The Friday Grab Bag: iPhone Headsets, Voting, and, Yes, The Election

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wherein the zipcar promises...death

Another interesting week in the books. Sunday, I watched my little brother running the New York Marathon. Thursday, my ZipCar threatened to kill me. In between, there was a conference, two full day client gigs, multiple whole meals of food with colleagues and friends, and 15 hours or so hours of my life that I’ll never get back blown on planes.

Oh, and there was that election business.

All of which might help explain why things have been a little quiet around here. But not to worry, there’s a bunch in the hopper. Conference recaps, product launches, and so on. Good thing I’ve decided not to return to San Francisco next week.

In the meantime, it’s Friday, so you’ll get your usual grab bag of items that aren’t getting their own entries. Enjoy. Or suffer, as the case may be.

Apple’s iPhone Headset

With my v-moda earphones broken for the third time, I was forced to fall back this week on my auxiliary pair – the default iPhone headset. Which is, frankly, awful. I don’t mean the sound, as I’m not enough of an audiophile to tell the difference, but the comfort. Apple makes wonderfully designed products in the iPod and iPhone and then pairs them with consistently uncomfortable headsets. Which delights their aftermarket suppliers, I’m sure, but seems to shaft customers.

Anyway, after the iPhone headset cut the inside of my ear this week after the rubberized edge coating peeled off, I relented and purchased a pair of Etymotic HF2’s. I like them so far, though they are not as comfortable as the v-moda’s and are more expensive by almost half. The hope is that they are more reliable, then, by half. We’ll see.


You might remember that I’ve been arguing on behalf of Fivethirtyeight’s statistical modeling and projection of this election. How did they do? They pretty much nailed it, as many others have noticed. Expect similar statistical analyses to become a fundamental portion of all future political coverage.

How I Voted

This is not a story about the election. Nor is it a story about who won, how it was won, or how I feel about who won and how they won. That comes later.

It is, instead, a story about a single public servant that took it upon herself to ensure that I was able to cast my ballot in the most important election of my lifetime.

Here’s what happened:

  • October 2nd, I requested an absentee ballot from Colorado – my official state of residence, even now.
  • October 29th, my ballot still not having arrived, I visited the polling stations while passing through Denver to inquire as to its status or simply vote, if possible. I was told that the ballot had been mailed on the 24th, and that if it still hadn’t arrived, I was to call the office.
  • October 31st, I returned to Maine to find that the ballot still had not arrived.
  • November 1st, still no ballot. And I’m flying out the next morning, a Sunday, not to return until well after the election.
  • November 3rd, I contact the office, and am first told that I cannot be helped, because emergency fax ballots are only made available to those overseas. Later, after it’s determined that the Denver electoral office mailed my absentee ballot to my Denver address – defeating the purpose of the absentee ballot – they relent, and agree to provide me with a fax ballot. I receive a fax application for an emergency ballot, and return it to the Denver office at 12:45 PM MT. No ballot arrives that day.
  • November 4th, Election Day, and still no ballot. I called the electoral office, and was by a twist of fate connected to the most helpful public servant in the history of public servants, one Angela Lawson. She assured me that she would check with my county clerk and then call me back. I was not hopeful. Five minutes later, my phone rang, and Angela informed me that Sheila – the county clerk – was working on it, and that I should expect a ballot shortly.

    Hours later, I’m still waiting on a ballot, and call Angela back. She promises to call me back, and does. They’re working on it over in the Denver county office. Shortly thereafter a fax ballot arrives. It’s borderline illegible, but it’s a ballot. I print it out, vote for the candidates that are important to me, and attempt to fax it back. And get a busy signal. And another. And so on, for twenty minutes.

    Call four (or five, who’s counting?) to Angela, who checks and provides me with a second fax number. Which also proves to be locked up. Angela calls the county, is assured that the fax machine in question is sitting idle, calls me, hears the busy signal from the fax machine, calls the county back and ultimately coordinates – live – a fax window from me. Which I take advantage of, and fax in my ballot. At which point Angela brightly thanks me for voting, wishes me a wonderful weekend, and hangs up.

Without Angela, it’s simple: my vote – insignificant though it proved to be – would not have been counted. If every public servant was as dedicated as Angela, I would have a lot more confidence in government run programs. So in the event that Angela reads this, thank you.

San Francisco Hotels

I’m not sure if it’s the economy, the season, or something less obvious, but the rates for San Francisco hotels have rarely been lower, in my experience. This week I got ~$120 rates from both the Hotel Monaco (a Kimpton property) and the Westin on Market. Neither are the St. Regis, of course, but they are generally relatively pricey, so the rates were a real surprise.

The Crumpler

Many of you know that I’ve replaced my worn out Patagonia One Bag – which I loved – with a new Crumpler Part and Parcel. So far, so good on that front. I’ll have a more detailed review later, but while there are a few things I’m still getting used to – the lack of any outside pockets, the lack of an external handle – it’s a fine bag.

The Election

I have always sought to keep politics out of this space, and I will not break that tradition here. I will say, however, that Tuesday’s election made me very proud of my country. Unlike what some would argue, believing that this nation is imperfect is not anti-American, but at once realistic and necessary. And whether you agree with his politics or not, the fact that this country elected Barack Obama to the office of President of the United States is a profound sign of progress in area in which this country’s history has been, frankly, shameful. It’s not victory, but it’s undeniably progress.

As Senator McCain graciously acknowledged in his concession speech, the election of Obama is a reminder that in this country – more so, we like to believe, than in any other – your station, your worth, and your future does not have to be dictated by the color of your skin.

If only for that reason alone, Tuesday night was a moment in time that I am sure that I will remember for the rest of my life.



  1. I have a Thirsty Al XL on the outside of my Part and Parcel to deal with the no outside pocket issue. It holds most plastic water bottles, not the Nalgene ones, but the Poland Spring kind.

  2. A friend in the SF hotel biz says they’re usually booked solid this time of year due to conferences – but this year they have plenty of vacancies. Hence the low rates.

  3. Hands down, my favorite 2008 election night story. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. One of the conferences I was supposed to attend next February in San Francisco was just canceled because of economic uncertainty. Apparently quite a few corporations have very stringent travel restrictions in place now, enough that the organizers (NetApp) decided to cancel the entire conference.

  5. Very nicely put, Stephen (your whole piece but in particular, the part about The Election)

  6. I’ve said it elsewhere and I’ll say it again here … as an outsider to American politics, and a foreigner to the USA, let me just say how pleased (even proud) I am of the election result there – I’m old enough to remember the Kennedy days, and Obama has the same feel about him as JFK … that feeling that great things are not only possible, but likely.

    I suspect there are a lot of Americans unaware just how interested the rest of the world was in the outcome of this election – for better or worse the USA is a large part of Australia’s international horizon, so we cannot but be affected by your “domestic” politics … and generally we are happy. Not that I think that Obama can work miracles, but that there is a different outlook on the world (and maybe a little more intelligence?) in the White House from Jan 20

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