Sometimes it hits me that a sign of intelligence can be the linking of two very separate thoughts in order to solve a problem. The problem is that it takes me a while.
Here's the latest example:
Part One of the story centers on my iPod. My old one was perfect for sticking in a protective case, which went in my pocket. I attached headphones, turned it on, and off I went on a run. I never knew which of 980 songs would pop up along the route, which takes me about 35-40 minutes to complete.
(Yes, I know running to music isn't the best idea. But it's not too loud, so I can hear noises from possible obstacles. I stick almost exclusively to sidewalks or roads without vehicular traffic, so it's not much of a problem most of the time. And I like it.)
Sadly, my old iPod died after several years of fine service. I purchased the new Nano, which is even smaller. As I discovered, it also is more likely to pick up perspiration which turns the iPod screen into all sorts of interesting colors -- a sure sign that you have a problem. I took it back to the store, and the salesman said, essentially, stop putting it in your pocket even with a carrying case.
I therefore switched to an mp3 player, which was had a nice, solid plastic case and was simple and cheap. Converting music files is a little time-consuming, but it can be done.
Part Two of the story is completely different. My wife was getting catalogs from The Great Courses on a regular basis. This is a collection of lectures for a variety of subjects. The idea of getting a bit more education in subjects that interested me was appealing. But the prices for courses seemed to be pretty high, and the idea of sitting in a room with headphones on, listening to a portable CD player, wasn't so appealing. Who has the time to do that regularly?
But eventually, emphasis on eventually, I noticed that The Great Courses put all of their courses on sale for something like 70 percent off. And when I went to the web site to investigate the list of courses, I noticed that the company also sold audio downloads of its products at a reduced price as compared to the CD version. No packaging, and all that.
And the light bulb finally went on.
I purchased a course on events that changed history, and loaded the mp3 files into the player. Put on the sneakers, go out the door, and hit play. These days, I come back from a workout smarter than I was when I left.
The other day I returned ready to talk about Martin Luther with anyone who would listen. Buddha, Jesus, Columbus, Dante ... they have been covered in the course so far. Someone asked me if it were tough to concentrate on the material while running. I answered by saying that it's not like I have to take notes on the lectures. Besides, there's no test at the end of the run. As a bonus, hearing a professor talk about the Black Death has to be less dangerous than listening to Led Zeppelin.
What's more, I have converted the files for CD use, and my wife has been listening to the lectures as well in the car. She may not have found what she was looking for at the mall, but she came back from the drive better informed on Michelangelo.
Now, the people at the Great Courses are the most relentless marketers I've ever seen. I've gotten one catalog for August and two other sale catalogs. Plus, I think there have been two emails a week on average announcing some sort of sale.
Even so, this combination has worked out quite well overall. It could prove to provide a burst of intellectual productivity for me long term ... provided my knees hold up.
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