ALERT: I’m scheduling my midlife crisis next week

Dear Friends,

A number of factors in my life lately have led to a whole lot of stress – above and beyond normal life – for a while now. Therefore, in part to deal with these issues, I am hereby declaring a midlife crisis. I plan to start it in exactly one week [1], at lunchtime, on Friday June 21st, and stretching throughout the summer months. I’m sure you all have many questions, so let me try to address some of them now.

Shane! What’s wrong, Shane?

I’ve decided to have a midlife crisis. Isn’t that the responsible thing to do? I figure if I schedule some of it out, it’ll be much more convenient for everyone.

Are you OK?

Yes, in the big picture, I’m still better off than most humans on the planet: I have a wonderful wife, daughter and cats; a comfy home; and a paying job. So color me #FirstWorldProblems for sure. But…

But what? What’s been going on?

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand moment was probably the death of my father, in January of this year. Dealing with both the personal issues and especially dealing with the paperwork and other extended family estate issues was far more than I expected, and is continuing. This also led to a number of other stresses and health issues for me, which of course got me worried about being stressed… Plus, my father was a hoarder, and the responsibility of cleaning out his house(es) is a huge undertaking that’s not even half done.

Coupling this with both the hectic normal life of a family with a young school child, two working parents with busy jobs, plus my significant (and growing) volunteer responsibilities at the ASF, has just been more than is comfortable to deal with.

So what are you doing about it?

Well, right now I’m writing this witty and informative blog post about it, just for you!

(ahem) No, really.

Well, I figured since I’m of that age anyway, I might as well schedule a midlife crisis. See, one of the skills I’ve always thought I should work on is better time management, so I figure if I can schedule a midlife crisis I’d already be improving myself.

Hence, to have a proper midlife crisis, I am taking an unpaid leave of absence from my job. Thus while I may be without regular income (but see: #FirstWorldProblems), I will have ample time to do all those crazy and fun things that go with a traditional midlife crisis. And since I won’t have a 9-to-5 (ha!) for a while, I should be much less worried about “getting things done” and just relax.

Cool – so what are you planning to do?

Well, it may sound trite, but I plan to buy a new(er) car. While I may love my current BMW very dearly, he’s finally started to succumb to the dreaded E36 rust monster. Be on the lookout for an E90 sedan w/manual & sunroof for me.

I also plan to enjoy the summer. While I’ve had sabbaticals before (thank you Lotus!), I’m really looking forward to having a whole 12 weeks of no job. I’ll do some cool stuff with my family, we’ll go visit family & friends a bunch, and I’ll do some important – or not so important, but fun – projects at home. Perhaps finishing my retro man cave, or finally organizing my entire digital life.

That sounds good – but will it help?

Not sure – I’ve never had 3 months off from my job since I started working at Lotus almost 2X years ago. But I also hope to work on a bunch of those things that I keep wanting to really do, but never seem to complete. I’m at the point in life where it’s clear to me that having more available time is more important right now than, say, income. And, #FirstWorldProblems, I am lucky enough in my career to be able to take a temporary leave from work (thanks, manager!).

Good for you. What does this have to do with me?

Well, one of the most important uses of additional free time that I can think of is to spend more time with friends! So one of the (again, stereotypical) things I hope to do is a few guy trips or dinners out with friends. Movies, good dinners, a drive somewhere, some card games, a trip to MV, or a recap of my 10th anniversary bachelor party would all be fun.

Likewise, it would be great to see families and friends, and local friends from school, and so on. We have a few weeks scheduled already, but otherwise plenty of time in the summer available now. So that’s what it does with you – I’d love to see all you friends more!

In any case, wrapping up things here at work will be quite busy until then, but do send me an email if you have cool ideas of stuff to do this summer.

Thanks for asking those great questions, by the way. That’s just what I needed to feel like I have a good start to my midlife crisis.

[1] BHD and the astute readers of my blog will of course note the discrepancy, which I will note is likely a result of stress getting the date wrong. That, or I’m just trying to be funny.

WANTED: trackpad keyboard, laptop riser, IPS monitor

It’s time to update my home office. My back, neck, and eyes can’t handle the semi-cheezy setup I currently have for typing on my laptop & monitor to one side. I need some simple upgrades to fit onto my existing glass-topped desk; suggestions?

Keyboards, keyboards, keyboards! I need a new one. I like the MS ergonomic ones, with the curved keyboard and a slight break between the keycaps on each half. However I really want a keyboard with a trackpad in the middle – even better, with a little red IBM Thinkpad style pointy stick. But virtually no-one seems to make these; one of the few companies that does has totally bad reliability reviews on Amazon. Any suggestions? I actually would prefer a wired keyboard – it just stays on my desk – but either way is fine.

I end up hurting my back because my laptop screen is too low. Once I get a proper keyboard, I can raise the laptop up somehow to the correct height. But how to raise it up without having those dumb legs underneath that always get in the way of your keyboard? Should I just spring for one of those swing-arms that attaches to a laptop shelf? Or is there some sort of simple rigid holder that will keep my laptop maybe 10 inches up off the desk, with completely open space below the laptop itself?

Oh: and while I hate to spring for yet another monitor, keeping my eyesight (and thus my sanity) is probably well worth it. Anyone have personal recommendations of a good 21 to 24in widescreen, mostly used for code editing, occasionally used for streaming movies? The last time I looked for a monitor I looked for a deal on a multi-input one with speakers and HDMI and everything for a TV-replacement; now I realize I don’t really use any of those features much…

I was briefly debating investing in a Mac, but one of the key programs I need doesn’t live on Macs. So it’s not really worth the extra investment, given I’d have to do one of the VM solutions and I’d have to learn a new damn keyboard style. Plus, how the heck do you really get around on a Mac with only one mouse button?

Oh, and do Lenovo mini docks for W5xx series (not just port replicators) really cost you over $100 even used? I guess a full docking station really is only ever a business class expense, not a personal one. I hate to pay for the convenience (and the extra monitor port), but I suppose… it may be that or my sanity, and even what little is left of that is worth more than $100.

In any case, happy spring all!

How do them Yankees get around?

A colleague (a Southerner) was kind enough to pen a little ditty for us Yankees to help us through the storm. I offer a paltry reply from a brain too tired from watching the beautiful snowflakes back:

Our southern colleagues, they did ponder:
How do them Yankees get around up yonder?

I can tell you’ll want to know,
It all depends on the depth of the snow.

(First, below an inch – that’s a cinch:
it’s too small an amount
to bother about; that doesn’t even count.)
Three to four,
now that is more
noticeable outside the door.

Five or six inches seen when on the roam –
that’s when people start getting back to their homes.

Six to twelve is fine for today –
working at home with our kids in the way.
But tomorrow our backs will swell
after shoveling it all up the hill.

Into the feet is where *this* storm’s headed,
and that’s where the less intrepid start to dread it.
At this level there are neighborly teenagers galore,
Who for a fee, will shovel up to your door!
This weekend’s to win some sledding prizes
Until next week, as it melts when the temperature rises.

But the most important moral of my story:
In our winter, snow tires are mandatory.

How You Can Help

A number of people have asked me recently how they can help, especially in dealing with my late father Steven’s affairs. Here are a few things I could really use:

  • If you plan to attend his memorial gathering on the last weekend of January, please contact me at to let me know how you knew my father, and how many people are likely to attend. Given his long career in journalisim and mentoring in Boston throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, I really have no idea how many of his old friends and co-workers are planning to attend.
  • If you did know Steven, we need your stories. I’d love to be able to actually collect some of the stories of his mentoring projects and television production derring-do. I heard many of them verbally when I was a child, but as far as I can tell so far, my father never really wrote polished stories of his exploits. Please either email me, or post comments here. Please be sure to let me know if we have permission to share publicly (here on the web) or only privately at his memorial.
  • Similarly, if you do plan to attend the memorial gathering and are willing to speak briefly about my father, please let me know. This will be an informal and non-denominational gathering, more like a chance to remember his life with others rather than any kind of funeral service.
  • If you know anyone who works at the Boston Globe, please let me know if there’s any way to figure out if they plan to run an obit for Steven or not. While I got a very nice auto-reply, they have not yet published the obit I provided (or any other one, for that matter). I may need to simply pay for a 3-line paid death notice that simply points at my online obit.
  • If you know me (Shane) personally, I don’t really need much more help at the memorial. But I would love to see you (and/or your family) socially. Find a time where we can get together for dinner sometime in the next month or so, just to do something together.
  • If you have recently dealt with the estate of a family member, what was the number one thing you wish you knew about the legal or financial issues beforehand? I think I have a good set of checklists, and plan to work with the same lawyer and accountant that my father used in the past, but other advice on that one thing I should know to do is appreciated.

Steven Nichols Curcuru: television pioneer; technology columnist; Resident Wizard [UPDATE 1]

Steven Nichols Curcuru, television pioneer, technology columnist, and Resident Wizard, age 68, passed away peacefully at a friend’s home in Groton, MA on January 6th, 2013, as a result of pancreatic cancer.

Born in October 1944 at the West Point Military Hospital while his father was serving in the European Theater in WW2, Steven grew up with his parents Edmond and Patricia and two younger brothers. Although the family moved frequently during Steven’s childhood, they regularly spent summers in Southhold, NY where he raced his Lightning sailboat and worked as a lifeguard at Founders Landing Beach. After graduating early from Phillips Academy, he attended the College of William & Mary where he worked at the school’s radio station WCWM and as a folk music producer, and graduated in 1967.

Steven then moved to Concord, MA, and worked at WNAC-TV Channel 7 in Boston. In his long tenure at Channel 7, he brought many innovations to the television newsroom in the 1970s and 1980s, including designing and installing the first-ever computer network story editing systems, computer-controlled studio cameras, and computer animated weather graphics. Steven produced a number of major news events at Channel 7, including Emmy award-winning coverage from onboard the USCGC Eagle of the American Bicentennial OpSail ’76, as well as winning other Emmy awards and a New York Film Festival award. He was also a part-time journalism professor at Boston University, where he particularly enjoyed mentoring newcomers to television news production and helped to launch a number of careers in broadcast journalism. In 1993, Steven moved on to become the Resident Wizard at Mugar Enterprises, advising the company on technology investments and working to produce and expand Boston’s Fourth of July events. He wrote a regular column for PC Week, and served as a judge at Comdex computer conferences.

Steven is survived by his mother Patricia N Curcuru, his brothers Kevin H. Curcuru and Kim M. Curcuru, his son Shane Curcuru, granddaughter Roxanne Curcuru, significant other Linda Miller-Foster, and best friend Karen Coe.

A memorial gathering is planned at the end of January in Sudbury, MA for local friends and family. A private family memorial will be held at Southhold, NY in the summer. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in memoriam of Steven N. Curcuru to the Northeast Animal Shelter, to the MSPCA-Angell shelter, or to Coast Guard Mutual Assistance.

Comments or questions about arrangements posted here will be passed on to the family.

Do you know Steven Curcuru?

If so, he (or I, his son) would love to hear from you – preferably via email!

That is, Steven Curcuru, sometimes called Steve and styled as the Ol Wizard, educated at Phillips Academy, William & Mary and WCWM radio, Boston University, WHDH-TV, and Mugar Enterprises, and past writer for PC Week, and Massachusetts resident.

His old contact info should still be valid, or you can reach me at me@ this domain name and I can pass along a message.

Please note that this call is not for fans of the west-coast based graphic illustrator also named Steve Curcuru, nor is this for the local Gloucester politician and business owner Steven Curcuru, or any other Steve(n) Curcurus I may have missed. Although I’m sure we’re all related somehow!

Music lovers: do you hear these?

Listening to some pop music in the car the other day, one particular part of several songs seemed to jump out at me. I was wondering if these are a part of music that today’s highly processed recording studios deal with or change regularly, or if it’s not something that’s typically engineered out (or not) yet.

Breath sounds.

Seriously. I’m not sure what specifically got me listening to them, but once I started hearing them clearly, I couldn’t stop. Then I couldn’t stop listening to new songs, trying to see if they had left vocalist’s breath sounds on the tracks or not. It was interesting seeing in how some cases the extra intake of breath – perhaps in the middle of a big belted out chorus – really added to the realism of the singing. And careful listening showed that some vocalists have very clear singing styles – you can almost picture what they look like when singing the end of a phrase from listening to how their voice and breath changes.

Is this something that music studios and engineers regularly process out (or not, or change subtly perhaps) these days? Or have the amazing audio processing tools not made it to the point where it’s a simple click of a button to say yes or no to the sound of vocalists inbreaths? Semi-pro recorders seem to have some tools, but they’re certainly not completely automated.

I was also surprised where I did – or did not – hear breath sounds. Call Me Maybe – certainly a highly-produced and engineered track! – seems to have left them all in, without apparent modification. A couple of other highly-produced tracks left them in, in one case distractingly so (well, perhaps that was because I was focusing on them). But another, less “pop” and presumably less produced/engineered track had clearly taken them out. That, or the vocalist was very careful with a good studio mic to keep their breathing sounds below levels.

I was just wondering: with today’s computing power and highly produced or over-produced songs – who can do things far beyond Auto-Tune with the click of a mouse – is analysis of how breath sounds affect the track something they do all the time now, or is it still a rarely changed bit of sound?