The Flying Ass

Image: Getty

If you are offended by my headline, take a look at the photo above. Better yet, watch Gayle King, of CBS This Morning, on the above video talking about the shape of the world’s largest aircraft. 
It’s part airship, part helicopter and part plane. The 300-foot Airlander 10, manufactured by the British aerospace company Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), is reported to be 62 feet longer than an Airbus A380.

I heard about the flying machine during a phone call with a blogger from London who was asking me about a virtual reality product. He told me that he felt like he was in fantasy land for the last few days because all of his reporting was about science-fiction type inventions. 

When I asked him what he was taking about he mentioned, “The Flying Ass.” I quickly Googled it and couldn’t believe there wasn’t  more coverage on this. 

The aircraft’s recent maiden flight in Bedfordshire, England, was only for 20 minutes. However, newspaper reports that the Airlander can stay airborne for up to five days at a time. It can carry up to 10 tons of cargo at a maximum speed of 91 miles per hour.

It has a strange shape, according to several periodicals, because it is filled with air helium in the carbon fiber hull. That is supposed to “eliminate combustible hydrogen that caused the Hindenburg to turn into a ball of fire in 1937.”

My British blogger friend said that governments all over the world will be using the Airlander for commercial purposes. I couldn’t find a definite confirmation. 

You read it here first. You may be seeing a flying ass above you in the not-too-distant future. 

Conde Nast Traveler was one of a few publications to report on the Airlandet. Check it out here.

A Sneak Look At iPhone 7 Features 

I have been so in love with my iPhone 6 Plus, that I just don’t know how I will ever upgrade to the iPhone  7. I want to share seven anticipated features. I wonder if you think these features are miraculous. 

If you don’t understand some of the language below, click on the New York Post link. Everything will be explained.
1. Never run out of storage.
2. Share your current location with friends more easily.

3. You can remove stock iOS apps.

4. Easily unsubscribe from mailing lists

5. Live filters for live photos.

6. iOS 10 supports inline video playback for the iPhone.

7.Read Receipts can now be toggled on a user-by-user basis.

Click here to read about the features in The New York Post. 

Words To Live By 

For some reason, the older we get, the more these words make sense.

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but, when we look back everything is different.” —C.S. Lewis

“What terrifies religious extremists like the Taliban are not American tanks or bombs or bullets, it’s a girl with a book.” —Malala Yousafzai

 “Of all sad words of mouth or pen, the saddest are these: it might have been.”—John Greenleaf Whittier

“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.”—
Charles Bukowski

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”—Albert Einstein

“Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.” —Benjamin Franklin

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” —Admiral Grace Hopper

“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” —Arthur C. Clarke

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”—Theodore Roosevelt

“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

“Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself.” —Rumi

“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” —Margaret Atwood

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” —Bill Nye

“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.” —
Gloria Steinem

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” —H.P. Lovecraft

Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.

 “I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” —Virginia Woolf

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” —Marie Curie

“Give a man a mask, and he will show you his true face.” —Oscar Wilde

Height Fright  

I got a bit of vertigo when I saw this in Architectural Digest today. These are photos of China’s new glass walkway which is suspended 4,600 feet in the air.

Photo: VCG/Getty Images

Photo: VCG/Getty Images

Watch this video at your own risk

For a million dollars, I could not walk this new tourist attraction which is hanging off the side of a mountain. It’s about 328-feet-long, about the same size of a football field.

The suspended path is named Coiling Dragon Cliff and its at the top of Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

I would like to meet the people who are willing to walk the platform which is 5.24 feet wide and has 99 spiral turns. I feel faint just writing about it. This is quite an innovation.

Pittsburgh’s Test Drive 

Image: Uber

Pittsburgh is making history this month. I wish I was there to witness it. Uber is putting self-driving Volvo SUVs on the road. 

I don’t think I have enough nerve to ride in a self-driving car so I am glad to hear that drivers will be on board to make sure there are no mishaps. 

Why Pittsburgh? 

Word has it that Travis Kalanick, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Uber, partnered with Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics department to research and build the best autonomous automobiles ever. 

I wonder how many riders really want to travel in a self-driving car? I bet more than we think. This is just not going to happen by chance. Uber will allow customers to decide if they want a self-driving car from their app. 

This is going to be very interesting. Good luck and safe travels.

Life Follows Social Media 

My cousin Irene and me.

Thank you cousin Irene Becker for a good laugh.

Many people of my generation do not, and cannot, comprehend why Facebook exists and why so many people participate and love it. I will try to demonstrate why Facebook is so popular by making friends outside of the social media platform using the same principles.  

Therefore, every day I walk down the street and tell a passersby what I have eaten, how I feel at the moment, what I have done the night before, what I will do later and with whom. I give them pictures of my family, my dog, and of me gardening, taking things apart in the garage, watering the lawn, standing in front of landmarks, driving around town, having lunch, and doing what anybody and everybody does every day. I also listen to their conversations, give them the “thumbs up” and tell them I like them.

And it works just like Facebook.

I already have four people following me: two police officers, a private investigator and a psychiatrist.

Irene and Allan Becker


We’re Back

Say hello to Lying On the Beach, the “beachy” podcast by Steve Greenberg and yours truly, discussing all things tech and non-tech in an ever-changing and ever-annoying world we live in. For those of you who remember, Steve and I started this podcast series 14 years ago and then gave it up. We can’t remember why.

It doesn’t matter. We’re back with tons of energy and topics. Our URL is and that’s where you can find our podcasts. We are also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We plan a weekly podcast, maybe more. We thank Jason Henriques for his artistic and technical direction.

 Our first episode is about Bad Behavior. More and more people all over the world are being rewarded with fame and fortune for their rude, arrogant, and inappropriate behavior. When did the rules change and how does this impact our future? Steve and Lois discuss the changes they have seen. 

We thank you for subscribing to Lying on the Beach and “liking” our  social media pages.  We hope you enjoy our gab sessions. 

High Resolution Audio 

If you love music you may want to read this. In my day job as a publicist, I represent an audio company, called Astell&Kern, of Irvine, CA. They are a portable and home device  manufacturer reproducing the best possible music you can buy. It’s called high resolution audio because the recordings are the same quality as studio sound. 

We have been promoting hi res audio for a few years. A colleague and I decided to write the following as an update to what is happening in the industry. I thought I would share it with you. 

A Q&A Discussion with Owen Kwon, President, Astell&Kern and Marc Finer, Senior Director, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, About High Resolution Audio

We all know that the world of recorded music is always changing. High resolution audio has already penetrated the audiophile marketplace. Now it’s the mass market’s turn. 

In order to bring everyone who loves music up-to-date on the status of high resolution audio, we turned to the ultimate sources — Owen Kwon, President of Astell&Kern, the global leader in high resolution portable and home audio playback devices and Marc Finer, Senior Director, DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. For nearly 20-years, the association has advocated and promoted entertainment platforms, products, and distribution channels which support the movie, television, music, consumer and IT industries.

Q. Why is high resolution music so important today?

 Owen Kwon:

 High resolution audio is important in the world of music today because it captures more details of a song than any other type of compressed (or lossy) digital audio formats. This is true whether the original source comes from a live performance or a studio recording. Most of the music that we listen to today, like CDs or MP3s, have inferior or compressed sound since that was the most convenient format available at the time. These formats sacrifice true studio quality sound for portability and the convenience of carrying thousands of songs on the go. With advances in storage prices and high speed Internet readily available, people do not have to sacrifice sound quality for convenience anymore. Those lossy formats do not provide the full dynamic range captured from the original performance. High resolution audio provides the full sound quality. Most people consider high resolution audio better than CD quality sound. 

 Marc Finer:

 High resolution digital audio is the closest thing to the original studio sound. It’s the way the artist, producer, and engineer always intended their music to be heard.

 If you look back over the last 40 years, the music industry transitioned from vinyl to cassettes to compact discs, due to the demand for more portability and better sound. Then in the early 2000s, the industry pivoted once again by introducing digital delivery in the form of MP3s. However, in order to be small enough for downloading to PCs and portable devices, these files needed to be compressed, which compromised their music quality. High-resolution audio is uncompressed (or “lossless”) and delivers sound quality that’s better than not just MP3s but CDs as well, which has the potential to transform the audio industry. 

 Q. Can the average person hear the difference?

 Marc Finer:

 Those people who truly love music want the best experience possible. This includes audiophiles who can hear the difference with hi-res immediately. There’s also a growing group of millennial enthusiasts, who are seeking better sound and are fixated on everything related to a better music experience. They’re the same people who spend thousands of dollars going to concerts, festivals and clubs. And they’re even buying vinyl, in order to connect more emotionally to their music. According to the latest research conducted by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), both of these consumer segments want to experience music as if they’re in the studio with their favorite artist and band. 

 Owen Kwon:

 Yes they can. However, they need quality portable devices that can properly play back high resolution digital music, such as our Astell&Kern portable hi-res audio players. There is a noticeable difference in listening to a song in MP3 format, then in a high resolution format. The music consumes you; you hear things you’ve never heard before in a song that you’ve listened to for years. You start to notice some simmering resonances of a sound stage, the subtle sound of instruments at lower volumes, or the hint of a singer’s breath — then all of a sudden you hear the strings, the woods, and the keys on a piano. It’s different with each new song. There’s always a new surprise. It’s quite an exciting experience as you feel the artists and the band suddenly appear in front of you.

Anyone who loves music would appreciate high-resolution music the most. The demographic is ageless. We are seeing millennias really embracing the idea of getting the best sound possible. Good quality music brings people great pleasure. It impacts our mood in the most positive and comforting ways. Music is linked to so many experiences in our lives.   

 Q. What is the status of the music market?

 Marc Finer:

 The latest research from the music labels and organizations like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Music Watch shows that the digital download market is starting to decline. This is being replaced by a new generation of on-demand subscription services from companies like Spotify, Apple, Amazon and others. Of the nearly 150 million consumers who are streaming music in the U.S. today, an estimated 25 million are passionate about sound quality and the user experience. This is not merely a small group of audiophiles – it’s a major market opportunity!

 Owen Kwon:

 At Astell&Kern, we see that the online hi-res music download services such as HDtracks and Pro Studio Masters are promoting their high resolution offerings. These are just two of the many hi-res music download sites that are available to consumers. 

Actually, IRIVER, the parent company of Astell&Kern is partnering with music labels in Asia to release high-resolution audio on microSD cards so people can have all of the liner notes associated with traditional physical forms of media such as vinyl and CDs, and own a copy of the album they have purchased, in high resolution FLAC format. Here in the United States, we have released special edition high resolution box sets with both Universal Music celebrating Blue Note Records 75th anniversary and with Warner Music, providing the full catalog of Maria Callas in a special edition high resolution collector’s box set. 

 Q. How strong is the female market

 Owen Kwon:

 Our research shows that high-resolution audio and Astell&Kern products have been pretty strong with male listeners 25 years old and older. In the last year or two, we are starting to see an increasing number of females interested in better, higher quality music, because there are so many tracks written for them. Women understand the emotional connection to music and in recent years have been embracing new technology much faster than other demographics. 

 Marc Finer:

 Music fans are gender agnostic. Many women are also very passionate about music and more and more are attending concerts, festivals and clubs to hear their favorite artist perform live. Additionally thanks to social media, these women are able to connect to their favorite artists on-line, which explains the huge following enjoyed by such superstars as Adele and Taylor Swift. As a result, our industry has a whole new opportunity to market a new premium music experience that includes high-resolution studio sound and more advanced user features. It’s very exciting.

 Q. There are some industry people who think that high resolution music has not met sales expectations. What is your reaction to that?

 Marc Finer:

 That’s simply incorrect – the opportunity is greater than ever. In fact, the only part of the digital download business that’s actually growing is high resolution. It’s increasing in both the number of compatible devices being sold and music industry revenue. And once hi-res transitions to subscription streaming services, this growth will continue exponentially. 

 Owen Kwon:

 Every new technology takes time to build up. They said the same thing about the television set, the car stereo, and the Walkman. We see evidence that this new music experience is penetrating the marketplace. We get calls every day from new retailers who want to be a part of it. We are very encouraged because we know there is a huge market that hasn’t awaken yet. We have seen the happy smiles from our customers that listen to it for the first time. They are never going back to compressed music. As long as the high resolution music selections continue to increase, so will hardware sales. The music catalog of hi-res audio tracks available is small compared to what’s available on streaming services at the moment. However, most of the hi-res music tracks available now for purchase are best-selling or legendary albums, so it covers a fairly large portion of music demand. More hi-res music is becoming available every day. The whole industry is working together to build up this segment of the music business.


Q. What are traditional retailers doing to promote high resolution music?

 Marc Finer:

With hi-res audio, demonstration is everything. So a number of dealers are working closely with manufacturers like Astell&Kern and Sony to bring studio quality sound to the retail floor. The best example of this is the biggest retailer in our industry Best Buy, who recently launched a Hi-Res Listening Station program in their Magnolia Design Center stores nationwide. This kiosk features hi-res clips of both new releases and classic albums, which are updated regularly by the major music companies working in cooperation with the DEG. This same approach is being followed, on a smaller basis, by many leading independent retailers around the country. 

 Owen Kwon:

 Consumer Electronics retailers are opening up their stores and offering more options to shoppers, as they see a big wave of new opportunity is coming. The product categories they relied on in the past for sales are slowing down. We are relying on the DEG to help educate the industry and the market. The DEG has been monumental in bringing together all of the players in the industry and getting everyone to work together towards the common goal of providing listeners with the best possible sound quality available. The DEG has made great strides in educating everyone about high resolution audio and we are extremely grateful for all of their work. At the end of the day, it’s all about the music. We are seeing good results. It’s working.

 Q. What about Apple? Will we see high resolution audio from them soon?

 Marc Finer:

 While Apple has yet to launch a high-res music service, they have been assembling these recordings, as part of their Mastered for iTunes program with the major music companies. This is a very important development and over time Apple could become a major provider of hi-res music. 

 Owen Kwon:

 Apple has been building an extensive library of 24-bit high resolution audio for years. While there have not been any offerings from them yet, they do have the possibility of jumping into the marketplace at any time. Currently they are focusing more on their streaming service, Apple Music, and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Astell&Kern has been focused on providing the best high resolution audio experience from day one to music lovers everywhere and will continue to so regardless of who joins us in the marketplace.  


Magnetic Shoe Closures

I gave up on athletic shoes years ago. When I reached 55,  I threw out all of my sneakers. They were too heavy, too sweaty, and too difficult to tie. 

I love wearing my ballerina flats from Aerosoles. I can walk for miles and kick them off whenever I want to. I really never thought I would ever wear sneakers again.

That was true until I heard about the Zubits magnetic shoe closures. They offer a new method of tying and untying sneakers. All I have to do is lace Zubits magnets on my  shoelaces. A simple click closes my sneakers and if I step on my heel, I can open them again.  

It’s that easy, you have to watch the video to see this gadget in action. A whole new world just opened up. Enjoy the convenience.

The Zubits magnetic shoe closures are  $21.99 and available on Amazon.

Being Pushed Around

There have been many times over the years that I tried to remember what it was like being pushed around in a stroller. I sometimes remember a quick, few seconds. It doesn’t matter if it’s real. It’s my fantasy.

If I lived in Chicago, I could experience the delight of riding in a stroller again. Kolcraft, a baby product manufacturer, provides adults with rides in their Contours Bliss baby strollers.

What a brilliant PR move. Kolcraft realized that adults shopping for strollers can’t ask babies what they like, so they decided to give parents and grandparents the chance to take a ride themselves.

I wish I were there. A wheelchair just doesn’t cut it. Andy Newmark, Kolcraft’s Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, reported to members of the press that his mature customers love being wheeled around.  

It is something 99.9 per cent of all adults never get to experience. A ride in a stroller can possibly make you feel young again. It will certainly make you feel special.