John Y’s Musings from the Middle: A Couples App

appA smartphone “couples” app I’d like to see.

I’ve got an app to count calories and steps taken in a day.

Other apps help me gauge my business travel and finances and even help me manage dietary choices.

But what I could really use is an app that would help me determine how long I need to pout to equal or “get even” for undeserved slights from my wife Rebecca. For example, if Rebecca says “You never do such and such” when, in fact, I do occasionally do such and such –I just don’t do such and such all of the time– that is worth approximately 5-7 minutes of pouting.

How do I know?

I don’t.

That’s the problem.

jyb_musingsIt’s just a gut feel.

And if I overestimate the necessary pouting length, that can lead to a retaliatory slight from Rebecca to level set things. Which then leads to another pout and another slight and so on.

Hence why an app that could tell me more accurately how long I should pout would be so handy. And like all good apps, it should be cross-functional allowing Rebecca to calibrate the precise counter slight for when I over pout.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Alarm Clocks

alarm clockFinally!

My long-time trusty alarm clock broke several months ago–and I have relied on my wife, Rebecca, to wake me up every morning using her alarm clock.


Because for 4 months I have been unable to find an alarm clock for myself that is “idiot proof.”

In other words, that I can figure out how to use–like my old one dimensional alarm clock. It is a Sony from Walgreens and costs $14.99 and I am elated.

Every other alarm clock I have looked at seems to require an advanced degree in engineering to operate. (It’s not the one pictured but is as scaled down and limited to its original uses) When did clocks become easier to make than to use?

I am so relieved. Imagine…having a clock that I can set all by myself.

jyb_musingsMost alarm clocks I am passing on, I am sure, have many wonderful new fangled features. Some project the time on the ceiling; some probably connect to NASA and can track satellites. But I just need an alarm to go off around 6am every morning and am willing to give up all the other cool clock “value adds.”

I just need a loud alarm buzzer and something that tells time–and I’m good.


“No Bracket, No Pay” Awards Revealed

bb33003ebdd250e695_4bm6iixz4Nearly 100 brave souls signed up to compete in the third annual Recovering Politician/No Labels NCAA basketball tournament prediction contest, No Bracket, No Pay.

(The name comes from No Labels’ signature proposal, “No Budget, No Pay,” the simple proposition that if Congress doesn’t perform its constitutional duty to pass a budget, they shouldn’t get paid.  Click here to learn more about No Labels, and here to learn about “No Budget, No Pay”).

Today, we announce the fabulous prizes to be awarded to the winners of this free contest:

1.  The top prize — for the person who earns the most points through being the best predictor of the entire bracket, wins the new No Labels iPhone case.  What does it look like?  Well, take a look at the finalists above and vote on your favorite by clicking here.

2.  Everyone who correctly predicts the NCAA Champion, but doesn’t win the entire contest, will receive a No Labels car magnet!

So good luck to all, and in the interim, help us decide on the best iPhone case.

Saul Kaplan: Unplugged

unpluggedOut of Office, AutoReply:  Sorry I will be out of the office this week.  In an emergency you can contact……   Away messages bug me.  Away from what?  Aren’t most of us away from our desks all the time?  If we aren’t maybe we should be!  Who doesn’t get emails remotely these days?  I don’t need to know that you are traveling this week.  I assume that you are not sitting at your desk waiting for an email but out at meetings and visiting with customers.  You will get back to me when you can.

OK. If you are on a personal vacation and need to disconnect or overseas and unable to receive emails it makes sense to let people know that you will not be able to respond while you are away.   But most away messages seem to just provide notification that you will not be sitting behind your desktop computer for the next few days.  Come on, we all know perfectly well that you will still receive emails on a remote computer, a laptop, or on a PDA.  Why tell us that you are away.

I find that quick responders are just as responsive when they travel and slow responders are just as slow when they are away.   I suspect many people leave an out of office message to manage expectations because they want the time away from the incessant drumbeat of emails, text messages, and twitter streams.  I understand that.  Sometimes you need to disconnect in order to reconnect.

A few vacation days away recently reminded me of the important perspective gained from disconnecting.  I didn’t leave an away message before leaving and while I left my laptop at home I did bring my iPhone, which allowed me to check important emails and Red Sox scores.  While I could have stayed connected to my Twitter stream on the iPhone I made a conscious decision (alright my wife insisted) that I disconnect cold turkey for the few days I was away.

Saul KaplanI enjoyed the respite from the cacophony of an over-connected and always-on life.  I thought a lot about what it means to live in a networked world where communication channels travel wherever you go and filtering becomes an important personal decision.   I am excited by the possibilities created by ubiquitous connectivity and personally experimenting with the right mix of channels and the right balance of being connected and finding time to disconnect.  The capacity to disconnect is important but can’t we come up with a more honest and genuine approach than a lame away message?

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Upselling

UpsellingWhat? No upselling?
I just went through the drive-thru pharmacy at Walgreens to get a refill on an anti-cholesterol medication and was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t asked if I would like to order “40 tablets instead of just 30?” and then asked if I would be interested in adding an “Anti-depressent or anti-anxiety medication today?” or if I would like to “Sign-up to win a year’s supply of a new mood stabilizer?” or being reminded that if I “Come back today after 2pm I can get a free refill on pain management meds purchased before 10am.”

jyb_musingsYet I also felt a little neglected.

Maybe the pharmacist just hadn’t completed “Customer service training” yet.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: My Apple ad (that really isn’t an Apple ad.)

Mac-vs.-PC1I switched and what the “switch” meant to me

After switching from a PC to a Macbook Pro, I have made other changes in my life

Instead of wearing a blue blazer and khaki pants, I put on a camel hair jacket and dress jeans.

I wear tasseled loafers instead of dockers

I use a larger screen Samsung Note phone instead a smaller screen iPhone

I drink lemonade instead of diet Coke–because I like lemonade better

I buy art that stands out rather than art that blends in

I say what I really believe more often instead of saying what I think the other person wants to hear.

jyb_musingsI say no more often –instead of yes– when I mean no.

But switching to an Apple Macbook isn’t really about switching computers. It’s also not about making some hip lifestyle change. And isnt even about Apple –or having to use an Apple product.

It is instead about turning on the light switch in the dark room upstairs where you can be who you really are.

And being able to walk out of the room and mentally leave the light switched turned on.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Magic Remote Control


magic remote controlIf we each discovered the magic remote control to our life story, I think we have to ask ourselves which of these options we would choose.

Would we:

  1. Want to change the channel?
  2. TiVO it to watch later?
  3. Mute it and play music in the background?
  4. Try to rewind?
  5. Try to fast forward?
  6. Pause it?
  7. Make popcorn?
  8. Watch on the HD screen TV?
  9. Try to adjust the color?
  10. Increase the screen brightness amd then later dim it back?
  11. Wish it were from the Action section?
  12. Not care what section our life story would be filed in as long as it was displayed in the “Employees Picks” section?
  13. Wonder if there will be a sequel?
  14. Hope it is not a prequel?
  15. Wish it were in subtitles?
  16. Wonder if you would have missed parts when LOST was at its peak popularity?
  17. Wonder what you have to do to get nominated for a Emmy award?
  18. Wonder if we don’t watch would it hurt our Nielsen ratings in a way that could be hard to explain later on?
  19. Begin to truly see the value and social utility of commercial breaks?
  20. Wonder if  your life story is running on PBS, HBO, network TV, or Bravo?
  21. Wish you had been able to get an up-and-coming actor to play you instead of you playing yourself?
  22. Prefer your life story had been a monologue?
  23. Think it was a mistake you could only play one character?
  24. Feel the producer has made a lot of amateurish mistakes and should probably get fired?
  25. Suspect a cameo role may have been a better fit?
  26. Wonder if the line you are about to deliver will be the one replayed at the next Academy Awards ceremony?
  27. Worry that your life wouldn’t have survived as a pilot for a reality TV show?
  28. Wish that even though it’s not a game show, there was at least a catchy theme song?
  29. jyb_musingsFeel you should be allowed to narrate it?
  30. Pine for the days when after midnight you would hear The Star Spangled banner and stare at a stationary picture of an Indian man?
  31. Wonder if the Mac Book Pro is really yours or just effective product placement?
  32. Be grateful for the possibility of future royalties for syndication?
  33. Wonder if it is true that the “camera puts on 10 poumds” or if it was just you who put on 10 pounds?
  34. Wonder if it would be better in Anime?
  35. Tell yourself “Although it may seem slow at times, it will make you think”?
  36. Try to convince yourself that Roger Ebert would give your life a “Thumbs up”?
  37.  Secretly prefer that Gene Siskel give you a “Thumbs Down” because he just doesn’t “get it”?
  38. Wished you had at least one signing part?
  39. Realize there are a lot of surprises even though you thought the trailer gave it away?
  40. Hope that later on you can watch your favorite parts over and over.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Bad Cropping

24659_10153309093985515_1795833820_nBad cropping doesn’t mean a picture is useless.

For example, in this badly mangled cropping job, I get an idea of what I would look like in a Bhurka.

And reinforces that I should never try to wear one.

jyb_musingsAnd I learn that my right eyebrow looks about a decade younger than my left and that I should favor my confident and younger-looking eyebrow the next decade until it catches up with the wiser-looking but withered left eyebrow.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Control Alt Delete

Control Alt DeleterToo little, too late. I am sorry Bill Gates.

Sure, this public admission and act of contrition is certainly admirable….but it is also too late to undo the harm done already—in fact, about 30 years too late.

Kudos for finally acknowled…ging this soul-stirring error of judgment.

But the fact that you can never completely undo the damage of this “executive decision” means the rest of us will have to continue living with the consequences.

jyb_musingsAnd by the way, genuine acts of public contrition require a heartfelt apology and desire to make whole those harmed. It does not include trying to artfully dodge responsibility by blaming bad acts on others—like IBM.

I am starting to think it would have been better if you’d just said nothing at all about this topic instead of this embarrassing half-baked apology.

And obviously not reading Jonathan Miller’s book and taking to heart advice on crisis management

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Customer Service

1235499_10153249851185515_915033853_nYes! It really can happen. And just did to me.

No. Not anything catastrophically bad. Just something catastrophically idiotic and stratospherically unlikely.

I use these USB modems for remote internet access—live off of them, really. It’s a must have for me because I travel a great deal and work out of my car frequently.

So when I lost it several weeks ago I panicked. And scoured my office. And scoured my home office. And scoured the rest of my home. And scoured my car. And scoured them all again. Twice.

Finally, in desperation, after going two weeks without my usb internet lifeline, I broke down Friday afternoon and bought a new one. It was full price. About $150 and they set up a new SIM card for me in the store. It was like getting oxygen again for someone with respiratory problems. I could breathe again….internet-wise, anyway.

Friday was great. But then on Saturday I was in my car and needed to send some emails and tracked down my handy USB modem–but it wasn’t connecting. I tried again later in the day. No connection and a message to call AT&T to activate.

jyb_musingsI shrugged and figured it was new and the bugs needed to be worked out— and it would work next time–like it did Friday. But today and tonight it failed again. Frustrated…I called AT&T…and was put on hold for 26 minutes while I thought of all the reasons this shouldn’t be happening that AT&T should be made aware of…

After running through the first customer service rep who was stumped…I was transferred to a more expert customer service rep….She was stumped, too, after I explained what had happened and that my USB modem wasn’t working.

She then asked me to open up the modem and read her the SIM Card number. I ripped off the back of the modem and finally found the SIM card. I growled out the teeny-tiny numbers to her after pointing out “No human can read these without a magnifying glass.”

When I finished she said, “That’s not possible.”

“Why not, I asked.” She laughed and said, “That is your old SIM Card number.” And added, “You have apparently found your old USB Modem and lost your new USB Modem with the new SIM Card that is activated.”

I paused….for a long time. Part dumbfounded, part humiliated, part wanting to crawl into the fetal position under my desk. It seemed like 3 minutes passed before I spoke again ….but was really only about 5 1/2 seconds. “Well, um, can you fix it?”

“No. Not over the phone. That card has been de-activated and you’ll have to go to an ATT store tomorrow to get a new SIM Card for your old USB Modem.” Pausing before chirping helpfully, “Or you could find your new USB Modem. It should still work.”

So, tomorrow I’m scouring my office. And then my home office. And then the rest of my home and my car….to find the new USB Modem I just bought to replace the old USB Modem I had lost but inadvertently found and mistook for the new USB Modem. But can’t use anymore since I activated the new USB Modem on Friday.”

And customer service chalked up another “story” for the bar later tonight.

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