’m back in business.

7. I click “Start,” and the DVD encoding begins.

8. The flyout menu to the right shows my encoding options. I set them for my iPad. Settings are available for the iPhone and iPod Touch, Apple TV and Android devices as well.

9. A cute alert that my digital copy is ready. The 1-hour, 47-minute, 27-second flick took 38 minutes to convert.

10.  “Cooley High” is ready to transfer to the iPad.

11. Whoomp! There it is…

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scattered pennies

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Chipotle’s penny antics and customer (diss)service

The hubbub this week about Chipotle “rounding up” customer bills, in effect cheating customers by pennies at a time, reminded me of a savings fundamental as well as my own similar experience. One lesson is clear: count your change. Yet I can understand how easily this basic savings no-brainer can be ignored in our hustle-and-bustle society.

The whole incident also made me think about the level of poor customer service I’m willing to accept and where I draw the line. (Yeah, downright ripping me off will get me off your customer list for sure.)

During the time I was taking classes downtown I had two choices for my morning java jolt if I was unable to grab a cup at home: Mickey D’s and a doughnut/coffee chain which shall remain unnamed. Mickey D’s offered the better deal: $1 for a  cup of Joe, any size. I usually kept a bottle of my favorite coffee flavoring in the fridge at school to spice it up, and I’d be good. But I liked the doughnut chain’s coffee better, and they had more flavor additions as well. My point is that I was willing to spend a little more for something I like more — even though this doughnut chain’s line sometimes stretched outside the door.

Then I noticed my receipts and changed weren’t jibing at the doughnut shop. At first I thought it was accidental. After it happened more than once, I knew it was no accident. So one morning I called the cashier on it, showing her the receipt and the change in my hand. I didn’t care how many people were standing outside in line; as a person in the story said, it was the principle of the thing.

The cashier told me they didn’t have any pennies. Right. I shook my head and told her I needed her to get my money right. This chick, who claimed to have no pennies, then proceeded to give me about 32 cents worth of Abe Lincolns. And I proceeded to count them out on the counter, one by one.

I won’t be back to that shop again. I thought about all those people they probably were getting away with ripping off daily, all because folks are too busy to pay attention. Haste makes waste, indeed. It can also  make a nice profit for an unscrupulous business/cashier. A friend back in high school told me he worked at a store where cashiers worked a similar scam.

I had contemplated crossing this doughnut shop off my list before because a shop at another location wasn’t getting the coffee flavors right. Maybe it was skimping, just putting a drop in when a large cup needed more; I just knew I wasn’t tasting any flavor. The second time this happened I stopped going there.

I could go on with more poor customer service stories, but I really wonder if businesses are losing out as a result of such practices. Do they care about how many good customers are lost, or are these casualties just factored into the cost of doing business? More important, where do you, as a consumer, draw the line and stop patronizing an establishment with poor customer service?

3 favorite R&B angels

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Can’t touch these R&B queens when it comes to striking an emotional chord. Two Motown divas and one homie from the Chi, representing the best of the Midwest. One “Angel” reminds me of my mom, who folks used to stop on the street when I was a girl, swearing up and down she was Aretha. Chaka’s “Angel” reminds me of my daughter, the drama queen. Anita’s “Angel” reminds me of being in love. Enjoy.

“Angel” by Aretha Franklin

Singer Chaka Khan

“Angel” by Chaka Khan

Singer Anita Baker

“Angel” by Anita Baker

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Read offline, pocket the savings

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Being able to read my saved Web pages offline has been invaluable, especially since I’ve suspended my iPad data plan. If my tablet’s 3G connection ever becomes reliable, perhaps I’ll reactivate, but for now I’m saving that $15 a month.  My Pocket app has really come through in the clutch when I’ve been stuck in boring places with nothing good to read and no Internet connection. Yes, my cell phone data connection is horrible, too.

Previously called Read It Later,  Pocket has been on my iPad for a while, but I never used it much since Safari’s Reading List popped up in my toolbar. What I didn’t learn till after I shut down my data plan was that the reading list isn’t available offline. Pocket is the perfect workaround.

My only criticism is that it’s a pain installing Pocket’s “bookmarklet” into iPad’s Safari browser. As you’ll see in the screen shots below, Safari’s bookmark dropdown menu covers up Pocket’s installation directions. This might not be an issue with other iPad browsers, but Safari is the one I use most often.  I’ve included a screen shot of the unobscured directions. By contrast, installing the bookmark into your laptop or desktop browser is a snap.

Once installed in your browsers, the app shines. Click on the “Save to Pocket” icon on your iPad, laptop or desktop and start saving your pages. Pocket boasts integration with more than 300 user-created apps, including two of my favorites, Flipboard and Twitter.  One important note: You can’t view your Favorites list offline. Keep stuff you want to read offline in the Home queue.

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It’s easy to forget sometimes that the world wide web has been around for more than two decades now, or that it has caused massive and ongoing disruption of almost every form of content from books and newspapers to music and movies. In the early 1990s, only a few really foresaw that kind of revolution occurring in media, and as former journalist Mark Potts notes in a recent blog post, one of those who looked into the future with some accuracy was the former managing editor of the Washington Post, who wrote a memo to the paper’s executives describing what this future might look like and how it would change the industry.

Even more interesting than what this former editor got right, however, are the things that he and almost every other visionary completely missed — and one of the most important was the way that the…

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