December 08, 2005
When does patience become stupidity?
From time to time this question arises in my own mind about myself.
Let me explain.
For as long as I can remember I've been the sort of person who will remain on hold indefinitely, until either I'm disconnected (whether intentionally or not is always impossible to determine in the end, isn't it?) or the person I'm waiting for finally comes on the line — or doesn't.
It doesn't matter whether it's an office or company where a person has answered, then put me on hold, or an automated call answering/voice mail recording that asks me to push this then that until I'm finally at the final branch of the tree, listening to the company's advertising over and over, insipid music, talk radio, or — on rare occasion — classical music.
I just stay on the line, doing this and that.
I have remained on hold for over an hour on more than one occasion.
In 1998 a cartoon (top) by Leo Cullum appeared in the New Yorker — it so perfectly summarized my approach to being on hold that after I stopped laughing, I cut it out and have had it on my refrigerator under a magnet ever since.
It's now yellowing and torn but the message is still right on the money.
I sometimes describe myself to people as being "pathologically patient."
My on–hold behavior is an example of this.
Anyway, what got me thinking about this subject was the final paragraph of a front–page Wall Street Journal article of this past Monday, about the "notoriously difficult" California bar exam.
It turns out that the most recent victim of the high bar to passing was none other than Kathleen Sullivan, until recently dean of the Stanford Law School.
Ms. Sullivan is the author of a leading constitutional law casebook and has argued several cases before the Supreme Court, noted James Bandler and Nathan Koppel, the authors of the story.
She had resigned as Stanford's dean to join a private law firm and was required to pass the test in order to practice as an attorney in California.
The results of the July examination, released last month, were not good for Ms. Sullivan nor the majority of those who took the exam (8,343 aspiring attorneys).
But the thing that most interested me wasn't Ms. Sullivan's travails but, rather, the long and rocky path to California bar certification of attorney Maxcy Dean Filer, of Compton, California.
Mr. Filer graduated from law school in 1966 at the age of 35.
In May of 1991, by then 60, he passed the California bar exam — after 47 unsuccessful attempts.
Think about that for moment — I'm sure Mr. Filer did.
I did as well.
Because I guarantee you that after the first five or so attempts, for sure by the time the tally was 10, everyone but Maxcy Dean Filer figured it was hopeless.
And I will hazard a guess that by the time he was into the teens and twenties, people thought he was simply stupid for persisting.
Into the thirties and forties?
There can be no exaggerating the ridiculousness with which his quixotic efforts were regarded by one and all.
And yet — he passed.
What do you suppose it felt like to open the envelope welcoming him to the bar?
Mr. Filer told the Wall Street Journal reporters that "... he always tried to psych himself up before taking the test by repeating, 'I didn't fail the bar, the bar failed me.'"
Now, I am not even going to begin to try to compare my own habits in phone limbo to the patience, persistence, and sheer determination of Mr. Filer to attain his objective.
But I will tell you that more than one person, informed of how long I will remain on hold, has called me stupid.
And that's why I asked the question headlining this post.
Lighted LED Gloves
From the website:
- A little light goes a long way in making fitness safer
With the days getting shorter, we look for outdoor fitness gear that's both warm and visible.
These unique gloves feature lightweight, flexible LED strips on the backs that can be seen up to a mile away; a simple touch sets the bright lights to solid or flashing mode, adding visibility to the side and front.
Made from stretchy polyester to keep hands warm and dry, with absorbent cotton terry "brow wipes."
Synthetic leather patches and butterfly construction on palms and fingers improve grip.
LED bulbs never need replacing.
Lithium batteries (included) last up to 150 hours.
Sizes: XS, S/M, L/XL.
Let bookofjoe reader Greg Scavezze make you rich
As you well know, from time to time I mention an idea for a product or service that I think might indeed provide a handsome financial reward to its first successful mover.
Greg Scavezza, a Utah reader, yesterday commented on the Trail Blazer® Snow Auger (above and below), which he purchased after reading about it here.
This is what he wrote:
- Well, I decided to buy one of these things to try it out.
I fought my way to the Home Depot, on the way home from work, during the biggest snowfall this year.
I made my way to the show shovel aisle and lo and behold, there was one and only one left.
It comes in a box and not pre–assembled, so it doesn't jump out at you.
Anyway, I purchased it and rushed home to try it out.
Here are the pros and cons:
1. The snow pushes much easier. I tested it on 4" of new powdery Utah snow.
2. It is easy to handle and not heavy at all. It seems reasonably well constructed.
3. It is perfect for doing sidewalks as you can make two passes and clear the snow quite easily.
1. If you push the snow from a comfortable upright position, it causes the bottom of the shovel to hover about 1/4" above the ground, so it still leaves snow behind. In order to remove the snow down to the pavement, you have to stoop over a little and push it with the handle more parallel to the ground, which causes the bottom of the shovel to scrape the ground.
2. If the area you wish to clear is wider than a sidewalk, i.e., a driveway, you can only push from one side of the driveway to the other. In other words, you cannot push snow across the driveway, turn around and then push back to where you started. You have to walk back across and always push in the same direction as the snow is discharged out of the right side of the shovel.
3. The materials could be better. I was under the impression that the shovel and auger were made of metal, but they are a heavy plastic.
• Suggested improvements
1. It should be made of aluminum or steel. It will last longer and the extra weight would keep it from floating on the snow.
2. It needs to be slightly larger and the back of the shovel should be taller so the snow does not spill over the back of the shovel.
3. The clearance of the auger should be adjustable, kind of like wheels on a lawn mower, so you can get the bottom of the shovel closer to the pavement without having to make the handle more parallel to the ground.
4. The handle should be ergonomically bent. That would also help get the shovel closer to the pavement.
Overall, I am happy with my investment. It does clear the snow quicker than a normal shovel and is much easier to push. I suspect that this is most likely my last year of shoveling. I plan on investing in a snow blower next winter, although I will keep my Snow Auger for clearing sidewalks, etc. when I don't want to bother busting out the snow blower.
I give it a 7.5 out of 10. A great idea. With a few improvements to the design, it could be a 9 out of 10.
What an invaluable piece of feedback for the Trail Blazer™'s manufacturer, if only they were aware of it, which they most likely will never be.
Anyhow, I emailed Greg and told him exactly that.
He emailed me back as follows:
- Thanks for the compliment.
I don't see why they don't go all the way with this thing and make a manual–powered snow blower.
Kind of like the old manual push mowers, but for the winter!
The wheels could turn the 3 augers.
It may not blow the snow 20 feet, but I am sure it could throw it far enough.
I am sure someone will invent one of these and make a million and I will kick myself... oh well.
First, I wasn't sure whether the ™ should follow immediately the product name it applies to (Trail Blazer™'s) or come after the 's after the name (Trail Blazer's™).
Does anyone know which is correct?
Second, Greg's idea — a "manual–powered snow blower" — is so good it's frightening.
Whoever gets to market first with one will make a killing.
I will make a suggestion, for what it's worth: when you're ready to take it out for spin, send it to Greg to put through its paces — he'll make you rich if you let him.
Third, it may be time, what with more and more people reading bookofjoe and then going out and buying stuff I've written about, as did Greg, to conclude posts with a boilerplate disclaimer to the effect that "bookofjoe cannot be responsible for your unhappiness with products or services purchased or used as a result of having become acquainted with them on this site."
Remember — I don't endorse anything that I write about.
I simply bring it to your attention.
"Perhaps of interest" is the subtext of each post that appears here.
From the website:
This little German wonder offers a totally new way to watch time roll by.
A single floating orb marks the passage of time (within a minute or two).
Tap the case you'll find nothing holding it in place, but don't despair it always finds its way back to the time when things settle down.
It's like reading a sundial and once you're used to it you may never go back to hands.
'40 Part Motet' — by Janet Cardiff
Currently up at the Museum of Modern Art in New York is a deconstruction/reconstruction by sound artist Janet Cardiff of Tudor composer Thomas Tallis's great "Spem in Alium," in which the voices of 40 singers create variations on an initial sacred theme.
Yesterday Washington Post art critic Blake Gopnik wrote about Cardiff's take on the composition.
She completed it in 2001 and it's now on display (above) in the newly reinstalled contemporary galleries at MOMA, where it will remain through July 3, 2006.
Here's the review.
- From Janet Cardiff, a Sound Much Sweeter Than the Sum of Its Parts
Somewhere around the middle of the 16th century, the Tudor composer Thomas Tallis wrote his famous "Spem in Alium," in which 40 singers' voices spin out variations on an initial sacred theme.
It is regarded as one of the most soul-stirring pieces of music ever written.
It gets even better in "40 Part Motet," a riff on Tallis's work by sound artist Janet Cardiff.
She completed it in 2001 and it's now on display in the reinstalled contemporary galleries at the Museum of Modern Art.
The premise is simple.
Cardiff got the "gentlemen and boys" of an English cathedral choir to perform the Tallis composition.
She recorded each voice with a separate microphone onto a separate track.
At MoMA, Cardiff plays back all 40 channels through 40 speakers, arrayed at ear height on the periphery of a spacious room.
Stand in the middle of the gallery and you get a kind of standard, home-theater experience of Tallis's ethereal polyphony -- though with a threatening sense that the choir has you surrounded and may yet close in.
But walk around the room, listening speaker by speaker, and the Tudor composition begins to pull apart.
The snippets of tune sung by each voice make little sense heard on their own; they become disjointed notes, like something by a radical modern composer.
Long moments of silence are broken by blasts of sound as Tallis's notes process around the room.
The Renaissance piece, which normally seems about sheer beauty of tone, sounds close to ugly when decomposed.
The boy trebles, pride of any English choir, sometimes sound like yelping puppies; a talented bass can seem to be a tone-deaf bear.
And we become unusually aware of the person behind each voice; for once we aren't hearing disembodied strains of song.
The boys are definitely boys (we hear them gossiping as the choir prepares to sing).
The men come off as living people, with individual quirks and characters, rather than human instruments joined in an abstract symphony.
In "40 Part Motet," you get a shock when you realize what strange things go into building beauty.
But also a reaffirmation of the miracle of art: Fragile human effort, almost painfully awkward, can come together into something worthy of divinity.
Here is a link to the BBC page about Tallis, which includes audio excerpts from two of his works.
You can explore "Spem in Alium" in more depth here.
The Museum of Modern Art is at 11 W. 53rd Street; 212-708-9400; www.moma.org.
What to wear while you're finding Nemo.
From the website:
- Ground breaking and innovative, the Aqua FM Snorkel from Aqua Sphere uses unique bone conduction technology that allows the user to listen to their favorite radio station while swimming or snorkeling.
No more boring, monotonous swim workouts.
Now you can listen to the radio as you do laps.
Completely safe, simply put the mouthpiece in and bite down.
The sound is conducted through the teeth and into the inner ear, providing clear, amazing sound.
Waterproof to 33 feet (10 meters).
Weighs 9.3 oz. (without batteries).
Requires 2 AAA batteries (not included).
Full FM frequency range: 87.5–108 mHz.
Why does the iCal icon show July 17 and not the current date when it is closed?
Debby Stanford, a fellow member of UVA–MESS (that's the name of the University of Virginia–Central Virginia Mac User Group) yesterday posed the above question.
In a response that impressed me so much I'm seriously thinking of naming him an honorary member of my crack research team, UVA–MESS-er Mark Worthington wrote, "I wondered that too," and provided this illuminating link, whose contents follow.
- At first I thought every Mac user’s birthday was displayed on this icon since July 17 is my birthday.
What a nice touch.
Always taking the computer experience one step beyond.
Microsoft would never think to do this bit of PR.
I figured the display used some user identification we all had to submit when we registered our computers.
Then, as I made my rounds around the office, I discovered that every Mac was displaying July 17.
It was as if all of you were remembering my birthday.
It felt so nice to be loved by everyone.
And it was a birthday gift I got all year round.
Only after a solid year of this non-stop party did I began to delve into this a bit deeper.
I don’t ordinarily use iCal so I wasn’t familiar with its ways.
As it turns out July 17 is only displayed in the application’s closed state; when open the icon displays the actual date.
But why July 17?
Was it Steve Job’s birthday too?
Or perhaps it was the birthday of iCal’s project manager.
A nice perk for a job well done.
I started to investigate.
I wrote various computer cognoscenti.
But no one seemed to know the origin of this icon — not even Susan Kare, the "mother of the original Mac icons."
I decided to call Apple.
After numerous dead ends I found the number for their PR department.
Using my expert investigative abilities I posed this piercing question to the woman on the other end of the line: "So, why July 17?"
I wanted to think, I was hoping the reasoning was special.
But as it turns out the origins of this icon are much more mundane and bureaucratic: iCal debuted on July 17, 2002 at the MacWorld Expo in New York.
As I think about it, I could do worse than to add Jeff Gates (below),
the author of the above switched–on Sherlock Holmes–worthy investigation, to my team along with Mark.
And Debby Stanford as well: asking a good question is sometimes more important than finding the answer.
[via Debby Stanford, Mark Worthington and Jeff Gates]
USB Digital Holy Bible Key Chain
What would Gutenburg say?
A switch on the back extends the retractable USB port.
A search function makes it even more useful.
Windows PC (not Mac or Windows 98) compatible.
$29.95 (£17.19) here (keychain pictured above included).