In Memorium: Abby the Cat

Today we had to put Abby the cat to rest. Almost 20, she “did it her way,” as Frank Sinatra sang. Aloof in her early and middle years, Abby mellowed dramatically in later life, suffering through our attention and petting, I suspect, as a way to siphon off our body heat. She was always cold.

Six years ago, I wrote a blog post about Abby when I was running the marketing for an eLearning company that focused on process improvement and product design. I looked for it today, and though they have since removed it from their website (!), I was able to locate it via the Wayback Machine. Nothing dies on the Internet.

I present it as a way to honor the memory of the extended life of sweet, dear Abby. Certainly not my best work, but a classic Abby story.

iPod Destructive Testing Using Cat

Yes, I still have the cat, for now.

March 09, 2009 – This morning, my cat threw up a hairball on my iPod. I kid you not.

As the, well, regurgitation, soaked in through the front navigation wheel, I saw enough to know that there was liquid mixed in with the delicate innards. This was much like the “coffee on a laptop” scenario, so I knew not to turn the iPod on. But will it still work, and what does this have to do with e-Learning and design? There are two important connections.

Abby the CatFirst, my online search for “iPod and water” (“iPod and bile” was never a realistic candidate) reinforced an important tenet of Blended Learning. Many people mistakenly believe that Blended Learning is simply a combination of e-Learning and instructor led training.

In actuality, effective Blended Learning is much more. It is defined as learning from many components, including e-Learning, coaching, live classes, online sources, blogs, forums, simulations, team exercises, and even textbooks. Self directed learning from online technologies (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, Second Life) is also included in the recognized Blended Learning sources, and is one of the fastest growing methods used by professionals to advance their knowledge. After the adrenaline rush, it occurred to me that my own use of Google represented a now-ingrained and non-traditional learning method.

Second, I realized that if my iPhone had been the victim, I would probably not have had a crisis at all. As we all know, Apple constantly modifies and improves its designs, and my phone has a fairly seamless front surface that would not have allowed the, um, cat liquids, to penetrate. The lack of a keyboard is a breakthrough innovation that still triggers curiosity from non-owners, and the nearly solid surface is just one aspect of the overall design. If only I had left my iPhone on the buffet last night.

So, will my iPod still work? Online forum advice leads me to believe that the odds are good, as long as I keep it face down and in a warm dry place, like a car dashboard. I now have it positioned far away enough from a space heater to warm – not toast – it to dryness. It is resting comfortably, with a positive prognosis. Perhaps I will try to turn it on Christmas morning and receive my own little holiday miracle.

The Demise of The Question Song

kuvo-pledgeTo help stick my cred as a “cool” dad, I’ve decided to share the car radio with my daughter. I am AOK with dedicating a couple pre-sets for the “hit mix” and “party” stations, as long as I still get my Jazz, NPR and alternative tracks.

But having to listen to what Big Music is now releasing to the teen market, I have become painfully aware that the hallowed “Question Song” of yore has undergone a disturbing – and perhaps fatal – decline. Let me explain.

In my salad days, I loved Question Songs. The lyrics made you actually stop and think about what the songwriter was trying to say. The question indicated a genuine narrative, one that stuck too long in your mind, like peanut butter does to the roof of your mouth. The question might challenge authority (“What’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.”), celebrate life (“Isn’t she lovely? isn’t she wonderful?”) or ponder death (“Where have all the flowers gone?”). Deep stuff.

A few more choice examples*:

  • Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?
  • How can you mend a broken heart?
  • Does anybody really know what time it is? (Does anybody really care…about time?)
  • Why do fools fall in love?
  • How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man?
  • Why are there so many songs about rainbows, and what’s on the other side?
  • If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?
  • Where does that highway go to?

*Please notice that “Where are the clowns?” didn’t make the list. While I’ve never loved Judy Collins, even that mawkish ballad hews to a grander theme of unrequited love.

Now compare those questions to what currently rules the airwaves:

  • What do you mean? (Justin Bieber)
  • What’s wrong with being confident? (Demi Lovato)
  • Is there somebody else on your mind? (One Direction)
  • Tell me, is it true that these men are from Mars? (Britney Spears, Iggy Azalea)

Insipid, paltry fare as dissatisfying as eating a rice cake for lunch. Or celery. I rest my case.

Fare thee well, pop music Question Song. Your death has not gone unnoticed. RIP.