Sunday, January 23, 2011

Just Another Brick...

It was back in early May of 2009 when my beloved "brick," the Motorola V365 cell phone on which I'd logged over 60 solid days' worth of talk time from July of 2007 till then, bit the dust. When a cell phone dies it's not like just another piece of technology conking out and needing to be replaced. It's more like major organ failure and an ambulance ride to the emergency room with the lights and sirens working overtime. Losing that phone was like losing a part of myself. I've been through four different phones since then, including my daughter's used V365, and for various reasons none of them ever measured up to my own original "brick."

I'd been sniffing around to find something new for myself for a while. Unfortunately, even at that last official upgrade opportunity the guys at the AT&T store (i.e., the too dumb for college boys who will tell you anything you want to hear to make a sale that they don't have to support afterwards), in a rare moment of honesty, pretty much admitted that phones aren't designed much for serious talking any more. They're all about internet access and apps and texting. Besides, AT&T requires you to take out a pricey data plan if you want to get one of the slick phones with operating systems more complex than the computers that drove Apollo 11 to the moon. I talk. I text a little. I don't need all the bells and whistles, and I have an iPod Touch from which the internet is never further away than the nearest McDonald's.

I vowed to steer clear of anything by Samsung. Their reception, based on personal experience and the experiences of friends on AT&T, is substandard in places were other phones have a good number of service bars. And, though they're nearly impossible to find, I wanted a phone capable of auto-answer when I'm on the scooter with a wired headset or Bluetooth device. I don't like Nokias because the ones that AT&T offers look like cheap pieces of crap from China, and the weird brands my kids have are great for texting, but sound awful when I talk to them. What I love are Motorola phones, but AT&T only carries only the ones that require data plans and the big, luggy Tundra which I tried a few years ago and returned. By the time I made my most recent tour of the display walls at the local AT&T store, I'd eliminated every phone they offer from my consideration.

When a man is boxed into a corner, qualities sometimes emerge that he didn't realize he possessed. Thus it was that I (Shudder!) held my breath and stuck my big toe into Ebay to test the water. Within seconds I found a new, still in the box Motorola V365 - THE BRICK! A few seconds later, I took a deep breath and ordered it. And then I waited and followed its progress via the USPS tracking code as it made its way from California to me.

The perfect cell phone - THE BRICK!

The new phone arrived yesterday afternoon, only four days after I placed the order. Because the phone it was replacing was also a Motorola I was able, using proprietary software, to suck all of the contacts, pictures, and ringtones out of it and dump them into the new phone within minutes. By the time I went to bed, I was totally "moved into" the new brick with all of my standard personalizations complete!

Between ordering the new V365 and receiving it I remembered that the expansion card, a micro SD, could only be up to 512 megs because the micro 2+ gig cards on the market now hadn't been invented yet for the phone's architecture to be designed to support the larger models. I knew I'd had a 512 card for the original brick which I'd then transferred to my daughter's when she gave it to me, but could I find it? I hunted over and over again in every logical place it could possibly be among my usual gadgetry, but it was as if it had dropped off the planet. When I was reminded to ask St. Anthony to help me find it I offered up the lite prayer, "Tony, Tony! Come around! Something's lost and must be found," and followed it up with a real prayer invoking his uncanny ability to help Catholics find lost things. It took him a few hours to penetrate my dense skull with inspiration, but finally it came to me... Didn't the loaner camera you were using when the trusty Fuji that you carried on your hip went belly up take an SD card? Didn't you use the 512 card in an adapter? There it was in the Nikon! All was well!

Maybe one of the thickest cell phones ever sold, aside from the prototypic monstrosities, the V365 makes its cousin, the RAZR, look like it has a barfing type eating disorder. That's okay. Inside the V is a battery that boasts a nine hour talk time, and there were times when in the course of day I nearly drained it. For the record, I did love the RAZR which is basically the same phone in a different shell with the noteworthy exceptions that the RAZR doesn't take an expansion card so I was always taking out the pictures to make room for new ones, and the V365 has a more substantial feel in a large hand.

I sent both daughters a picture to let them know I'd gotten myself a new brick. The elder, who gave me her old one when I killed my first, commented, "You learn new technology so you can continue to use old technology?" There's a non-sequitur in there. This wasn't about being afraid of change or refusing to change. It was about having exactly what I want and not allowing a corporate giant to tell me what I need by limiting my choices.

So here it is, "The Brick" hanging from the magnet right here by my computer where my phones have always been docked when not in use. Ain't it purty? Oh, and yeah. The string. All my phones get a plain, white, nylon string with a simple washer at the end. It gives 'em character!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Off Road

When I was a kid a sick day off from school had a certain feel to it, in part because I wore my pajamas all day.  Snow days, off from school now, seem to have that same ambiance and probably because I don't usually need to change out of what I wore to bed the night before just to man the shovel and broom.  Today was our fourth snow day at school for this winter, and the thought of making days up in June just adds to that sick day feeling.  

To be certain, I won't be winning any best dressed awards for today's snow cleaning outfit.
The scooter is pretty much stuck here under the deck until the roads are a lot cleaner than they are now.  Though I was delighted at the beginning of the month when I was able to ride on New Year's Day with relative impunity, the crapiness of real winter is now here with a vengeance, and some days I don't even venture out on four wheels unless there's a pressing reason to do so.

Facebook posts here in Northeastern Pennsylvania are filled with expressions of disgust about the snow that just keeps coming every few days, except from the kids who ski and do those other outdoorsy kinds of things in winter that make me shake my head and wonder what's wrong with them.

It's going to be a while, I fear, till I can see the lawn that I know is under this.

And until then, though you might see me here from time to time, I won't be writing much about my scootering adventures.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Another Auld Lang Syne

As I greeted my daughter at the table while pouring my first cup of coffee this New Year's Day morning, I glanced at the section of the newspaper she wasn't reading and my eyes landed on a snippet about a list of words that should be banished from the English language. Having proclaimed my disgust for many years about kids (of all ages) inventing new terms for things and phenomena that already have perfectly good names, I had to find said list if for no other reason than to vindicate myself for being an elitist of words. It didn't take more than a few seconds to find that it's Lake Superior State University that maintains an archive of lists of words which should be banned, dating back to 1976, the year in which I graduated from high school. I can't wait to dig through the archive in its entirety to exclaim, "Yes!" time and time again, as indeed I'm sure I will after having looked quickly through some of the lists to find myself in near total agreement with their choices of words to ban.

It was having seen the word, "Fail," in the 2011 list that led me to where I decided to ride today.

It was near this very spot when my phone rang on the morning of September 29, 2007. It was a Saturday. Earlier that morning I had taken the written portion of the Pennsylvania DMV motorcycle test. When my phone had rung, the loving party on the other end had been calling in anticipation of congratulating me for having passed the test and having purchased the BV which I'd been planning to do when I rolled out of bed that morning. I had failed the test which left me without the motorcycle permit I'd have needed to get the BV so when I had pulled over to talk in this very spot in '07 I was still on the 50cc Fly 50. Anyway, it was seeing "Fail" on the list of words which should be banished that led me to North Scranton this morning, to this same place that will always have some personal meaning for me.

My brain was working like a Seinfeld episode while I was riding today. Various thoughts somehow circled back to others in vaguely related ways. It was while I was rolling through the hamlet of Duryea that I saw, "Hydration Station" over the door of a business on Main Street and thought, "Aha!" There was another word which should have made the list. Hydration! It's nothing more than a pretentious term for what one maintains by drinking a glass of water, or in the case of the truly pretentious, a bottle of water for which one paid as much or more as one would have for a can of soda.

Then my thoughts ran to the idea of pretentiousness in general, of which I'm somewhat of a fan. I enjoy pretentiousness when it runs right over the heads of the lowly who are left in its dust unawares. I thought back to a boy in my eighth grade class a few years ago who blurted out in the middle of class one day, "I just can't get Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata out of my head," because he knew me to be a fan of classical music. I grinned when he said it because the rest of the class didn't even "get" the pretentious nature of the statement and just plodded along deep in their little MTV type thoughts while the boy who had spoken, fully aware of his own mock pomposity, and I had our own private chuckle at their expense.

Now to be certain, I fully enjoy as well the opposite of pretentiousness, whatever its name might be. Thus it was that I felt compelled to get this shot where Christmas seemingly projectile vomited all over the front yard.

While riding back through North Scranton I came to the intersection of North Main Street and Market St where a town clock in the middle of a traffic triangle always takes me back to a simpler time when business thrived on Main Street just about anywhere because malls as we know them weren't invented yet - at least not around here. Having wanted for years to take the right turn off that triangle, I decided as I rode past it, that today should be the day. Instead I took the next right turn, then another, and one more to bring me down to the triangle toward the turn I'd missed. As I'd suspected, Market Street was painted with old storefronts, their heydays long past a time when North Scrantonians might have done all of the shopping necessary to the maintenance of a comfortable life right there in their own section of town. I pulled into a parking lot behind the town Christmas tree to get this festive shot of a guy out enjoying his scooter ride.

I made a call while I was there, and in walking around and talking I decided on this next picture which to me sums up the nostalgic appeal that a small town such as North Scranton has for me - a feeling I get whenever I come upon a similarly defunct "Main Street" in some obscure place that was home enough for the people who spent most of their lives right there perhaps a century ago. I can lose myself in a photo such as this one, imagining in only a nebulous way, what life might have been like back then when steam locomotives still rode the nearby rails, thinking that perhaps I'd lived a thoroughly contented, prior lifetime in just such a place once upon a time.

Snapping out of my imagined trip back to some earlier incarnation I said, "Goodbye," at the end of my call and realized that I needed to pee and that my fingertips were still somewhat numb in spite of the rest of me feeling quite warm and cozy under multiple layers of fabric. I rode back to the McDonald's in Old Forge, enjoyed the hospitality of a lone urinal, and then ordered, "The biggest coffee I can get for a buck." I sat at a corner table with my back to the warm sunshine streaming through the window, and wished I could take one of those awesome food on the table shots of Steve Williams fame that make me long to be right there at that very table that he's photographing. All I could manage, though, was a shot of my lonely, closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam* cup with all the ambiance a Mickey D's can muster.

With my fingertips finally warmed, it was time for me to head back to the house for the traditional ham dinner, but not before pausing one more time to call my Honey, to finish the rest of my coffee which managed to stay warm for about ten miles on the back of the scooter, and to take one last picture of myself enjoying my first ride of 2011.

I just poured myself a cup of coffee and after I finish it it'll be time for my first nap of the new year. Yeah, I'd have thrived in the simplicity of daily life back on that Main Street of yesteryore. (I thought I just made that word up to be funny in light of my writing about our not needing more new words to replace tried and true old ones, but nope. It's in Google.)

My most sincere wishes to everyone for a blessed 2011!

* [I was going to use the word Styrofoam™, but after I dug the cup out of the garbage can and could find no actual brand name I grabbed the generic description for such a cup from Wikipedia. I bought a writer's magazine once, back in college, and read numbers of pathetic ads from various companies shamelessly begging writers not to use their trade names generically. What can I say? It wasn't really a Styrofoam™ cup.]