Cell phone saga

My cell phone, an original Google Pixel, has been slowly dying for almost a year. It started last September when I noticed the battery seemed to drain quickly. I’m sure the battery isn’t its best after all these years, but later I came to suspect some kind of software issue too, because the charge would jump from something like 72% to 59% in just a few minutes of sitting around unused.

The thing is, I really like that phone, and I hate having to replace electronics. I reluctantly researched new phone options, but kept babying my Pixel along, delaying the inevitable. Recently, though, it started dying on my long bike rides and refusing to turn on until I plugged it in. That isn’t just inconvenient; I rely on a working phone in case of serious emergencies out on the road. Continue Reading >>

Living Half Awake

Day’s Verse:
“Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!”
Luke 6:31

And I’m not talking about Benji sleeping badly all of a sudden, although that’s a reasonable guess. More on that waking nightmare later.

The Seattle Times has an interesting article about cell phone use while walking. Apparently using cell phones, and especially texting, while walking presents a serious risk:

Researchers, observing pedestrians in Seattle, found that nearly one in three people crossing the street at high-risk intersections was distracted by use of a mobile device.

Texters were four times less likely to look before crossing, obey lights or cross at the appropriate place.

They also spent more time in the intersection, by nearly 2 seconds, on average.

…The Consumer Product Safety Commission said more than 1,100 people wound up in hospitals or emergency rooms last year as a result of injuries that occurred while they were using a mobile device while walking — likely an undercount, experts said, as patients are reluctant to volunteer the information.

Relating to that article, here’s what I see and don’t like in my life: I’m playing with Benji and check my phone real quick for no reason. Oh, an email, I’ll just read that, also real quick. Or ding! notification. I’ll just glance at it real quick, back in one second. I’m thinking about something and I wonder… and check Wikipedia, because I can. I’m feeding him and I’m bored (this happens constantly) so I message Ian.

Two things about this:

  • Since when is an email, or any phone message, more important than my son? If it’s an email or text, 99.99% sure it’s not to be time-sensitive (if it was, the sender would call), so no need to drop everything. Seriously. Plus, a bunch of “real quick” breaks add up to substantive time I’m ignoring Benji during his (relatively short) awake time — and I’m ignoring him in favor of totally unimportant but instantly gratifying communications. Half the time it’s just a spam email that I end up deleting anyway. What a dumb waste. I think sometimes I feel so tired of Benji, of doing all those mommy things, that it provides a quasi-legitimate excuse to take a break. Really if I need a break, I think I need to just let him play by himself while I have a cup of tea or a snack.
  • It distracts Benji, too! He finds the bright screen really fascinating, way more interesting than his bottle or the ring or wire ball or dingle duck or Mr. Teddy. I don’t want him learning what we’ve already learned, that technology provides a little Pavlovian endorphin hit every time we use it. I want Benji to explore the world as babies always have, through touch and taste and sound as well as vision. His job is to figure out how his body and the world work, not to be entertained. Bright flashy lights and exciting noises are fun, but are far from what I’d like him to be learning at this stage. Right now he focuses so intently on his task — say, grabbing the wire ball — and you can see him building neural connections as he does it. Then once he catches a glimpse of the screen, bam! he forgets the ball. He wants to gaze wide-eyed at the thing that makes light and noise while he passively spectates. Continue Reading >>

  • Easy as 1-2-Root Canal

    Day’s Verse:
    Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
    James 1:2-4

    Since I’ve started my new job, and in general lately, I’ve started to get annoyed with my cell phone. After some discussion and a lot of research, Ian and I decided to switch his individual plan to a family plan and then add me (using my old number) to the new line created for that family plan. At the same time, I’d get a new phone at a discount. It wasn’t quite that simple; because my cell phone was originally on Ian’s dad’s family plan, Gary had to confirm the transfer.

    After calling T-Mobile a few times, we thought we got that sorted out, and my new phone arrived on Thursday. Ian commented that oh, incidentally, one of the T-Mobile people we talked to had transferred my phone line to our family plan, so now we have three lines. No big deal, right? We’ll just cancel the old one, and make sure the new one is assigned my phone number. The SIM card with the phone came associated with the new number, so we’d also have to get my phone number connected with that SIM card. OK, we’ll just call and do that real quick.

    WRONG. Oh, how very, very wrong we were. In fact, as it turns out, “just” doing anything that’s any harder than putting pie in your face is, in fact, excessively complicated and difficult for T-Mobile. After numerous horrible phone calls talking to probably 2/3 of the T-Mobile help line staff (at least they all did speak English very well), we established the following:

  • We can’t just cancel the new line and assign my old number to it because we got the new phone at a special low price with that new line. We’d have to pay an approximately $250 difference for the phone if we canceled the new line it was associated with. Also, it costs $15 to reassign a phone number.
  • In order to cancel my current number and transfer that to the new line, it will cost $200.
  • We’re still in the “buyer’s remorse” period (which ends shortly, so we’d have to do this quickly) for the new line and phone, so we can cancel and return those for free, leaving us with my old crappy phone, now associated with a very expensive data plan that it can’t use.
  • If we return the new phone, cancel the new line, and then wait to do anything else until September we will get down to two lines. In September, when Ian’s current contract expires, can get a new phone with an upgrade price discount. Hard to say how much that would cost, but we’re guessing in the $250 to $300 range.
    Continue Reading >>

  • The Science of Annoying

    Day’s Verse:
    Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
    Matthew 5:38-40

    One of the neat things about NPR is hearing about interesting books you’d never know about otherwise. For example, a book by Joe Palca and Flora Lichtman called Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us. Most appropriately, it has a picture of tangled Christmas lights on the front.

    In Annoying, the authors explore various aspects of annoyance: Types of annoyances, parts of the brain potentially linked to experiencing annoyance, and, most interestingly, why things annoy us. Unfortunately, scientists haven’t specifically studied what makes something annoying. Fortunately, lots of fields touch on it tangentially, and the authors discuss those. I won’t get into the details, because Annoying is quite well written and easy to read, so you should just go get it from the library yourself. However, I wanted to touch on one thing they talked about: Other people having cell phone conversations in public.

    Is there anything more annoying than sitting in an airplane, on a bus, in restaurant, or in some other shared public space, and having somebody talking on his cell phone? Nary a month ago, a lady was kicked off a train for talking on her phone for fifteen hours straight. It’s amazing her fellow passengers didn’t just rise up, seize her phone, and toss it out the window. On page 4 of Annoying, the authors quote Mark Twain’s description of hearing half a phone conversation, and I just have to share it:

    Consider that a conversation by telephone — when you are simply sitting by and not taking any part in that conversation — is one of the solemnest curiosities in modern life. Yesterday I was writing a deep article on a sublime philosophical subject while such a conversation was going on in the room…. You hear questions asked; you don’t hear the answer. You hear invitations given; you hear no thanks in return. You have listening pauses of dead silence, followed by apparently irrelevant and unjustifiable exclamations of glad surprise or sorrow or dismay. You can’t make head or tail of the talk, because you never hear anything that the person at the other end of the wire says.

    Annoying talks about what’s so…well…annoying about that type of behavior. There are a number of aspects to it.

  • Unpredictability. There’s a theory that your brain tries to predict what’s coming next in conversation. When you’re talking with somebody, you aren’t actually listening or even thinking of your next response. Instead, you’re anticipating what that person’s going to say. When a stranger inflicts half a conversation on us, we’re unable to predict the course of the conversation, and it drives us crazy. In fact, one key component of any annoying experience is that it’s unpredictable. On top of that, your ear is well-attuned to words. You can’t help but listen if you understand the language — even if you don’t want to.
  • Unpleasantness. It’s not painful to have somebody inflict half a conversation on us in public. But, like a fly buzzing around, it’s just not pleasant. And, on top of that, you can’t alleviate the unpleasantness. Instead, you just have to deal with it.
  • Unknown timeframe. You know that cell phone conversation will end eventually, but you don’t know when it’s going to end. You impatiently wait for the end of the call, hoping it will end soon. As a result, you keep thinking, “Maybe they’ll be done now,” only to suffer repeated disappointments and dashed hopes as the call goes on. Of course, you have to feel impatient in the first place for this to work. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam and have to get somewhere urgently, you feel impatient and annoyed. If, on the other hand, you have all the time in the world, that traffic jam is just an opportunity to listen to the radio. No biggie. Continue Reading >>