Why am I an entrepreneur? Because I see where systems break down, I visualize how they might look right and then create the steps needed to get from here to there.
The best part of this interview (in my opinion), is realizing how completely I’ve come full circle, working on revolutionizing the telephone interface that so fascinated me even as a preschooler. Phones interfaces have come a long way since 1975, but not yet far enough.
Experiencing Farmer’s Market, Los Angeles. I’d forgotten the uber-self-consciousness of the Hollywood scene (just a block or so from CBS studios).
Little gaggles of women wearing t-shirts shouting their favorite TV shows (”Price is right!” “BRIDE” — she’s also wearing a back veil with her jean shorts). Others with little name tags semi-stuck on to their shirts.
Lots of carefully important studio types in polo shirts, thick-rimmed glasses, lanyards, smartphones in belt holsters, clipboards under their arms, swapping favorite Coffee Bean recipes.
German, Swahili, Spanish, Japanese and Skype being spoken at the tables around me.
Taschen, a so-cool artsy publisher’s bookstore where I could blow $500 in 20 minutes very happily (A History of Type, Simple Diary, Collecting Design…)
It’s a totally different atmosphere from The Grove, just steps away. The Grove is for shopping and enjoying. The Farmer’s Market is for Seeing and Being Seen. No wonder they don’t validate parking for one another.
It’s funny, I don’t remember CBS being as much of a tourist hot spot in my childhood as it is now. They used to give out audience passes at Universal and Graumann’s to get people to come watch pilot screenings or game shows. Huh.
The only real things here are the three little sparrows hopping around under my table, cleaning up the crumbs.
I gotta get me some better sunglasses.
Why did I have to hear this story? So awful, so terrifying?
I don’t want to know about it. I don’t feel elevated by sharing in the pain with the klal right now. I just feel sick and scared and unhappy. The world feels dark and neglected. Why did I have to know about this? I keep thinking: I wish I didn’t know the news.
Why do I have to know? Maybe, Ribbono shel Olam, you’re telling me that I need to know something:
I always feel better when yissurim are directly from Your hand (well, I feel better without yissurim, but when they happen…). When it’s You directly, I can respond to You directly. I know You are interacting with love. But when it is someone else as Your messenger… I don’t feel You so well. My attention is diverted by the wicked, the selfish, the cruel. I don’t handle that well. I don’t know how to deal with people who don’t see that other people have feelings. Even with the small stuff. You know that when I say:
ונא אל תצריכנו ה’ אלוקינו לא לידי מתנת בשר ודם… כי אם לידך…”
…I think that not only that I want the sweet gifts, the “tatzricheinu” that is “provisions”, but also the “neediness”, to be from Your hand, not through a person. I need to feel You there.
Why did I have to know about this story?
Are You telling me that at this time — summer, shemesh, heat, galus, fatigue — there are people who are evil and wicked… but that this is not Your neglect? It is another side of how You interact with us. It is the side I don’t want to see. I only want to see Your sweetness, love and kindness. I don’t want to see punishment, justice, darkness, confusion, terror. I don’t want to imagine the feelings of either family right now.
But there is pain and there are people whom You use as sticks. There are “teikus“, as Rabbi Horowitz puts it. Places where we can’t fathom what the reason is. Places where people suffer, are hurt intentionally, are terrified, are tortured. Moments that seem to defy everything You’ve created the world for.
And somehow, I need to develop in my Emuna and Bitachon enough to be able to embrace you there, as well. To see past the stick to the hand that holds it. And to know that You are holding the stick with all the same infinity of Love and care as when You are clearly present, supporting me.
שבטך ומשענתך המה ינחמני”
I don’t actually think I’m there. No, in fact, I know I’m not there. But maybe that is where You are telling me to go. Maybe that is where you are telling me to grow.
Please, Ribbono shel Olam. Please don’t make me learn this lesson directly. Not through myself, or my family. Not through anyone else, either. Do not turn Your back to us. Do not plunge us into darkness. Hold us in Your hands, cradle us to You, let us rest in the warmth of Your he’aras panim shining on us, and grant us the security to grow and to give to others.
יברכך ה’ וישמרך. יאר ה’ פניו אליך ויחנך. ישא ה’ פניו אליך וישם לך שלום.”
But, yes, don’t hide the message from me. Thank you for telling me that I still have far to go, and for giving me a signpost for the way.
Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book
by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Elisabeth Schlossberg
©2010 Chronicle Books
What is most notable about Eight Winter Nights is the atmosphere of Chanuka that it evokes — the illustrations are simultaneously soft and vibrant, creating a safe, happy visual environment that my two younger children (3 and 5) were happy to be drawn into.
Eight Winter Nights is not a storybook, it is a series of little rhymes strung together loosely like beads where the string is the procession from the first to the eighth night of Chanuka.
On a first level, the book reviews the most common holiday customs and activities a child can expect to experience in a Chanuka week — dreidels, menorahs, cousins coming over, music, gifts, traditional holiday foods. As a way of gently preparing the littlest ones for a holiday they are too young to remember from years past, this works well.
On a second level, the rhyming couplets and friendly illustrations depict a comfortable, secure, even nostalgic Chanuka spent with family. What I liked best was the focus on time together reading, singing, playing and cleaning up the house, rather than on getting presents. (”Opening Presents” appears only on the seventh night, paired with “Tzedakah” [Charity] — a subtle expression of non-materialistic values which I appreciate.)
Eight Winter Nights won’t win any awards for its poetry, and the occasional burst of whimsy shoots right over the heads of my in-house preschool audience. That said, the kids found the rhymes a relaxing accompaniment to the delightful illustrations, and wanted to hear the book again — a sure sign of success.
The publisher is recommending this book for ages 4-8; in my judgement, the book works well as a Chanuka experience for children 1-4 years old (older children will be underwhelmed by the text).
Eight Winter Nights: A Family Hanukkah Book makes a good choice as a gift for a family with small children, especially as it is written without preference to any stream of Judaism.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of Eight Winter Nights from the publisher, Chronicle Books.
Seen in today’s neighborhood advertising handout:
Seeking an English teacher (mail/femail) to teach boys English, evening hours in our home.
Sounds like the parents might want to sit in on the lessons.
Note: I did not receive anything from the SweetPea Toy company, nor was I asked to write this review.
The SweetPea3 is an MP3 player designed for young children, 1 - 5 years. Essentially, it replaces the Fisher-Price record player of my youth and the Fisher-Price tape recorder of my 18-year old daughter’s youth with the modern equivalent. (Note: At the time I was ordering our two SweetPea3 players, Amazon.com was showing a product listing for a new Fisher-Price MP3 player due to launch in a couple of months. No product details were available at that time. The product image looks an awful lot like those kiddie tape recorders of yore, including the sing-along microphone… and the size.)
I bought two SweetPea3 players — one lavender, one blue — from the SweetPea3 website. (Also available from Amazon.com.) My main motivation was to give my two youngest children (ages 3 and 5) access to music without buying yet another tape recorder for our old collection of music cassettes.
At $49.95 each, the SweetPea3s were a substantial investment. I admit to spending some time wondering if I should just buy low-end “grown up” MP3 players, instead. Ultimately, I went with the SweetPeas, and was glad I did. Here’s why:
1. Speaker. The SweetPea3 is primarily designed to play over it’s (very decent sounding) speaker. While it can accommodate headphones (not included), they are not the intended playback method; something most parents will prefer for small children. Not only are headphones something I don’t want to give my little ones (a strangulation hazard, especially in bed), they interfere with communication and make it hard for me to monitor volume levels.
2. Size. Sometimes, bigger is better. The SweetPea3 is sized and shaped for small hands. About 8″ long, it’s large enough for them to carry comfortably, and large enough not to slide between the sofa cushions (you wouldn’t believe what slips between our sofa cushions…). In addition to being more comfortable for kids to use, the larger size is safe for children under 3 years, who could easily choke on, say, a Sansa Clip+ or an iPod Shuffle.
3. Design. The player has a nice circular handle just right for little hands. (The product is shaped sort of like a hotel’s “Do Not Disturb” sign, only smaller.) The handle/hole is also perfectly sized for attaching plastic links, so that you can attach the player to a stroller or crib.
4. Rubberized exterior. The players are reasonably cushioned against shocks… and tantrums. Being thrown on our stone floors hasn’t done the blue one in yet.
5. Age-appropriate controls. The SweetPea3’s controls are limited to three buttons: Play/Pause, Back, and Forward. Limited controls means limited opportunities for confusion and frustration. Wisely, there is no Delete function.
6. Parental controls. A parent-accessible menu (hold two buttons down for six seconds to activate the menu) allows for volume control, playlist selection, and a couple of other settings. (Some settings I didn’t understand the need for: “Show Song“? “Pause“? Why wouldn’t I want those features on?)
7. Long battery life. After a week of reasonable use, the battery indicators still show full.
Purchasing from the SweetPea site was easy – the website is nicely designed and simple to navigate. Delivery was prompt and timely. Each box contained the MP3 player, some product guides and ads, and a USB cable. Showing a fine understanding of the target audience, the players came charged and pre-loaded with several songs and stories (some stories are just snippets), making them ready-to-go right out of the box.
Transferring files to the players was odd but not hard — because I’d seen the helpful information one Amazon customer posted. The players have 2 GB of memory, which is plenty for audio content (the website claims over 32 hours).
(On a Mac, the trick is NOT to drag files directly from iTunes to the player, but rather to find the music files in the Finder, and from there, drag and drop to the player’s icon on the Desktop (just like you might copy files from the Finder to an external hard drive). Double-clicking the player’s icon will reveal three playlist folders, into which you sort the audio files. It seemed to me that Playlist 3 does not accept new files; even if it appears to, they won’t be accessible from the player.)
The SweetPea3 was a fabulously successful gift — my daughter and son are delighted with the music players, and a week later, are having a ball with them. They love the control and fun of having their own “iPods” (a marketing coup for Apple), and take them everywhere. And I feel like a great Mommy for buying them.
SweetPea boasts that their player won the 2009 Best Toy Award. That may be so, but the player’s interface — while adequate for a first product — does not live up to the rest of the design, and really requires an upgrade if this product is going to take off.
Here’s what needs to be updated:
1. Larger buttons. The existing buttons are all right for my 3- and 5-year olds, but would be frustrating for the under-two set, or children with below-average fine-motor skills.
2. Volume buttons. These can be on the side to distinguish them from navigation controls. I like the concept of full parental control over the volume via the hidden menu, but not every song is equalized at the same volume as every other song. I’d like my control to be over an absolute maximum decibel volume, and for my kids to be able to control the volume up to that point. Perhaps for the youngest children (up to age 2) this would be overkill, but for the 3-5 year old set, it would be preferable. After all, the volume buttons can always be inactivated via the Parental Control Menu.
4. Playlist selection. Currently, switching between playlists can only be done via the Parental Controls menu, which limits the kids’ ability to choose what to listen to. With 2 GB of memory, there are an awful lot of songs to scroll through to find a specific one. Perhaps the solution is to add an album-sorted list.
5. Color display showing album images in addition to song titles (for kids who can’t read).
6. Faster response time. I was startled by how slow the SweetPea3 is to respond to button presses. My kids have the patience for it, but many won’t and will find themselves pressing furiously to try and elicit a reaction, only to find they’ve overshot.
7. More color options. This isn’t an absolute requirement, of course, but it would be a bonus if there were more color choices. The blue and lavender colors are really nice (nicer than they look on the screen), but if I’d had two girls, which one would have to take the blue? (I know it’s sexist, but you’ll have to live with it.) With small kids, color is the main distinguishing factor; writing their names on the players would not only be useless for the pre-literate ones, it would deface a lovely product.
Overall: The SweetPea3 MP3 player lives up to its tagline, “The MP3 player Made for Kids”. It is a solid choice for young children (birth to 5 years, or older children with motor or developmental delays), but the product is ready for a design update. The SweetPea3 was a fabulously successful gift — my daughter and son are delighted with them. Kids love the control and fun of having their own “iPods” (a marketing coup for Apple), and take them everywhere. And I feel like a great Mommy for buying them.
With regard to my post on Tawkon, ima2seven asked my opinion about various smartphone options. She didn’t know what she was getting into! So instead of replying in the comments, I’ll post my response here:I love my iPod Touch as an iPod and mini-portable computer, BUT absolutely prefer my Blackberry as a smartphone (that’s why I have a Touch and not an iPhone). Blackberry is a much better fit for me, in terms of phone and email usability. For example, my biggest uses (no particular order) of my smartphone are: check new emails, phone functions, send myself notes via email to act upon when I get back to my desk, camera and calendar. I use (with less frequency) podcasting and music features, Google maps, Twitter, Facebook, alarm clock.It’s important to note that the Blackberry is MUCH less convenient for syncing to my Mac than the Nokia E71 it replaced. The E71 synced wirelessly and flawlessly via Bluetooth, keeping my computer and phone contacts and calendars up to date. The Blackberry will not sync to iCal (despite claims to do so), and is erratic and unpredictable about syncing with the contacts. It also requires a special USB cable to sync (none of my 100 other micro-USB cables fit the BB).[As an aside, whichever smartphone you decide to go with, you must first backup your contacts, email, calendars and bookmarks before attempting to sync it to your computer! This will save you a lot of grief if you manage to accidentally overwrite your computer with your empty smartphone instead of vice-versa.]The lack of calendar sync keeps me teetering on the verge of switching back to Nokia or iPhone, but the vastly better email and phone functions keep me with Blackberry. The speed of opening, composing and sending emails from Blackberry is unmatched, for now.I have no personal experience using an Android phone. But here’s a typical quote, tweeted just yesterday by a very tech-savvy colleague who works in the mobile industry, albeit not a programmer:
“almost destroyed my android phone today of rage, because of the time I lost trying to make it a great phone and realizing I won’t succeed. I will stick to my love-hate iPhone for now and patiently wait for WIN7 phones to show up. cannot wait to synchronize Outlook with my phone, and mirror my inbox etc. […] will always be a fun tool for application developers, a phone for geeks and Google adepts, but for a simply rooted guy like me using MS Outlook and few cloud apps, this is not going to work.”
I expect it’s just a little too early for most people to move to Android, unless you are either a programmer, or someone who keeps most of your data in Google’s cloud, anyway (GMail, GMail contacts, Google Calendars, Google Reader, etc.).The upshot: Choosing a smartphone depends on how you really behave when you are mobile. Your real smartphone choices are a QWERTY-keyboard Blackberry (if email and calling is a big part of your day); iPhone (if you mostly want a great iPod and a phone rolled into one, or you’re on a Mac and desire seamless syncing with your computer and MobileMe); and Nokia enterprise phones (if you value great calling functions and sound quality above all else, and don’t want to sacrifice any other features, even if they take a few more keytaps to reach. Nokia phones are fabulously hardy, and gorgeous, too.).Good luck, ima2seven, and I hope you’re happy with your new smartphone!
Favorite books on decision-making:
How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins Business Essentials) by Robert Cialdini
The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
See What I’m Saying: The Extraordinary Powers of Our Five Senses by Lawrence Rosenblum
The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz
Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande
Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping by Paco Underhill
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
Fear No Evil by Natan Sharansky
Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
(Note: I recommend reading the first half of this book; after that, it gets pretty repetitious.)
Received in a child’s school prize today:
PRODUCT EXPLAIN:The product for voice,light,elecericity.incorporate.the material adopt all wooland a yard wide .excellent maked and have speciality of defiant,stimalate recreational.it be propitious to children touch and mind enhanceing.atthe same time adult as well as sportful fine toys.
GAME RULE:From jumping–off pointalong pathe end 100cent the pontil go ahead on the way not blow and reach astandard.good luck !
Got it? Good.
*Actually, The Power of Babel is the title of one of my favorite books on language.