I Have Seen The Future. And It’s Dull.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I see no reason why I need to update the above, seven years later.

The gap between what is and what was speculated about, predicted, hoped for is big and getting bigger. I have to think it’s the most profound phenomenon of my lifetime, this blindsiding of the future. Science fiction, or at least the science fiction that I read, didn’t come close.

Didn’t really foresee the internet. Completely missed social media. And looking in the wrong direction when smart phones slipped into our pockets.

All of this is pretty cool. None of it feels that way, and that’s the biggest difference I can see between what we imagined and what we got.

I read this old post today, Facebook to the rescue of aging brains, and tried to construct a timeline of my life and technology. Not using technology. Just the aging brain.

By the time I turned 20, we were still sort of lurching. We had color television. We had push-button phones. We had microwave ovens. Cassette tapes arrived. Cable TV was starting to creep into the conversation. Videotape recorders had been around awhile but were bulky and pricey (around $1200, nearly 5 grand in 2017 dollars), and there was nothing to rent; they were primitive time-shifting devices.

This is just what I was aware of, as far as I recall. Things were happening. Electronics were getting smaller, faster, and ultimately cheaper.

But at 20 years old, I wasn’t buying electronics. I was in and out of college, and nothing was necessary. It was essentially an analog world and I was an analog guy, no surprise. We all pretty much were.

Ten years later, we had personal computers. Twenty and we had internet. Thirty and the iPhone was in town, but by then everything had changed. Those cute gateways to the future, Prodigy and Compuserve and AOL, were toys, curiosities for early adopters or aggressive day traders; by the time the 21st century arrived, so had broadband and we were off the races.

And despite all of this, the radical transformation of every aspect of our lives? Not that exciting.

That slice of pulled-pork pizza my son gave me last night? That I can get excited about. Never saw it coming, either.

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The Future Is ON

I know I’ve used this analogy at least once, and probably more than that. Sometimes you just go back to a really good well.

It’s from 30 Rock, just a quip. A gag. A one-liner. Dennis, Liz Lemon’s (Tina Fey) on-again, off-again sociopath of a boyfriend, arrives in her offices with his new title of The Beeper King (the former King passed away), complete with a briefcase full of samples. Of beepers. In 2009 or 2010.

Still, he insists they’re making a comeback. “Technology is cyclical, Liz!”

History, maybe, if you’re willing to wander into the abstract. Technology, no. Nothing goes back in the box to be replaced by an earlier, analog version.

This has always been the case. Whatever you don’t like about the modern world and its technology, it’s not going anywhere, any more than the printing press. It will just get shinier.

There’s no value judgment here, at least on my part. The older I get, the more I see the trade-offs we make every day. Last night, I leaned back in my chair and looked at my two 24” monitors sitting side by side on my desk, the whole world waiting inside my browser. They’re sharper than anything I imagined 30 years ago, rail thin and lightweight, and at that moment – and for a lot of moments I spend here at the desk – they functioned primarily as a clock. I’ve taken to putting the stupid thing to sleep several times a day, just because I imagined a future and it looked sort of like this, but it never occurred to me that the future would always be on.

And so we come back to social media, which is the world we live in, and we’re really talking about Facebook. Whatever Mr. Zuckerberg had in mind originally, no matter how that vision changed and grew, we’re the ones who are playing his game.

It’s a good game, too. A lot of the time. The allure is obvious and the draw powerful: Stay off Facebook and run the risk of being out of any number of loops. Loops you actually might not need, but you’ll be missing them and eventually that can wear on somebody. I get it.

But a large, open clearinghouse for everyone’s dumb ideas? We should have seen this coming. Human nature being what it is.

I don’t have any good solutions, either. Our understandable resistance to hear statements from people we might or might not really know that are offensive or at least in opposition to things we believe led to our ability to lock it down, see only what we want. Convenient for those of us who like to keep our blood pressure under control, but whatever the problem it seems obvious, maybe axiomatic, that choosing bubbles over wide-open conversation isn’t solving anything, and never has.

Bubbles are boring, for one thing. After removing myself from field about a year ago, I’ve kept my distance and my mouth shut, for the most part. And following a brief effort to unfriend some names that I barely recognized, people I had only a spot in my high school yearbook in common with, I just did what we all end up doing and blocked most of them.

So I’m presented every morning with a slew of posts from people who agree with me on most things, and watching paint dry looks better and better. Moderation, not my strongest suit, might be the better part of valor here.

***

On the brighter, or shinier, side, and speaking of those glistening monitors, I’ve had some fun exploring high definition at a pretty high level lately. Feeling that I needed an optical drive, if only to pull home video off DVDs to edit, I opted for a Blu-Ray drive. It wasn’t expensive and I figured the upgrade might come in handy.

Blu-Ray technology strikes me as almost niche, at least in the sense that most people probably don’t care. My mom has a nice, high-definition television but a standard definition cable package. It’s a little baffling to watch but she can’t imagine a reason to upgrade, and I’m probably with her. You don’t miss what you never have.

Blu-Rays have allowed me to practice some rules that became necessary 30 years ago, when buying VHS tapes became a thing, particularly for people with kids. We must have had (and still do) dozens of Disney movies, along with blank tapes I recorded various films and shows on. A foot had to be put down, and when we switched to DVDs it was my foot. I couldn’t stop anyone else in this household, but I could keep my collection to a minimum, and now Blu-Ray made it even leaner. I can stream virtually anything I want; I own a few, select titles on Blu-Ray, and just because I like owning them. I’ve got The Godfather. I have every Rocky movie. There are a few others.

And despite the lack of freeware capable of negotiating the elaborate DRM B-R manufacturers pile on their disks, meaning that I had to buy software to play them, it’s actually a pretty cool experience. A smaller screen, better resolution than my plasma in the other room, and a super-crisp picture.

I’ll get over it eventually, and the drive will gather the dust that all of this gathers, but as I said: Shiny is compelling, and sometimes it takes a while to realize that all that glitters is not glittery, really. A lot of it is noise, and we have the tools to take care of that, and always have.

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Building For The Future

My son texted me this morning, all the way from the family room. He noticed something on our group calendar about an anniversary, and it confused him. “I thought it was in the summer,” he said, meaning when we got married.

First, I should note that I’m the one responsible for this anniversary. January 21, 1984 was a Friday, and it was the day my now-wife and I decided to take our futures into our own hands. You would think by our ages (we were in our mid to late 20s, depending on which one you’re talking about), we would have gotten a handle on this future planning business. And I guess, at least in this case, we did.

So we moved into a cabin on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Arizona, and started the ball rolling, leaving a couple of broken hearts behind but you know. People manage to survive this sort of thing.

The only reason I kept the date in mind was just a calendar trick; a week following our first Sunday of living in sin was the Super Bowl, and also my sister’s 24th birthday. And also a night when I did a really dumb thing, which I’ve probably talked about and have no interest in revisiting, other than to say that the scar is not discernible after 34 years. It was still dumb.

And welcome to the smart phone and digital calendars, which allowed my wife to slap the anniversary on our calendar and alarm my son, and remind me.

We got married about seven months later, and here we are. Happy anniversary.

***

My son has been itching to build me a computer, and I’ve been resisting. I can’t really afford it, or much of anything, but this current PC is going on six years and as proud as I am that it’s still functioning pretty efficiently, kept cool and with a new hard drive (SSD) and really? I’m not sure about the future of stationary computing. I thought this might, in fact, be my last computer.

But I had to edit a video for my mom’s anniversary, a very sweet effort by all of her grandchildren to share stories about her, and it was kind of a nightmare. Many more hours than necessary were required, simply because the flow on the timeline was so choppy and maxed out my CPU, to the point that I really couldn’t figure out what I had until I rendered it, which also took a while, and then had to essentially go back and do it again…

…and there are opportunities out there for someone with my skills who might be able to take advantage of video. It’s a risk; I can’t really afford a new computer, but my son knows what he speaks of. And it turns out the CPU is key, even though we went for an AMD because, you know, money. And RAM. RAM is really important, more RAM than I thought a PC could use. We’ll start with 16GB and see.

I know that sometimes you have to spend money to make money. I would just rather make money, and tap into whatever creativity I have left. And this build is really inexpensive for a pretty powerful computer, about $400.

So maybe I’ll keep you updated. I’m probably too old to plan for this particular future, but then. You’re only as young as your CPU, I suppose. Here’s to hope.

The boxes await. RAM and motherboard come today, then power supply tomorrow.
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Alexa The Great

My son bought me an Amazon Echo last Christmas, which still seems to me the most perfect gift: It’s something I can’t imagine buying for myself, and if I had it would have been a disappointment. I use very little of its many tricks and functions, mostly just idly asking “Alexa, what’s the temperature?” or “Alexa, play some James Taylor.” That stuff it does, and it’s fun and kind of cute and kind of creepy. It’s an audio-capture device that’s always on, waiting for me to say the magic word, which means I’ve voluntarily installed a listening device in my home that’s connected to my own network and, of course, the internet. And I’m a guy who has a piece of electrical tape over his laptop camera, just in case.

On the other hand, there’s only so much paranoia I’m willing to encourage. And I do like me some James Taylor.

I’ll also note that it’s a very nice speaker, similar to my wife’s Bose, and it’s got Bluetooth capability, so I can always shoot a podcast or song from my phone over to the big boy. Really nice speaker.

As compared to my computer speakers, which were worthless and bulky, and which I finally moved over to the television, since I can’t hear a damn thing anyway. And I don’t need to listen to anything on my computer. Until I do. And then the tinny built-in speaker suffices.

But no. I get these ideas, you know. After my upgrade a couple of weeks ago and all the hands-on time it took for me to get this old machine back up to speed, I started thinking about that Echo. A $6 Bluetooth USB dongle was all it took, and so now I also have a very nice PC speaker. Which I rarely use.

I know what’s going on here. I’m trying to feng shui myself back into a better place. Summer is lingering here but it’s obvious that this year isn’t going to be any different: Temperatures will go down, sunlight will decrease, clouds will roll in, wind will pick up – I’m talking about November, in case I wasn’t clear, and November is not my favorite time of year here in the lovely Pacific Northwest, not by a long shot.

I’ll be honest, and I usually am: The future is looking a little vague. Content is king these days, but quality seems to be somewhere down the chain of command, and I’m not producing quality at any rate. I can’t write without relying on hackneyed phrases and structure I’ve called on for 15 years. There’s something I can do about this, something I’ve done before, but I can’t remember now what it is.

But hey. I’ve got an Amazon Echo and James. Something’s bound to work out.

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Pressing Matters

AeroPress-review-koffiezetapparaatI have this theory about newspapers. Just pulled it out of thin air. But see if it makes sense.

I’m not talking about our long history of journalism, starting with Ben Franklin. I’m sticking to recent times, and change.

And since I hate beginning sentences with “When I was a kid…” I’ll just say that when I was a kid, reading (or at least subscribing to) the newspaper was a civic responsibility, like voting and not really stopping at stop signs. Not everybody did it, but enough that it was part of our Rockwellian landscape, the Americana of paperboys and missed porches.

We know what happened next. I certainly do, but we all do. No need to get into it. The future showed up right on time.

Here’s my theory, though: I wonder who or what is the last generation in this country to have a strong sense of reading the dead-tree news?

I’m guessing it’s practically no one under the age of 30. Not good news necessarily for foldable journalism, but not a bad demographic to scrape out a few more years of readers.

Not that a 30-year-old is going to subscribe to a newspaper, at least in most cases. But they’ll remember. They might pick one up. They might, in fact, sometimes prefer reading without scrolling. And at any rate, they’ll be around for a while.

Here’s another theory: Wouldn’t it have been great, back in the glory days of multi-newspaper towns, with daily papers chock full of advertising and personal ads along with solid journalism, if, aside from the few allowable letters to the editors, regular readers could share their opinions and feelings about a story or an issue that we all could read? Like a Newspaper-Plus! Wouldn’t that be a good idea?

Yeah. So mistakes were made with this Internet thing. It happens.

—————

The reason this came up is because I’ve received my third email from a vendor today. I bought something from this vendor, although since I had a gift card on file at Amazon I actually got it for free. It was a metal filter for my Aeropress, my favorite and only way to make coffee these days. Not that the paper filters were expensive or particularly hard to use. It’s just that we were running out, and I’d heard about these metal filters, heard good things, so I spent the imaginary nine bucks (seriously? And that’s down from $20?) and got one. Works fine. Glad to have it.

But, of course, my responsibility doesn’t stop there, with the paying of the (imaginary, again) money and the delivery of a product. Now I’m being urged, every other day, to write a review of this product. I don’t have to just buy the damn thing; now I have to advertise it.

There are 165 reviews on Amazon already. I think I can pass.

I think, in fact, that I insist on passing. Write a bad review? Oh sure. That’s sometimes our only recourse, and sometimes it makes a difference. But it’s not the same; we’re talking, at least in my case, about a shoddy or misrepresented or otherwise unsatisfactory product that we paid good (if imaginary) money for. It’s a public complaint desk. I approve, in extreme circumstances.

There are times, of course, when one wants to write a review. For one of my books, just to give an example. I approve of that.

But you know. Sometimes you just want to vent, or express pleasure, or see your words published on the net. That’s understandable. Go right ahead.

Send me a bunch of emails begging me to praise your little overpriced sliver of metal with tiny holes that works as advertised? That’ll do it, sure. Let me just think of the right words. I’ll get back to you. Good coffee, though.

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Copy That

TWOh, hubris. So much more than a simple noun, you are a way of life, leading us down a smooth path of assumptions and expectations until a bear eats us.

I love “The Office” (American version). Love it. Watched it several times, all seasons. Jim and Pam, Dwight and Creed, everyone. And I loved a lot of the time I worked at an office job, from 1986 until 1989 (other jobs were mostly in clinics and hospitals, or restaurants, not really offices).

And then I moved home to work, and stayed. But freedom! I could explore the brave new world of technology that was about to explode (it was ticking really loudly in 1989) without having to convince a business owner with one foot in the 1950s and the other in an employee’s backside (it was a tough environment sometimes).

I became an early adopter, partially out of just joy and partially because I wanted to spend less time on drudgery and more time on the non-drudge part of life. Maybe mostly joy, now that I think of it.

So don’t try to fool me, or teach this old dog new tricks. I know the tricks. I’m not that old.

And if there was a new toy out there, a new gizmo that did fancy things, I knew about it even if I wasn’t interested. No Apple Watch for me, but I get it. I’m on top of the tech news, and that’s not hubris or even an exaggeration. I like to know.

But I went to church yesterday, for a meeting with our development group (new job, uncertain responsibilities, but at the moment we’re prepping for a big auction to raise money so it’s all about that), and I had culled a bunch of info into about 10 pages of solid stuff. Just got there a little early to photocopy and staple.

And of course I can staple. That’s pretty analog.

What I can’t do, apparently, is operate a modern photocopier.

Remember: It’s been 25 years.

Many years ago, I stood in a line at an ATM that was getting longer, waiting for a woman who was getting increasingly frustrated until I peeked and realized she was trying to withdraw $17.

That’s become my rule, then, when facing familiar but maybe altered technology: What are the basic parameters? With a photocopier, I figured the basics were about the same as 1989. Paper is needed. Something to be copied is needed. A number of copies needed would be helpful. Ready, set, go.

I learned lots of things. I learned how to refill the paper trays. I learned how to enter the proper user code. I produced reams and reams of paper, in fact, spewing out of this copier with abandon. Different sizes, too. It was fascinating. It took longer than I thought, and toward the end I found out that it was actually unnecessary, since the intended recipients already had the PDFs emailed to them. Sometimes this happens. I wasn’t upset.

I would note, though, that at no time during this process, which was nearly 30 minutes, did I, in any way, shape, or form, produce a copy of anything.

Hubris. As I said.

I did get $17 out of it, though. Not sure how.

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Our Time Tunnels

I’ve finally sniffed out the Great Internet Conspiracy, and it has nothing to do with invading your privacy (sorry; that train left).

No. The GIC is designed – and one assumes designing will continue – to lure us into a permanent state of archival. Every day, a new app or a new function allows us to see exactly what we were doing or thinking about or taking pictures of on the same date years ago. Back as far as 2009, even, when the real world was created in six keystrokes, resting on the seventh.

I’ve been doing this a long time, of course, since I write, usually personal observations, every week and have for the past 14 years, and that’s not counting this blog, which is now 12 years old. But I’m special.

You, you now have access to your social media history for as long as you have had one (or, in some cases, none at all). Many of us spend some time each day looking backward.

And we always have. Sure. That’s what photo albums are for, and shoeboxes and hall closets. And birthdays and anniversaries. Dig out the memories, put on a show.

Lately, for example, my curated time traveling is focused on 2009, when my daughter got married (on Aug. 15). There’s lots of excitement and dry humor. Much anticipation, and so on.

It’s kind of fun. And it’s not really a conspiracy, or at least an evil one. Just ideas that clever people get, after seeing what users seem to want, and so on. Who doesn’t like a little look back?

What bothers me, though, is clear. Google Photos creates little movies and animated GIFs out of my memories. Facebook uses On This Day to remind me of what I was commenting about. Timehop hops.

This is what they will show at my funeral service. That right there is the big bother.

Too much emphasis on what has happened can lead us to suspect that not much more will. Speaking as an older person, I mean. I wouldn’t expect a 30-year-old to have the same reaction.

But me? I see these items from several years ago pass by my screen, happy and sad memories, and I think, yup. Everybody’s dressed up, watching these moments of my life after my life has ended. There will be a few jokes. Probably food afterward. I would probably have enjoyed it.

Still, I’m enjoying these looks back, particularly now. Six years have passed since that day in Santa Fe, so much has changed, and maybe I have things to say.

But right now I want to look at the pictures again. It’s just so tempting.

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A Dangling Preposition

“Middle age” is a Potter Stewart condition, mushy in terms of definition but knowable when seeable.  Or feelable.

(Potter Stewart was the Supreme Court Justice who said that hard-core pornography was hard to define but “I know it when I see it,” thereby providing lazy writers with a pocket metaphor. Much appreciated.)

At least for the Brits, or at least some of them, the ones who knew a survey when they saw it and took it.  Beneden Health conducted this sampling of 2000 adults with accents and came to this conclusion, although nobody is surprised.  Middle age is a concept ripe for denial; like the existence of God or most roughing the passer penalties, everybody has a take and they know they’re right.

I specifically remember someone calling me on my own personal definition a couple of years ago, in fact, teasing me a little about referring to myself as middle-aged.  So screw you, buddy; it turns out a majority of the Queen’s loyal subjects think you enter this phase at around 53, which MAKES ME EXACTLY RIGHT.

I mean.  It doesn’t mean the numerical middle of your life, we all know that, right?  It’s a stage and a state of mind, a biological but mostly philosophical purgatory where we review our exaggerated youth and wait for joint replacements.  Where we’re not there yet, which is all it is.  Not there yet.  Middle age.  I know it, I see it, I am it.

What made the survey interesting to me, though, was the nice listicle-like finish to the piece, a top 40 of the signs and symptoms of The Beginning of the End (look, I used “listicle” in a sentence, only slightly inappropriately!  I am so not old).

Looking this over, as I did sort of obsessively, it seems the Brits are pretty much like Americans, except for the expected vocabulary oddities that don’t cross the water, and a few references (“listening to the Archers” is a sign of middle age.  Good to know).  And I admit that “flogging the car” threw me at first.  But hey.  I like it.  “Gonna flog the car this weekend” is now just waiting for an opportunity.

And while attitudes and tastes about music showed up several times, I have no such attitudes or tastes with which to compare.  Seriously.  Even when I was a kid, I was only barely aware of what the kids were listening to.  Even when I was a DJ at my college radio station, I sometimes took a song request and then had to ask somebody else.  I’ve always been a little neutral with music.

But I was surprised to see technology only show up once, albeit in the top spot.  I can’t think of anything driving the zeitgeist in our time more than technology.  And I think about stuff all the time.

It comes up because I’m heading out to lunch today with a couple of guys my age who hold different places on the technology ladder, although more in a horizontal sense than vertical (they’re aware of what’s there, just don’t have the need or desire).

I compare them to people I know who are slightly to more than slightly older than I am, half to two-thirds of a generation ahead.  An aunt of mine at my niece’s wedding last month asked about my grandson and assumed I had “a whole stack” of pictures somehow miraculously stashed inside the pocket of my JC Penney sport coat, and then backed off when she saw me pull out my phone (“Oh, you have them on…”, trailing off exactly like that, a dangling preposition that told the whole story).  These are people who have reluctantly agreed that yup, a cell phone might, on certain special occasions, come in handy, but they tend to carry the latest 2002 model and they treat it as we used to treat long-distance calling in my childhood: Only when absolutely necessary.

And they certainly view it as a phone and a phone only,  just a portable version of that old reliable.  Last week, in fact, having coffee with a couple of guys who (with their phones) match this description, I pulled my iPhone out on several occasions and they both asked me – NOT JOKING AT ALL – if it was the same phone.  Which makes sense, really, given that I was demonstrating different functions and moving fast, slipping it in and out of view like either Penn or Teller (whichever one you like more), but even a couple of smart and savvy guys like this can’t fall behind the technology curve and ever hope to catch up.

So this is a sign, and I know it’s coming.  I’m currently caught up, I think, but it’s heading my way.  One day soon something new will show up and I just. Won’t. Do it.  I’ll realize my comfort in obsolescence, and while I might pretend to be just “retro” we all know that it means I’ll just not want to learn anything new anymore.

And then I’ll be middle-aged, truly.  And middle age is the new old age, and so on.  Looking forward to lunch with my friends, at any rate.  I’ve got pictures to show them, after all, and if they’re surprised by my phone, then, well.  I know old guys when I see them, and look, nothing up my sleeve.

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My Fingerprints Are All Over This

At some point, it became important to keep in touch.  At some point, as crucial as it felt to get out of the house, wander around for errands and or just to wander, it was just as crucial that I could be reached.  Tumors had invaded.  You know. 

I’d take off for a nice long walk, then, with my iPod in my pocket just in case I needed distraction music, and my cell phone in the other pocket, just in case I was needed.  And thus we had two devices to start with.

(I could put music on that ancient cell phone, but it was awkward. The whole point of an iPod was that it wasn’t awkward.)

As anyone over 25 or so remembers, there was a dark, primitive era in which we were unconnected.  If we went to the store for milk, there was no way to tell us to pick up bread, too.  And email had to wait until we got back home.

I’m sure there’s a catchy economic term for this, although I just think of it as compulsory consumption.  For most of us, I imagine, once we tried a cell phone there was no going back.  Unless it was to retrieve our phones.

And then there was the day I wanted to take pictures, lots of them, a big event, and so I packed up my digital still camera and my pocket-sized high-def  video camera, and being me I never thought about battery life, which for both was pretty much nonexistent.  On top of the bulk, my devices had failed me because there were too many things to consider for my slow-ish brain.  I dreamed of one little device that would be my electronic Swiss knife.

It turned out somebody else had that dream, and had actually built the damn thing.  So after a few years of resisting, feeling that a smartphone was overkill, unnecessary for my homebound life, I got an iPhone.  It changed my life.

Well, I mean.  It did.  Little changes, but I liked them.  It motivated me to exercise because handy apps let me track my progress.  I could let GPS map my walking routes as I went, listening to tunes and podcasts, and if I saw a pretty flower I could stop and snap.  If I slipped and fell into a ditch, my wife would eventually notice my lack of returning and check her iPhone to track my location, while I took high-definition videos of the clouds passing overhead and recorded my final thoughts.  Or maybe just watched an episode of “Arrested Development” on Netflix.

So I constructed a necessity out of historical thin air, considering that I survived half a century without an iPhone and now I have no idea how.  I’m not proud of it.

On the less-pathetic side, I had no interest in upgrading, swapping out for the latest model.  If you know your iPhones, I got the 4 back in 2011.  A few months later, the 4s arrived (with Siri).  A year after that, it was the iPhone 5, claimed by some to be the mold-breaker: No smartphone could possibly be any better, or smarter for that matter, and still I was, like, yawn.  My phone is fine.

It was getting a little beat up, though, to the point that I had to wrap rubber bands around it to charge the battery (pocket lint in the charge port that I never quite got out), along with some sluggishness and nicks in the finish.  You know how it is.  Things wear down.

And even then I was content, not particularly interested or excited about the new iteration that Apple rolls out, rain or shine, every September, until I learned two things: Apple (and Verizon, my carrier) would now bypass Craigslist and buy your old still-solid-value iPhone, and the new model had a fingerprint sensor that appeared to actually work.

My paranoia being alive and well, having read way too much, I protected my phone and its data with a very long PIN/password, but I’m at home a lot and it’s a hassle to type that in every time I want to log some calories or leave myself a note, so I usually left it unlocked and hoped I’d remember to lock it before I left the house, which almost never happened, and here at last was the answer.  My phone would always be easily accessible to me, but me only.  Suck on that, phone thieves.

I’ve never done this, set my alarm so I could be at the store first thing in the morning, wait in line, hope the model I wanted was still available, but there’s a first time for everything.  It was actually easy, only an hour or so of my time, and with my phone trade-in I got a brand-new slice of mobile technology for $100, which felt like a good deal.  The fingerprint scanner works exactly as advertised, the new chipset makes for a much faster response, and 4G?  Nice.  Fast.  Doesn’t come up much, but nice when it does.

But there are starving people in this world, dammit, and the price I pay for indulging high tech is always going to be guilt, mine or someone’s projection, and sure enough I got it yesterday.  That’s another story, maybe I’ll tell it, but let me just say that if the future of the United States is fascist, it might be my fault.

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