Category Archives: Mental M10n

Choosing A New Ringtone

I’ve been binge-watching Episodes lately and Matt LeBlanc’s ringtone has inspired me to replace the main one I’ve been using for years.

If you’re the kind of person who isn’t content to stick with the ringtones that your phone manufacturer provides, you know what a consequential choice your ringtone can be. That you select it from millions of possibilities and that it spontaneously and repeatedly shares a piece of yourself with people who are nearby makes it among the most revealing of personal choices. Here’s how I pick one.

The first criterion is that I won’t get tired of hearing it repeatedly. When Windows 3.1 first came out and made multimedia a standard part of the PC experience, one of the first things people did was customize their sound schemes. (Remember the Microsoft SoundBits product line?) As my Windows shutdown sound, I picked Porky Pig stuttering, “That’s all, folks!” It was cute at first, but I was developing system software and restarting Windows fifty times a day. It got old in a hurry.

I also want a sound whose essence can be captured in a few seconds. The point of a ringtone is to alert me that my phone is ringing, so I don’t want to be thinking about — or having people around me wondering — what that strange sound is and what it means. Because it has to be edited to less than thirty seconds and might have to repeat in the middle, it has to be cuttable and loopable.

The above criteria favor shorter, catchier melodies over more complex ones. They also tend to favor instrumentals over vocal tracks, though this can be managed with proper editing. I edit my own ringtones with mp3DirectCut and end up listening to the sound over and over, so I get a sense if it’s going to meet these criteria.

Since the ringtone often plays when you’re not expecting it, it shouldn’t have a jarring opening. I learned this a couple of years ago during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, when I experimented with using the New York Rangers goal song as my ringtone. You can listen for yourself, but suffice it to say it begins with the sound of a foghorn and quickly transitions to the musical equivalent of a hockey riot.

While I try not overthink the symbolism of the sound, I do avoid ringtones that might come across as if I’m trying to associate myself with a heroic character. Or songs that are too popular or iconic. For this reason I wouldn’t choose songs like the themes from Batman, Secret Agent, or Mission Impossible, even though sonically they work well.

Finally, and foremost, it has to be a sound that makes me happy when I hear it.

Hearing Two Time repeatedly on Episodes, often to humorous effect, set me in the directions of 1960’s/70’s instrumentals. I listened to a bunch of TV theme songs and also some Herb Alpert tracks. There were a number of good options, but ultimately this one stood out:

We’ll see how long it lasts.

Letter to the Ethicist

Dear Ethicist:

I am a long-time reader of this column and I have never been as dumbstruck as I was by your response yesterday in E-Book Dodge. In both reasoning and conclusion your response was, in contemporary parlance, a great big bowl of wrong.

First, while an illegal act is not automatically unethical, as we live in a society of laws, deliberate law-breaking should be restricted to situations where ethics demand it. Mere convenience does not meet this bar.

Second, the comparison to “buying a CD, then copying it to your iPod” is invalid, since doing so for personal use is explicitly legal in the United States (see

Most significantly, you provide no ethical justification for the statement that "buying a book or a piece of music should be regarded as a license to enjoy it on any platform." Indeed, it appears to be based on the dubious and – dare I say it – anachronistic notion that the primary value of content is in the physical media with which it is transmitted and not the content itself. A sounder ethical principle would be that the individual or organization that owns the right to distribute the content – ideally its creator – decides what the appropriate value is on different platforms. It may be short-sighted of Apple Records to not make “Abbey Road” available for me to download when I’ve already purchased it on LP, cassette, and CD, but ethically speaking it is their right.

Finally, the statement that “no potential pirate will actually realize” when someone downloads an illegal copy is simply incorrect. Basic web site logging enables the provider of pirated content to track the who, what, and when of access to such content.

Daniel Glasser

Messenger/Facebook status messages for today

Rather than posting them sequentially via Windows Live Messenger, I’m saving time by putting them in a single blog post:
  1. Danny Glasser thinks the airlines aren’t doing themselves any favors by playing saccharine Christmas music while they have you on hold for 30 minutes after disrupting your travel plans.
  2. Danny Glasser is contemplating liquidating his 401(k) account if he can avoid ever having to fly commercial again, in direct contradiction to his financial planner’s recommendation.
  3. Danny Glasser is repeating Samuel L. Jackson’s signature line from Snakes On A Plane to himself, only substituting "snow" for "snakes" and "roads" for "plane."

A Thanksgiving Dish You’re Not Likely To See

I realized last week why nobody would ever replace the turkey in a turducken with tofu.  Hint: It has nothing to do with the taste.

Whew… I’m Not A Boomer

For years I have been told that I was a baby-boomer by nature of my birth date.  Time and again I heard the 1946-1964 range cited as the definitive boundaries.  But I’ve never really felt like I was part of that generation and its peculiar experiences and ethos.   I was five when Woodstock happened.  At some point during my late teens I did feel a desire to be part of that generation, but ever since I’ve dreaded the association.

Last year I was at a talk by Gordon Bell where he referred to a book on generational transitions called The Fourth TurningI read the book and found it fascinating, but was especially relieved to learn that by its definition (1943-1960), I am not a boomer.  Of course, I’m not sure I’m what they call me either, but "not a boomer" is a moniker I can wear with pride and relief.  As long as there’s some money left  in Social Security when I turn 65.

My Personal Elvis Day

I recently celebrated my Personal Elvis Day.  That is, the day on which I was the same age as Elvis when he died (15,561 days, in case you’re counting).
I had planned to commemorate the occasion by spending the day in the bathroom popping pills, but other commitments conspired to interfere.  So here I am still.


Missing My Personal RFK Day

I’ve been so preoccupied looking forward to my Personal Elvis Day that I just learned that Saturday was my Personal RFK Day.  That is, the day that I was the same age that RFK was on the day he died.
By that time, he’d already been the attorney general of the United States, was on the verge of securing the Democratic nomination for the 1968 presidential election, and had fathered ten children (with an eleventh on the way).  Clearly I have a lot of work to do.


Is it bad luck that my 13th wedding anniversary falls on 06/06/06?
I’m reminded of the old joke, "668:  The Neighbor of the Beast."  Actually, that’s the American version; the European version uses 665.

The Jewish Population of Afghanistan

Apparently it’s 1.  It must be quite a challenge to need a visa to have a minyan.
It’s also interesting to learn the reality behind Borat‘s caricature of Kazakhstan.  Jagshemash!

A Fate Worse Than Death?

Let’s say someone is convicted of a crime for which the possible sentences are capital punishment and life in prison without possibility of parole.  Under what circumstances does it make sense to execute them?

There’s the theoretical deterrent effect, although to the best of my knowledge reputable research overwhelmingly suggests that capital punishment provides no such deterrent.  Executing someone demonstrates a belief that the person is either incapable or unworthy of rehabilitation or even being allowed to provide some value with the remainder of his or her life.  It certainly demonstrates virtual certainty of guilt (though this appears to be at odds with the current reality of some portion of death row inmates).

Others? The desire to "send a message" is troubling absent a deterrent effect.  Fear of escape or reoffending seems unlikely in the modern U.S. prison system.  Preventing a leader from continuing to exert influence over an enemy outside organization is possible; at least in the case of John Gotti it seems like this was foiled, though it’s unclear if it was because of the nature of his incarceration or because his organization was crumbling on its own.  Even if someone like Osama bin Laden were captured, it is at least theoretically possible to restrict contact with his allies, but regardless the percentage of death row inmates whose influence would be that powerful is tiny.

What’s left is vengeance, the desire to seek retribution on behalf of the victims and their survivors.  It seems so common as to be a cliché, but whenever someone convicted of a horrible crime is spared the death penalty for life imprisonment, a victim’s relative is nearly always quoted as saying something about how unfair it is that the victim is dead but that the perpetrator survives.

If you’re a survivor of a victim, the goal of the retributive sentence is probably not strictly ending the life of the perpetrator, but to maximize the perpetrator’s suffering subject to the 8th Amendment’s highly subjective restrictions.  This raises the question of whether a life sentence or a death sentence is a better fit.  Differing beliefs about what happens to a person after death — on behalf of both the perpetrator and the victim’s survivors — influences this evaluation.  So does a desire for martyrdom or a general feeling about being imprisoned for decades with no hope of release.

Of course, if you believe that it is not society’s role to exact vengeance on behalf of victims, what case is left for capital punishment?