Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mad Max on "The President and the Press"

I have a buddy -- he's real -- that, online, I call Mad Max. He embraces the name that was thrust upon him. Just like you and just like me, he's a little mad sometimes. Mad as in angry. Mad as in a little crazy. But, again, we all go a little mad sometimes.

Oh, I just remembered what that quote is from. Hmmm. I probably should have used a different quote. Oh, well.

Seriously, Mad Max a good guy. If you are in need, he'll help you any way he can. I think a lot of Mad Max.

He doesn't get on The Twitter, but he will show up on The Facebook. He'll leave some comments on other people's pages that get right to the heart of the matter, but he won't post much political stuff of his own. He's smart enough to use The Facebook as a stress relief. Cute kitties are his distraction from this crazy world.

He sent me this, because he's trying to keep his pledge to keep his activity on his page on The Facebook nice and light.

I have his permission to share with you.

The President and the Press

A few thoughts on the deterioration of press relations in the present day

These are just impressions of a casual observer of world events and history going back some 100 years. Certainly not scientific or learned – just some thoughts that occurred to me this evening, I'm not even sure why.

Any writing like this can devolve into a partisan thing right quick, a vicious attack on one side or the other. And that is exactly what this about, so I'm going to do my best to remain utterly neutral and objective over this little idea that somehow planted itself in my mind and won't let me go until I write it out and find someone who can get it out to others.

My subject is the relationship of "the Press" – once a few major newspapers, now a wide variety of media including late-night talk shows and Internet blogs – and "the President" – an elected official of the United States of America.

To make one thing perfectly clear: bias in the Press has always existed. We are all human, and have likes and dislikes. To say those perfectly human emotions do not affect our perception – and our relating our perceptions to others – is a lie. On the other hand, there have been many different types of Presidents – liars, scoundrels, corrupt, clean, dishonorable and honorable, good and bad -- and the conundrum for the Press – and for History – is to figure out which is which.

There was a time in my memory where there was a clear separation between the two, and they existed on two different planes of importance. The Press was definitely important – always has been – in reporting the news, investigating corruption, being honest, and thereby building trust, if not with politicians, celebrities, and sports figures, at least with the populace. There was also a time when the President – the highest elected office-holder of the land – was seen to be on a higher plane; you may not like him or her, but you didn't attack him, his character, his family, on a daily basis. Because there were greater dangers out there, and he was, after all, the Commander-in-Chief, and when all Hell breaks loose, God forbid, we need to come together behind our leader. There is no question every President all the way back, maybe even to George Washington, had his detractors in the Press, but overall, when it came down to it, there was at least some measure of decorum.

The country united with Woodrow Wilson, not at all a universally popular leader, a man who ran on the platform "He Kept Us Out Of The War." But when we went into what was then called The Great War, the country united. It happened again most famously with Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on December 7, 1941, and continued until the day he died in office, and carried over to Harry S Truman.

It began to break down with Lyndon Johnson, but let's face it – the Vietnam War was longer than WWI or even WWII. The popular support gradually and then precipitously diminished and the Press criticized his administration, but it did not attack with the utter viciousness we see today. And it did not attack his family.

Nixon again came under attack, for a variety of reasons, many of them justified. Professionally, analytically, with deep research and well-founded / well-sourced information, the Press took him on, and they took him down.

And then, I think, something changed.

The Press realized they could take down someone they didn't like anyway, even while a war was on. They realized their power. And that other subset of the Press that began to emerge – the late-night comedy, Saturday Night Live, had a good few years diminishing the character of a man they didn't like – Gerald Ford – because he tripped a couple of times. Never mind that two lunatics tried to shoot him during his short administration – it was all good comedy – and the late-night "Press" and the established Press had good fun with it throughout.

Four years of Jimmy Carter proved to be enough for just about everyone, and near the end there was great fun made of "askin' Amy about nuclear war" and the dreaded "Killer Rabbit" incident.

And then there was a pause. The Press didn't like Ronald Reagan at all, but he gave them little to make fun of. He reapplied the honor of the Presidency by keeping a significant aloofness from the Press, speaking to the country right over their heads on rare but significant occasions, leaving the Press to quarrel about what he said amongst themselves in the newly-created format of a "talking-head panel."

George H. W. Bush continued the honor of the Presidency but had some significant failings with his base. A weak economy did not help, and he lost to what I consider the major pivotal figure in this amateur analysis – Bill Clinton.

There can be no doubt the Press loved Bill Clinton. But why? Certainly his policies might attract their personal feelings, but the same could be said for Lyndon Johnson, and near the end of Johnson's last year the Press was ready to throw him out.

My answer is that he seemed to love them. What other President of the United States had appeared on a late-night show playing the saxophone? That in itself remains a famous image. And in my mind, a vast diminishment of the importance of the office of the President. He wasn't "Up There," he wasn't "The Commander in Chief" – he became our buddy. Our best friend. And who likes to lose a best friend?

So the Press lost a best friend – twice – in the 2000 election – Bill had to leave office, and their new best friend, Al Gore, lost in a squeaker that came down to a few butterfly ballots in Florida. This was a bitter pill, and one that still sticks in their throat. For 8 years, George W. Bush – but not so much his wife and children – was vilified in the worst possible ways. This marked a clear departure from past practice.

And then along came Barack Obama – young, handsome, telegenic, great speaker. AND – what else did he do? He went on all manner of late-night talk / comedy shows, gave interviews to all manner of friendly Press, even appeared with internet blog posters that would otherwise have remained unknown to everyone. He was our best friend – We had a best friend again!

But best friends don't last, and he had to go away, so the Press picked a new best friend.

But she lost.

This, I believe snapped something in their minds. I also believe, to return to the point of this essay, that the Press no longer see the President of the United States as a person of great responsibility, a responsibility that would crush most of us, but as a person who should be someone they like. And if he's not the best friend they wanted, they'll revert to a Lord of the Flies bullying and eventual murder, if they can get away with it.

There, in a nutshell, is the problem between the Press and the President of the United States. One is an office established in the Constitution of the United States of America. The other are a pack of wild and dangerous children feeling lost.
Mad Max may be a little mad. But he's not crazy.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Beginner's smartphone

Recently, I undertook the task of helping an older lady from the church get a smartphone.

How did I do? Well, I researched ten cell service providers, looked into cell phones, and gave her my recommendation. I think that's pretty good. I suppose the details matter, though, huh?

Where she lives, Sprint and T-Mobile don't offer good coverage, so I suggested she stay away from those services or services that ride those networks. For instance, Simple Mobile and Walmart Family Mobile ride T-Mobile. Boost Mobile, NetZero, and Virgin Mobile ride Sprint. Google's Project Fi used both Spring and T-Mobile. So, for her, those were out.

She currently has AT&T, and staying with them would be easy enough. The issue is that for the money, she could go with Cricket or FreedomPop (BYOP) cheaper. Of those, I recommended Cricket because of the low cost, and the peculiarities of FreedomPop.

I did suggest that Verizon would be a viable alternative to AT&T, as she could swap one company for another. Likewise, Straight Talk or Total Wireless would be cheaper alternatives to Verizon.

The other possibility I suggested was Xfinity Mobile. It rides Verizon, and has the best pricing on a single unlimited service phone at $45. Since she already has Xfinity cable, Internet, and home phone, it would be an existing vendor.

When it came to the phones, I suggested that she either get an iPhone, or an Android phone by Samsung or Motorola. Sure, there are other good Android phones, but the unlocked Moto e4 is a good phone at a really good price, and most Samsung phones are very reliable. I don't have enough experience with other Android devices to make a recommendation.

I wrote all this up and gave her a printout (10 pages) of the ten carriers and the phones they offer. I gave her the pricing on each of the plans, and a suggestion for each type of phone (iOS and Android) for each carrier.

What did she do with my recommendation? Nothing.

She'll eventually make her mind up about what to do (probably Xfinity Mobile, my gut tells me) and then want me to go to the store with her to make it happen.

So, I have that to look forward to.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Kids and tragedy

My buddy Mad Max had some thoughts on kids and tragedy. He allowed me to share.
The only traumatic event of my young life was a drowning, a long time ago. A church outing, several days at very nice cabins by a beautiful lake, swimming and little rowboats. I was in a small boat with my Mom, her friend, and a few other kids. Older kids were cruising around in boats, paddling away, racing each other or just floating idly in the sun. It was some time after lunch, around 2 or 3pm. The Preacher had a meeting he had to attend, so he was gone at the time. My Dad had made a quick run to pick up some bait for fishing. There were others they left in charge, so its not like we were women and children abandoned.

A young fellow named Harold jumped out of his boat and began to swim toward ours. The theory of the adults is that there was a girl in our boat he was crazy about, that he wanted to impress her.

Halfway between his boat and ours, he stopped, and then went down. No one else seems to have seen it, but after the surface of the water smoothed, I clearly remember seeing bubbles burst and disturb that surface.

All others swiftly realized something was terribly wrong. Several of his friends dove in and went under, but came up with nothing. Mom and other adults were screaming at them to get back in their boats, terrified that more might go under and not come back. Some, including Mom's friend in my boat, were just screaming incoherently.

Because we were nearest where he went down, the few authority figures there were (older boys and the women, a couple guys on shore) designated my boat, with its screaming women and weeping girls and boys, to sit at the site until they could triangulate the position. All I wanted to do was get on land, but I had to sit in a chaotically panicked group and try to be patient.

After several nights of games and laughter in the large common room, that night was very eerie. Many of us just sat silently. Others quietly talked, particularly the older boys, shaken and unrightfully feeling guilty that they couldn't find him in time. Girls wept. Boys, too. Dad and the Preacher - you could see it in their eyes, they were wracked with guilt, both thinking they could have done something.

As it turned out, Harold got "the bends," a paralysis that locks up the muscles, and he sank like a rock - there was nothing anyone could have done. This was verified after they finally found him late the next day.

So, the point of all this? Here it is -

Any media truck coming down that trail that evening or the next morning would have been kicked so hard out of that area that they would never forget the experience. And us kids? We needed to talk with each other and our parents and our Preacher. We had absolutely no desire to make a name for ourselves by going on TV - the thought would not even have occurred to us.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Washington's Birthday 2018

No, this isn't the first time you've read something like this here, but it's worth repeating.

It seems nobody wants George Washington to have a birthday anymore. Or ever.

George Washington was born on February 11, 1731. At least, as they used the calendar at the time. Great Britain and its colonies used the Julian calendar then, and the new year didn't begin until March 25. Weird, right?

Then, in 1752, Great Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar. That moved New Year's Day to January 1, in addition to causing a refiguring of dates. Among the changes was that February 11, 1731 became February 22, 1732.

Only, folks weren't done messing with George Washington's birthday. You see, 1879, the United States added Washington's Birthday as its fifth national holiday, joining New Year's Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Other days were added along and along.

In the late 1960s, there came a movement to make federal holidays fall on a Monday. In 1971, that was made to happen for four of the nine federal holidays. New Year's Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day kept their actual dates. But Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day were moved to Mondays. When Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. was added -- as it's properly known -- it, too, was designated as a Monday.

All of the Monday holidays fall on the Monday nearest the actual date, except one: Washington's Birthday. It's the third Monday of February, which means it can fall as early as the 15th, but never after the 21st. In other words, Washington's Birthday will never fall on Washington's birthday.

But wait! There's more!

In the last several years, there has been a diminishing of George Washington by people calling his birthday "Presidents Day." Well, it's not. Now, it's true that some states used to celebrate Lincoln's birthday (February 12) as a state holiday, and have combined Lincoln's birthday and Washington's birthday into one observance. But, that's only for some states. The U. S. holiday on the third Monday in February is Washington's Birthday. Take a look at United States Code 5 U.S.C. 6103 and see for yourself.

It's been rough for George Washington's birthday, officially and unofficially.

First, they move his birthday from February 11 in one year to February 22 in another year. Then, they make it on a Monday that will never match the actual date. Then, they call it something else. Do some people hate George Washington? Maybe so, After all, he did help secure the blessings of liberty and help found these United States.

I think he deserves his birthday to be called by its proper name. If you hear anyone call it "Presidents Day," you have my permission to beat them around the head with a stick. Two, if you think they really need it.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Smartphone research for an old churchlady

There's a lady I know from the church that wants a smartphone. She's in her 80s. I've known her since the 70s. Not her 70s, the 1970s. As in nearly 50 years. I'm often the person she calls with technology issues. And, apparently wanting a smartphone is a technology issue.

Sure, I understand that she doesn't know a lot about them, other than they are little devices that people carry around like a phone but use to get on The Facebook or search The Google or get The Email or other some such stuff. And, since she doesn't know much more than "iPhone," "Android," and "Samsung" are words that smartphone people use, she's not sure if she wants a Samsung, an Android, or an iPhone. Maybe even an Apple. She's not sure. As long as she can make calls, send a text once she learns how, and can do all the other things you can do with a smartphone which she doesn't know what that is but wants to do. Since she's not sure what phone will let her do all that, she's asking me.

Well, actually, she asked me a few weeks ago, because she's worried her flip phone is about to die. No, it's not doing anything wrong, but she's had it a while and she thinks it might up and die soon. So, she wants to get a smartphone. So, I'm researching smartphones for her.

I'm looking at carriers. She currently has AT&T and is probably paying more for her flip phone service than you are paying for a smartphone. I'll recommend she not go with Sprint or T-Mobile, despite the fact those are good services. Where she lives now, in a small town in southeast Georgia, Sprint is practically useless. T-Mobile isn't exactly useless, but there are places she goes where T-Mobile service is bad. So, I'm going to recommend she stick with AT&T, move to Verizon, or use a smaller carrier that rides one of those two services.

I'm probably going to recommend a prepaid plan. There are certainly no credit issues with her, but my research has shown, like many of you may already know, that for single line service, a prepaid plan is often cheaper. I didn't know that. But my research has indicated that to be the case. Regardless, some of the services I'm researching are prepaid only.

The other thing I'm going to recommend is an Android phone. Now, you may know that I have an iPhone, and have had an iPhone for several years. So, why would I recommend an Android phone? Price.

Sure, you can pay as much for an Android phone as you can for an iPhone. And, you can find certain iPhones for under $200 brand new from some carriers. But, overall, she can find an Android phone, and a good one, for less than an iPhone.

There's one other thing about an Android phone that doesn't hold true for an iPhone. If she calls me with a phone problem, I can honestly say that I have an iPhone and she would probably be better off speaking with some of her friends that have Android phones to help fix whatever is wrong.

Selfish of me? I don't care. You want her calling you? I didn't think so.

Now, to be honest, Android is a good phone operating system. And, some Android phones are good quality phones. Not just those expensive Pixel or Galaxy S8 or whatevers. So, she can actually get a good phone at a decent price. No reason to pay iPhone prices. I will steer her toward good quality Android phones.

Here are the carriers I've been looking at:
  • Sprint (already ruled out because of poor coverage in her area)
  • T-Mobile (already ruled out because of poor coverage in her area)
  • AT&T
  • Verizon
  • Cricket (rides AT&T)
  • Total Wireless (rides Verizon)
  • Straight Talk Wireless (rides Verizon)
  • Simple Mobile (rides T-Mobile and therefore ruled out)
  • FreedomPop (rides AT&T in her area)
There may be other carriers I'll look at. I don't have experience with Cricket or FreedomPop. I've used Total Wireless, Straight Talk, and Simple Mobile. I've ordered a FreedomPop SIM that I'll put in an old iPhone to try it out. Not sure when or how I'll try Cricket. I may have another spare phone around here somewhere. But, I'm going to actually try out the service and confirm it works well. I want to be comfortable in my recommendation.

When I tried Straight Talk some years back, the Android phone I got was a rather poor device. I don't recall the brand. The Android I bought when I tried out Simple Mobile was a Samsung Galaxy J3 Luna Pro. I currently use it as a mini tablet for my youngest grandson to play games.

So, I've been trying things out and researching prices, and I want to be able to make a recommendation to her later this month.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

iPhone X (Part 2)

A couple of weeks ago, I was going to tell you my impression of the iPhone X. And, as a reminder, it's pronounced "ten" not "ecks" because it's a Roman numeral.

Anyway, I took a side turn and ended up telling why I got an iPhone X instead of what I thought of the iPhone X. I do stuff like that, you know. So, at the end of that post, I said "I like it."

Well, I'm going to go into a little more depth. I'll cover some of what I spoke about in my previous post, but not the billing part (which is where I got really sidetracked).

The size of the phone was my first concern. I knew from handling the Plus series phones from family members and others that I didn't want something that size. So, when I found out the iPhone X had a 5.8-inch screen, I ruled it out. That's larger than the Plus series 5½-inch screen. I thought the iPhone X would be around the same size of, if not larger than, the Plus phones. But no, it was closer in size to the standard 4.7-inch device. Slightly larger, but not much. The elimination of the areas above and below the screen, made for the larger screen size. The Home button was gone (more about that in a minute), and the area of the front camera and phone speaker was reduced. That made for a much larger screen on a slightly larger design.

I don't notice the difference in the size unless I handle a 4.7-inch iPhone and then pick up the iPhone X. In regular use, it seems the same size most of the time.

Okay now, the thing I was worried about the most: the Home button -- or lack thereof. I don't miss it. That surprised me. To use the "Home button," since there isn't one, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen. I have no problem using my thumb for that. I used my thumb for unlocking on the 5s, 6, and 6s by touching the Home button, followed by a press and release. Touching it allowed the Touch ID to confirm my thumbprint and unlock it, and pressing it allowed the screen to become active.

With the iPhone X, I simply put my thumb where the Home button was, let it rest there slightly, then swipe up while looking at the phone. The differences are the swipe up instead of a button press, and the looking at the phone. Now, I was usually looking at the 5s/6/6s when I unlocked and opened it, but not always. With the new Face ID, if I'm not looking at it, it won't unlock. I can use the Passcode, of course, if I attempt to unlock it without Face ID.

Oh, and about the Face ID vs Touch ID? There's not much of a difference from the end-user perspective. At least, not for me. If my eyes are closed, or I'm otherwise not looking at the phone head on, it won't unlock using Face ID. I don't know how well it will work at a McDonald's drive-through, as I haven't hit a McDonald's drive-through since I got the iPhone X.

I used to drive through McDonald's just to screw with the window crew. I'd pull to the window to pay, hold out my phone, and they'd get this panicked look on their faces. Often, I'd tell them what to do and they'd go along with it, and they'd be amazed that the register told them the meal was paid for. Sometimes, they'd call a manager, who would usually know what to do, but occasionally had to be walked though it, too. I'll eventually hit a McDonald's drive-though just so I can screw with the crew some more.

Okay, now I need to think about what else is different on the iPhone X. Hmmm. Oh, yeah. The double-click to access running apps (Multi-tasking). Used to be, you'd double-click the Home button to call up the apps that were running in the background. With the iPhone X, you swipe up, and hold. I have no trouble with that. My mother does. She can never remember to do it, and when she does, she swipes with her finger, like she's brushing dirt off. I notice a lot of people make a striking swipe with their iPhones. I never did. I do things like you'll see on Apple's support pages where why have little videos and animations using the features. You can find an example here. In fact, I'm going to let that page tell you how to use an iPhone X and focus on my impressions from here on out.

The double-click of the Side Button to install apps had me confused at first, but once I realized what the on-screen animation was trying to tell me, I was fine.

Accessing the Control Center -- that's a swipe down from the top right corner -- is different. Used to swipe up, but that's now unlock. Hmph. Apple.

That's the differences and changes in behavior to use the phone. As for the actual use of the phone? Well, it's not really much different. I don't do a lot of photography, so I can't say that I find the camera a lot better. But, I understand it is.

The Animoji rhinf? Big fat hairy deal. I can now be a talking unicorn or a pile of poop. Whoop-de-frikkin-do.

Wireless charging? Well, I haven't been using that. But others have, and they love it. So, while I don't have first-hand experience with it, family members do and they like it. A lot.

All that to say the gestures and button pressed to activate a few features is different, but easy. In fact, when I pick up a different iPhone, or even my iPad, I try to use the iPhone X gestures. I'm used to it, and it didn't take long at all to get used to it.

In my last post, I said "I like it." But you got none of the details.

Here's my new summary of what I think: I like it.

Told you.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

iPhone X

I upgraded my phone recently. I've had an iPhone 6s for s couple of years, but now, I have the iPhone X.

When they announced the iPhone X -- it's pronounced "ten" as in the Roman numeral, and only silly people call it the "ecks" -- I decided against getting one. The reason? Well, the $1000 price was part of it, but so was the size. Or what I thought was the size.

You see, I used to have an iPhone 6, which was an upgrade from the iPhone 5s. The iPhone 5s had a 4-inch screen. It took a little getting used to the 4.7-inch screen of the iPhone 6. When I went from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 6s, there was no adjustment period, as I was comfortable with that size phone.

I never got any of the "Plus" series phones, which had a 5½-inch screen. My daughter, son-in-law, and ex-wife all had a "Plus" series iPhone, so I had the opportunity to put hands on the device. I didn't like it. It was a little too big. Maybe I would have become used to it, as I did the 4.7-inch screen of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, but I didn't want to.

When the iPhone X was announced, I found out it had a 5.8-inch screen. So, in my mind, it was even larger than the "Plus" series, and if the 5½-inch "Plus" was too big, the 5.8-inch iPhone X would certainly be too big, right?


It turns out that while the screen has a larger diagonal measure, the overall phone is smaller. The iPhone X is 5.3% wider than the iPhone 8/7/6s devices, while the "Plus" series is 10.1% wider than the iPhone X. The iPhone X is 3.8% taller than the iPhone 8/7/6s while the "Plus" series is 10.3% taller than the iPhone X.

The iPhone X screen covers nearly the entire front of the phone, meaning there is more screen per total phone size on it than on other iPhone devices. So, after I put hands on an iPhone X and realized it was not noticeably larger than my current phone, one of my objections was removed.

That $1000 price, though. How to get around that?

Well, I found a way. Or, more properly, the way was always there. You see, I have an old Verizon plan. It's a 30 GB plan, and I have a pretty good price on it.

Some years ago, when I went back to Verizon (long story for another time) they were running specials. How special? Half price, that's how special. You could get a 6 GB plan for the price of a 3 GB plan. Or 10 GB plan for the price of a 5 GB plan. Or, the one I got, a 30 GB plan for the price of a 15 GB plan. Add to that, the fact that I get 19% off my data plan because of an agreement with the company where I work, I'm paying only 40.5% of the cost of the 30 GB plan.

By the way, they stopped that offer after a couple of weeks when they realized what they were doing.

Now, I am paying $40/month to connect each device. For their Unlimited Plan, it would drop to $20/month to connect, but the cost of the plan (Unlimited vs 30 GB) would increase, and the overall bill would be higher.

Now, there's one other thing, and it makes all the difference. As part of the Verizon Edge plan (told you my plan was old) I get a discount for financing devices. The $40/month drops to $15/month, which is less than $20.

There's another way of looking at it, though. If I play down enough to leave $600 owing on the phone, my monthly payments for the phone will be $25/month. That's the amount of the discount. It's like getting $600 off the cost of the phone. Meaning I can buy an iPhone X for $400.

Heck, you'd buy an iPhone X for $400 if you could.

Now, every time I go into a Verizon store for anything, they try to get me off the plan I'm on and onto an Unlimited Plan. I'm not budging. You see, that 19% work discount isn't applicable on an Unlimited Plan. So, I'd lose that. I'd also pay more for the plan. And I'd pay more for a phone, about $120/device. ($40/month becomes $20/month, but no Edge discount, meaning a higher net cost per phone.) The total cost would be more.

I'm staying on the plan I'm on.

Oh, I was planning on writing about the iPhone X and what I thought of it. Then I got sidetracked.

So, here's what I think of it: I like it.

See, I can be succinct if I try.