Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Five: Five Things I Use My Phone For WAY MORE Than Just "Calling Someone On The Phone"

Last week Thursday I dropped my phone of 18 months, and that was the final straw: the glass screen shattered in about four places, and I had to get a new phone. (Turns out repairing a phone is almost exactly the same price as a new phone. VIVA AMERICA!)  That required that I spend several days without a phone, which for me was exactly the same as spending several days without one of the more important senses or limbs.  Actually worse: if you took away my hearing, or my legs, for a few days I'd probably be just fine. They close-caption Hulu.

That caused me to reflect on the important things in life, namely, all the stuff I wasn't able to do because I didn't have a phone.  Here are five of them:

1. Take Pictures.  I can remember when pictures were expensive, and rare.  When I was a kid, I got for Xmas one year a "Kodak Disc" camera that was going to revolutionize taking pictures: Easy to load film! No 'advancing' the film manually like a sucker! Only costs $132,000,000 (adjusted for inflation) to develop those 12 pictures!  I went to Washington DC and Morocco back in 1994, and I took about 100 pictures of the entire set of trips. That's 8 months!, some of it spend in a foreign country I will almost certainly never go back to again! That number of pictures probably cost me $300-400, total, by the time it was all done.

By contrast, I have taken over 2,000 pictures... since May. May 2015. I am one of those people everyone complains about, whipping out my camera at every possible opportunity, taking pictures of everything.  (If you complain about that or want to make snarky comments, shut up. Let people enjoy a moment they way they want to, not the way you want to. I'm not bothering anyone.)

I experiment with my camera, taking close-ups of things and trying to get imaginative shots. I take snapshots to remember things. I take photos of funny signs to send to people I know because I think they will be funny to those people, too. I have seriously thought about getting one of those mountable cameras so I could just wear it everywhere and stop the hassle of taking out my phone and opening up the camera, etc.  Who has that kind of time?

2. Find My Way Around.  The other day, I had to go to an office near my own Milwaukee office for a meeting. I used my GPS to get there. I have lived in or around Madison for twenty years and I still use GPS to go almost everywhere.  I take the boys for rides and just head out into the countryside, turning left and then right and then left and then right until we are lost, and then I pull out my phone and GPS us and head home.  (Unless we are out of cellphone range, as we were one Saturday morning, and I had to use dead reckoning the way sailors used to: Head east I kept thinking, literally piloting by the sun's position in the sky.  Too bad my car doesn't have a sextant.)

I have long joked about outsourcing my brain's functions, only it's not a joke.  With calculators I don't need to know how to do logarithms. With online dictionaries, I don't need to remember what a logarithm is. With Google, I don't need to remember hardly anything.  And now, with GPS, I don't need to remember where I live or where the grocery store is.  I can let my brain do important things, like yesterday when I had to go to a doctor's appointment on the other side of town.  I've been there lots, but I always forget exactly which exit I'm supposed to take off the highway, mostly because I have never made even the slightest effort to remember which exit I'm supposed to take. I just put the address into GPS, start my audiobook, and drive along with the friendly GPS lady ("Eisenhower") telling me when and where to turn.

3. Remember Stuff.  I have (had!) these two functions on my phone that would keep lists and notes, and give me reminders. It was an intricate system that would help me keep track of when and how much I exercise, various deadlines and dates for things that we were going to do, all sorts of things.  I have a million different things to keep track of: days when I'm in Milwaukee or Madison, which session of yoga I'm on (I do yoga now!), how much my last weight was, when the library is doing the "read to puppies" day.  I could do grocery lists and have them pop up on my phone on the way home from work so I'd remember to go to the grocery store.  It was wonderful.  Now, I have to recreate them all.

4. BOOKS.  I drive all over the place.  Not only do I drive to Milwaukee about 2x a week (four hours, round trip) but I go to court all over Wisconsin -- sometimes 2, 3 hours away.  I used to, in the Dark Ages, have to listen to the radio, or to CDs, but those are unsatisfactory because they're never talking about what I want to hear about, and I go crazy if I just listen to music for four hours straight.

With my phone, I can download audiobooks and podcasts and have a ready selection of things to listen to at any time. I've listened to more books than I've read this year, plus there are about 10 really awesome podcasts that are way better than anything on the radio.  With a phone, I don't even have to plan ahead.  When I had my big iPod -- it died and they can't be fixed, either, although Apple was going to give me FIVE WHOLE DOLLARS store credit for it. You know what five bucks gets you at an Apple store? Diddly/squat, as Berke Breathed would say.

PLUS, when my old phone went down I was only about 1% into Authority by Jeff VanderMeer, and now by having to wait nearly a week to restart it I've lost precious time trying to figure out (in a very very good way) just what the heck is going on in those books.

5. Playing Plants vs. Zombies, 2:  This is about the only video game that holds my attention anymore and yet isn't too hard to play. Videogames on consoles have a billion different controls, and I don't want to take the time to learn how to play a game like that.  The last time I played one of them was about 70 years ago, when The Boy beat me 70-3 on Madden NFL.  He could duck and twist and stiff-arm and control his passes.  I could move in SEVERAL DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS, sometimes the actual direction I wanted to go in.

Plants vs Zombies, or 'Zoms,' as Sweetie has nicknamed it, doesn't require a ton of hand-eye coordination, but it's still an action game.  I had only just gotten to the point where I was ready to take on the newest level when my phone died. I redownloaded the game, and have to start all over, which is fine, but I don't all the great plants like the banana and the coconut cannon, I have to replay the stupid Western level, and I had 93 diamonds, which doesn't mean anything to people who don't play but if you do play you're all Whoa man that sucks.  (Diamonds let you get the cool plants without paying. I don't pay for videogames.)

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