Friday, March 20, 2015

Can you hear a pin drop?

I love the mobility of mobile phones. They go everywhere, and they’re smarter than ever.  I can get email, surf the Web, make transactions, and conduct business from anywhere.

The one thing I can’t do – or rarely do – is hear calls clearly.  I guess I’m showing my age by wanting call quality so good I could actually hear a pin drop.

Sprint boasted about pin-drop quality in its late '80s TV commercials. Closer to reality were the Verizon Wireless “Can you hear me now?” campaign, where Test Man drove me crazy with repetition. It was particularly annoying because I had to ask that same question almost every time I called someone. With unreliable cell phone service and poor sound quality, I often couldn’t hear the other person. At least I had an easy out if the conversation entered awkward territory: What? What did you say? You're breaking up.

I spend a lot of my working hours interviewing people for articles, and the conversations take place wherever the client happens to be. I’ve conducted interviews with people in airports, in a cab in Sweden, on Amtrak high-speed trains, and at the hospital. For my part, I got caught short and ended up on client call while walking my dog in nearby farm fields.

For all these conversations, at least one party was on a mobile phone, and none had pin-drop quality. Mobile access is awesome; the call clarity abysmal. Don’t even get me started on speakerphones.

I have gotten used to stopping conversations when something doesn’t sound quite right. Otherwise I get results like misheard song lyrics. No, Jimi Hendrix did not sing “Excuse me while I kiss this guy,” in Purple Haze. And the executive did not just say “That’s a lot of poo”; it was “That’s a lot to do.”

There was a time when I could ask for a callback using a landline. Now landlines are the exception; mobile phones are the rule.

Even my mother has a mobile phone. She uses it to call my mobile. Then we both have trouble understanding the conversation.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Today's forecast is...pretty

After watching snowstorm after snowstorm hammer Boston, Philadelphia finally got its biggest snowfall of the season.

And it's a beauty. Fluffy white stuff. Bright blue sky this morning. Deep shadows for contrast.

Mother Nature finally got it right. Enough of the two-inch tease of flakes, only to be washed by rain into a slushy, slippery mess.

The timing and forecasting for this one worked out well, with enough advance notice that event cancellations and work-at-home arrangements could be made. It was much better to watch the storm from a warm and toasty house than stranded somewhere on the road.

Still, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I know plenty of people who are too tired of winter to care how pretty the landscape looks.

They probably would have preferred a view I had earlier this week. Something like this. It's tough to beat a sunny day in Southwest Florida.

But the trip wasn't all fun and games. There was a significant element of chore-cation involved, and I was anxious about a growing pile of projects back home on my desk.

Even so, it was a nice break from winter's chill and what had been a string of missed forecasts back home of snowstorms that always dumped the fun stuff somewhere else.

I was skeptical when Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, signalling six more weeks of winter. But it looks like that little groundhog was right on the money.