Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Saturday, 2017.12.16
Indifference will certainly be the downfall of mankind, but who cares?

2005.12.15

Cherubim Foundation Update II

I have begun work to codify the business model which had proven successful for the first six years of Cherubim Foundation’s existence but elusive to new members of the organization. This will include components that worked, triage of those that didn’t and possible remedies to those weaknesses. Clearly, Cherubim Foundation’s transformation since Janet’s passing has exposed many of these weaknesses and as such will provide valuable insight into strengthening the business model. This will likely take a while as there is considerable material to work through. With plans to release under a Creative Commons license, I anticipate having a first draft ready for public review late in 2006. It is likely that at about the same time I’ll make a determination on whether or not to start a new organization in line with the vision Janet and I held for Cherubim Foundation.

Meanwhile, it seems the Board of Directors for Cherubim Foundation isn’t interested in taking responsibility for their decisions or answering questions. They wouldn’t do it privately and they’re not going to do it publicly. They’re quitting. Funny, the Board builds a wall while I press for answers until I’m spent. Tape a weblog note on the window to the world and the whole thing collapses. When it was eight fending off one lone voice of concern it was no doubt easy to wrap themselves in patronizing platitudes. How things change when it becomes eight against hundreds. Thank you all for your support.

Rather than do the work to move Cherubim Foundation toward a successful future, a process made significantly more difficult by their failure to correct bad decisions rather than having made bad decisions, they’re quitting. The latest missive follows with my comments included in-line. (more…)

2005.12.08

From the Just-Between-You-Me-And-The-Cube-Farm Department

I never assumed I was alone in detesting the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) phone tree systems which are becoming ubiquitous when calling companies of just about any size. I was delighted to find that a gentleman named Paul English maintains a list of keypad cheats called “The IVR Cheat Sheet“.

While I begrudgingly submit to having to learn yet another way of negotiating the information age’s equivalent of walking across hot coals (i.e. the phone tree), my concern for this latest “advancement” goes deeper. Namely, if I wish to discuss a bill with my insurance company, for example, I am forced to say my account number and social security number loud enough for the machine to understand me across a voice line. (This assumes I don’t know the cheat codes.) The required volume needs to be sufficiently loud enough such that anyone within 20 feet or more is going to hear me recite my account information. And if the machine doesn’t understand, those within hearing range will benefit with the repetition of sensitive account information. In order to protect this information, I now have to secure my environment, which is not always possible. Such IVR systems are decidedly less convenient and less secure.

This point is, not surprisingly, omitted in a response to Mr. English’s cheat sheet by Angel.com, a leading provider of on-demand IVR solutions. Angel.com has released their own “cheat sheet” for the business which use IVR products. Tip number two reads:

Do not hide the option for callers to speak with a live agent. No matter how useful your IVR system is for customers, there will always be a segment of customers who prefer to speak to a live agent to resolve their issue.

Prefer? It should be a requirement that account information must be keyed in via the telephone keypad. Several provision of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) were put in place to protect patient privacy. Most generally this applied to hospitals and doctor’s offices. I see no reason why insurance companies shouldn’t be accountable for providing the same level of privacy to their customers.

[Edit History]

2006.03.09

A related story on the problems of speaking aloud from Peter Cochrane’s blog, “Snooping on a BlackBerry fool”, and a discussion on Bruce Schneier’s blog.

2006.08.13

Updated link to Paul English’s “IVR Cheat Sheet“.

2005.12.06

Picking Up the Cello at Age 44

GPE - Cello

Since I was about age 10, I though the cello would be the coolest instrument to play. Thirty four years later that hunch is confirmed. I’ve started playing cello and it is cool. Its like giving music a hug. Had my first lesson a little less than 3 months ago. Before that I hadn’t so much as touched a cello. I’m certain Janet and my friend Reed Bernstein (a violin maker) were the only people who ever knew of this secret ambition. Janet and I talked on occasion about finding a cello, but the opportunity never happened.

It’s partly an experiment and partly by design in keeping with this year’s “And now for something completely different.” theme. With my world turned on end and spun out of orbit, the opportunity is there for learning new things. Much of my thinking has returned to that childlike state of wonder where all things are possible and no rules apply. Fear not, I’ve retained my values and sense of what is right and wrong. Its just that many things I cared about no longer matter and space has opened up to be curious about anything that crosses my path. There are many grown-up attitudes that more than ever strike me as tragically sardonic, self imposed and needlessly limiting to the human potential. As adults, we limit ourselves unduly with “supposed to.”

I have played piano for many years and own a beautiful Petrof baby grand. Unlike piano, the cello is demanding a far greater awareness of my entire body while playing. The balance required is surprising and it makes the skill of such masters as Yo Yo Ma and Pablo Casals all the more amazing. All those years of piano and I never learned to read music and play anything I wanted at the keyboard on sight. I’d have to pick through the score and iteratively practice until the entire piece was committed to memory. With cello, I have the opportunity to do that differently. After about 3 months of lessons, diligent practice and efforts to read music while playing, the experience just keeps getting better.

My teacher is excellent. A cellist for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, she fits my criteria for having attained a level of recognized mastery. She’s good with adults as well, another important criteria. It must be more challenging to teach adults as there are bunches of things which we must unlearn before new lessons and understanding can result.

About a month into my practice (I’ll give myself 10 years and then decide if I have a chance at being any good.) I hit my first plateau and wasn’t sure if it was related to my clumsy technique or the quality of the cello, a high school orchestra quality instrument borrowed from my neighbor while he and his family spend a year in France. My teacher suggested we find out and handed me one of her cellos (as a professional, she has cello stuff about the place like I have computer stuff). WOW! What a difference! Yes my technique had a part, but so did the instrument. She handed me another cello, “Try this one.” DOUBLE WOW! The good news was that my technique wasn’t so far off the mark and I had already begun to outgrow the loaner instrument after one month. The bad news was the first cello I tried was a 50 year old Italian cello worth $25,000. The second cello was a 100 year old Czech instrument worth bunches more. Ouch.

We talked about what it would take to acquire an instrument which would suit my emerging skill for the next couple of years. So I hooked up with a recommended broker and settled on a $5,000 instrument made last year. It sounds wonderful! Included a better bow in the mix as well. I figured to use the money from a small life insurance policy I had on Janet to finance my studies and cello upgrades. Seems like a good use and a way to honor her musical talents.

2005.12.05

9 Down, 45 To Go

WhooHoo! Small miracle, I’m still a straight “A” student with two more classes under my belt (Software Engineering and Operating Systems.) Not because of the material, mind you, but because of the technology employed by one of the professors. Its different from the on-line course software used during the Fall quarter. Equally disconcerting is that yet another professor buggered out due to some sort of personal crisis leaving the virtual classroom empty for weeks at a time. I really hope this isn’t a trend. I’ve initiated a conversation with DU regarding the particular issues and hopefully they’ll be resolved.

One thing is clear, the quality as well as the quantity of student participation on the discussion boards is critical. Without it, the class is pretty much like being self taught and who needs to drop 1,000+ bucks for that?

2005.12.01

From the You-Can-Run-But-You-Cannot-Hide Department

[This post is a little out of sequence as this trip actually happen in mid August, 2005. Reading the previous few posts will give you a sense as to why. It took a little extra time to prepare the graphics and get them on line. – GPE]

You would think four months after Janet’s death I’d catch a break. Nope. The Universe has other plans and I’d be a master wizard if I could figure it out. After a mini Odyssey trying to get to Kaua’i (thanks in great measure to United Airlines – I’ll spare you the details.), I rolled up to a neat looking cottage. I found it on the Net and rented it based on photos from a “sister” cottage. This one was new and no photos had been posted to the owner’s web site. Its very beautiful, elegantly decorated and simple in a way that appeals to my Buddhist sensibilities – all except for the absence of an indoor shower. Privacy wasn’t so much the problem as there was a constant breeze up that side of the hill which makes for a chilly shower experience. I had thought to skip the whole cottage route entirely and camp on Anini beach like we had done so many times before but lacked the time to properly prepare. Well, at least I got the campground shower experience. (more…)


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