Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Blah-Blah Nation

Are you ready? To stand in the midnight line (on June 28) to get your iPhone?

The hype started a few months back. It promises to revolutionize wireless mobile communication, with its beautiful touch-screen and marvelous functionality. $500 for the phone and $100/month for the service? Small price to pay, to be on the leading edge for a couple months, huh?

What has happened to us?

Ten years ago, everybody - well, most everybody - got along just fine without being connected 24/7.

(And I've got to confess - my motivation to write these words stems partly from the fact that I love to be away from the phone whenever the opportunity presents itself. I carry a cell phone, but that's my boss's choice, not mine. And I love to pocket it and hope that it never rings. It really wouldn't need any buttons except the "answer" button, because I place an outgoing call on it maybe once a month.)

Nowadays, you see people yammering when they're driving, walking, shopping, eating in a restaurant, watching a movie. I imagine they use the little hands-free Star Trek earpiece thingie when they're making love... because they sure can't stop yappin'! How about when they're taking a shower? Is the iPhone water resistant?

Do you think it's important business they're discussing? Sealing that multi-million-dollar deal? Talking to Police Dispatch? Helping a lost child find his way home?

Guess again!

If you happen to overhear one of those conversations, there's a good chance it will be meaningless inane twaddle. What happened on "Desperate Housewives" last night. Or which dry cat food they like the best. Or how unfair Matilda is being to Hubert.

I assume that physical therapists are seeing patients with "cell-phone elbow." You know... the people who have injuries resulting from their elbows being cocked at a very tight angle, holding cell-phone to ear 18 hours a day. (And if Darwin is right about that evolution thing, maybe in a couple generations our descendents will have a normal size right arm, and a tiny little 8-inch left arm... just long enough to hold a cell-phone to ear. That would be pretty handy, huh?)

According to a survey of 1256 cell phone users in the UK, 1/3 of them wouldn't give up their cell phone for $2 million. 76% said it's a "social requirement" to own a cell phone. 85% said having a cell phone is "vital to maintaining their quality of life." (Click HERE to link to an article about the survey.)

Of course, only losers and dorks use regular cell phones. If you're anybody, you need one of those units that has the tiny keyboard, so you can send instant messages and email, and "surf the net" and look at pretty pictures.

(Which begs the question... why is it preferable to spend 2 minutes tap-tap-tapping out a sentence on a smaller-than-tiny keyboard - or numeric/alpha keypad - when you could call the person and speak the sentence in 10 seconds? Am I just too much the geezer to understand?) (I know... I know... I'm sounding more and more like Andy Rooney all the time!)

Well, starting Friday, only losers and dorks will use a Blackberry, or a "Q" (is that the one James Bond uses?), or a Treo. All the happ'nin' people will use an iPhone.

There have already been horrible auto accidents where one of the parties was trying to punch a message into his cell-phone keyboard while driving. I imagine the iPhone will just make matters worse. Generally, if I see a motorist make a really, totally stupid move, it's almost a sure bet they're operating that vehicle one-handed, because the other hand is taking care of cell-phone duties.

Here's a theorem... speak up if you disagree. Never in history has the quantity of "information" been better, than in 2007. Never has the quality of information been worse.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Fond Summer Memories

May I wax nostalgic for a moment.

It was great to grow up in Boise, back in the 60s. And summers brought particularly enjoyable pastimes.

Since we lived on the edge of town, with the "military reserve" a block down the street, it was like having the biggest, most awesome backyard... filled with trails and rocks and sagebrush and lizards and the occasional snake. I'd take advantage of that at least once a week, walking up to nearby "Eagle Rock," or maybe even over the top to Cottonwood Canyon. All that space and a pocketful of Matchbox cars... what else did you need to stay entertained?

We lived on a gently-sloping gravel road. It was always pleasurable to set the hose so water would run down the gutter, and then we'd build miniature earth-filled dams with roads, spillways, etc., in that gutter. (Mom indulged us, probably thinking I'd grow up to be the next Harry Morrison.)

The "Nat" (Natatorium city swimming pool, off Warm Springs) was a frequent haunt. We'd go there probably 4 afternoons a week, and spend a couple hours. (After the first week or so, we'd gotten all that sunburn stuff out of the way. I don't believe there was any such thing as sunscreen back in those days.) We'd go with the neighbors. Sometimes Mom would drive. Sometimes their mom would drive - I dreaded that because she always had a cigarette going. GACK! (We were suspicious of her anyway... because she'd holler at us when we'd play on her dirt "Stay off that bank!", and shoot our dog with her pellet gun when he was barking too much for her sensibilities. But I digress.)

Now and then, I'd splash a kid after getting the cease-and-desist order from the lifeguard. And get kicked out. Which wasn't so bad - there was a canal that ran right behind the pool. Usually my brothers and sisters would leave with me, and we'd head for the canal, which seemed a rather exciting, dangerous adventure, compared with that sparkling, clean swimming pool water.

Frequently after swimming, we'd stop at the Avenue Inn (now the Trolley House) and get a softie. 5 cents for small (pointy cone), 10 cents for large (flat-bottom cone). The proprieter - a rather gruff old fellow named Chris - didn't hear very well... you soon learned to ask for a "softie," and not a "cone." Because if you asked for a "cone," he'd often prepare you a "coke" instead.

Another favorite treat-stop was the Fanci Freez, on State Street (where it remains to this day). Strangely, it, too, was run by a rather sullen and somber old fellow and his equally-somber wife. They didn't have much to smile about, apparently. I usually got a large root beer float (30 cents). The most expensive thing on the list was a Boston Shake - 45 cents. It was a milkshake with a sundae on top. Fan-TAS-tic!! Dip cones were also a favorite.

Another cherished summer memory - weekday movies at the Ada Theater. (Now the Egyptian. In this age of VCRs and DVDs and satellite dishes, it just wouldn't be the same.) Mom would get us a season ticket for adventure movies on a weekday morning, at the Ada Theater. Sometimes we'd even get popcorn, or a soda. We'd always sit in the same place - first row of the balcony. And we'd watch a John Wayne movie, or Roy Rogers. Or maybe Sinbad, or Jason and the Argonauts, or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, or Mysterious Island. The crowd was raucous - we'd cheer for the good guys, and boo the bad guys.

It's too bad you only get to be a kid once... because I sure loved it! (But as my mother reminds me, "You're only young once, but you can be immature forever.")