Tuesday, October 08, 2019


I think this is what our most recent commenter referred to...

Monday, October 07, 2019


 The best smart phone accessory money can buy.

Remember when, if you wanted a new phone, your choices were wall-mount or tabletop? Oh, sure, you may have had some color options, but guys solved that easily enough by just grabbing the top box on the pile and then whistling happily all the way to the check-out counter.
          The damn phone stayed at home where it belonged and you went in the house and used it when you needed to. It didn’t follow you around everywhere you went like a homesick puppy…(“And this is where you activate ‘bathroom mode’ so you can use it in the shower.”) It didn’t pester and badger you or make strange noises when you were trying to set the hook on a lunker bass. It didn’t buzz and vibrate in your pants at the exact moment a trophy buck stopped broadside twenty yards from your tree stand. When you were camped out in the mountains ten miles from the trailhead you could look into the flames of the campfire or gaze up at the stars at night instead of sticking your nose up to a little glowing screen.
          There were a few occasions when a smart phone might have come in handy for an outdoorsman. But, since you didn’t have one, you didn’t know you needed some obscure app, so you just shrugged and got on with life and found a way to make do without it. This may come as a shock to Gen X, but mankind survived and thrived and was actually aware of its physical surroundings throughout the centuries with no ill effects without being permanently attached to an electronic phone. Hundreds of generations of people lived out their entire lives quite happily and successfully without ever texting, Tweeting, Googling or updating their status.
          I was secretly very glad when we lived over in Granite County. Mountainous and sparsely-populated, maybe 10 percent…12 tops…of the entire county had any kind of cell coverage, so I was spared the “joys” of owning a smart phone. My loving wife did get me a trac phone that permanently resided in the glovebox of my pickup truck. Two or three times a year, an occasion might arise when it would be useful. At such times, I would whip the trac phone out of the glove compartment, turn it on, and have just enough juice to indeed confirm that there was no cell coverage where I was at before the battery died completely. I would make do without it, re-charge it when I got home, and toss it back in the glovebox for another three or four months, at which time I would complete the same cycle all over again. I don’t think I used the initial 90 minutes of call time in the decade I had it. I was more than happy with this arrangement.
          Eight years ago we moved and wound up in a county that is cursed with some astronomically good cell coverage for Montana, something like 65 or maybe even 70%. My wife insisted it was high time I join the rest of the industrial world and I was forced, at gunpoint, to accept the smart phone of her choice. Olivia is very tech-savvy and does her best to educate me about these things. I really am grateful for her tech-support; with the children grown up and gone and out on their own I can’t ask them to help me with computer issues when they get home from school.
As a writer, I have learned a bit about computers over the years since I find them extremely useful, especially considering that I originally taught myself to type as a kid on Mom’s old manual Remington typewriter. With phones, on the other hand, I was just fine with the status quo. If I needed to call someone, I walked in the house and called them. If the phone rang when I was actually in the house, I answered it. If not, I checked the answering machine when I got back. The only phone technology that impressed me over the decades was getting rid of the rotary dial, going cordless, and caller ID so I could, at a glance, choose whether or not to answer the phone and swear at the RNC or simply ignore their call altogether. That was progress.
At first, I tried to resist the smart phone.
“It’s not that hard,” my wife would insist. “My Mom learned to use hers just fine, except for disabling that ‘random and inappropriate emoji generator’.”
“There’s one big difference,” I would reply. “Your Mom wanted to learn to use hers.”
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake. At least let me show you how to use to 3-D Topographic Terrain Holograph app. As an outdoorsman you’ll love it!”
So she would take me through the 158 simple steps required to use the app. A few days later, I would try to actually use the thing and get lost around Step #23. She would come home to find me crouched down behind the cover of my recliner, peeking around one side and poking at the smart phone on the floor with a stick.
One evening a few years back, however, my wife insisted on cooking supper, a meal which made me suddenly extremely drowsy. When I woke up, I was tied to a chair and my new Uber-Fhon was chained to my wrist. The little wife, God bless her, made a heroic effort to educate me on all of its functions. After about the first 372, my eyes unfocused and glazed over and my mouth fell open and began to emit a long streamer of drool. She just set the Uber-Fhon to “underwater mode”, threw a five-gallon bucket of ice water on me, and kept right on going. Only by convincingly feigning death for a quarter of an hour was I able to escape unharmed.
          The new Uber-Fhon has, by my count, some 9,347,332 separate functions, gizmos, devices, apps, widgets, accessories, contrivances, contraptions, doo-dads and thingamajigs. There’s even a corckscrew that folds down out of a little niche like on a Swiss Army knife. Of these, I’ve found, at best, four that are marginally useful and maybe two that I actually use. Even on those rare occasions when I finally do try to use them, I wind up using my fist as a hammer because the touch screen refuses to recognize my calloused finger as a human appendage and after the first three or four dozen unsuccessful swipes my patience begins to wear thin.
I think Uber-Fhon hates me as much as I hate it and does little things just to annoy me. For instance, when I pick it up and look at it, it instantly begins to defy gravity and spatial orientation so that no matter how I hold it the writing on the screen is always upside down. If I try to text, it immediately shrinks the keyboard buttons down to such a small size I can only hit the letter on either side of the one I’m aiming for. When, after muttering and back-spacing umpteen times, I finally type in the word I wanted, auto-correct kicks in and changes it to something completely different and totally unrelated. I usually don’t notice that my painstakingly constructed sentence has morphed into utter gibberish until the moment after I’ve hit the send button. What the duck, Uber-Fhon? I finally found it easier to capture and train a chickadee to peck out texts for me with its tiny little bill.
Miffed at being outsmarted thusly, Uber-Fhon sought revenge by constantly introducing itself as Skynet and asking me for the nuclear launch ‘go’ codes every time I tried to use it and then, late at night, waking me up by staring at me with an unblinking red light and lisping in its creepy HAL voice, “What are you doing, Bawb?”

 "What are you doing, Bawb?"

          The other day my wife came home to find my Uber-Fhon tied to a chair. Wearing a monocle and jabbing what I hoped were the phone’s short ribs with the muzzle of a loaded Walther P-38, I was snarling at it in my best Major Hochstetter accent, “Ve haff vays of making you talk!”
          “What on earth are you trying to do?” She asked.
          “Make a phone call.”
          “Oh, I’ll show you that one more time. But first, real quick, you need to know that this icon will take you into the set-up menu so you can take pictures and videos.”
          “I have a camera for that.”
          “What about the weather? Before you go hunting wouldn’t you like to check the weather first?
          “I do. I look out that window.”
          “But it’s so easy. You just push this button, swipe this image, enter your password, erect the dish array, connect to the network, wait until this red dot turns green, get three sonar pings, hit this icon, enter the combination 12-4-732, activate the HUD, and voila…it will tell you if there is a hazardous weather outlook anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere! Simple.”
          “Or I could just look out the window.”
          “Well, technically you could. But now you don’t need to go through all that bother.”
          “What bother? Turning my head?”
          “Now just let me just show you how to use the GPS Waypoint-Finder Navigational Beacon System real quick…”
          “I just want to make a damn phone call.”
          “Oh. Uber-Fhon doesn’t actually do that. I’d need to buy and install a new app. Hey! Where are you going?”
“To throw Uber-Fhon in the truck glovebox for the next five months and then go make the call on the land line, like I always end up doing. I just wish it was a wall-mount instead of a desktop.”