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.