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Archive for August, 2012

Smartphones

Firstly, in the interest of disclosure, I carry a Blackberry as part of my job and I own an Android smartphone. My Blackberry goes off the minute I get home and only goes back on the next morning. My Android is used as a phone for the most part – the applications that get the most use are the New York Times and the weather apps.

This morning, Gizmodo ran a piece called “Yes, You Can Live Without Your Goddamn Smartphone“. I was going to write my own post about smartphones after a couple of experiences in the last couple of weeks, but this piece captures many of my concerns very nicely. I encourage people to read it.

This week, I was sitting at a red light when a young woman wearing earphones and tapping on the keyboard of her smartphone walked into the intersection. And at that moment the light turned green for us. She jerked her head up and actually fell back into the sidewalk as the cars in our lane started towards her. She obviously had no idea she was about to walk against a red light in a downtown intersection. The consequences could have been disasterous.

A couple of nights ago, an old friend and I went out to play pool. (I am not very good at playing pool but I enjoy the pace of the game and the social side of playing.) We had been playing for about a half hour when a young couple started playing at a table near us. They took a few shots and when I looked over again, they were both seated beside the table and busy texting on their phones. Now, this struck us as very strange. Were they texting each other? Is this how a modern date is conducted? If so, we needn’t worry about population control … they would be too busy on their phones. This all strikes me as turning off from our surroundings – the very nature of the world around us. Sometimes Wall-E seems a little too close!

My friend told me about his daughter accidentally dropping her smartphone and it stopped working. He said her reaction was one of utter horror … her life was in that little box.

I understand the utility of these devices. But they are just that – devices. Perspective people, please.

An Update

The New York Times this morning published a similar story about smart phones entitled Turn Off the Phone (And the Tension). A trend perhaps?

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Up until the end of June, our summer was average or a little below normal. July changed that and we experienced hot and stormy weather for much of the month and into August. I don’t particularly like the heat but I do enjoy the sights of the sky.

Here are some shots from the last six weeks around Edmonton.

Approaching Storm

A Magpie Waiting on the Start of the Storm

Leading Edge

Sun Among the Clouds

End of the Storm

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Political Cash

I picked up an interesting bit of cash in my change this week.

Found on the back of a 5 dollar bill.

On the back of a 5 dollar bill was a stamp that read, “Increase Crime VOTE Liberal/NDP” (The bill is obviously Canadian … hockey players, eh)

This is very curious. I have never seen anything like this. It does beg a few questions. The obvious is who put this on a bill and why would they bother? Since there are really only three major political parties in Canada, the only one not mentioned was the Conservatives – the governing party – who are big on being hard on crime.

Very strange.

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One of the niceties about this summer is that I have been able to read a few books. Life usually gets in the way when I want to sit down and relax with a good read, but this summer I have been making time for myself and a book.

The most recent book read was “The Limit” by Michael Cannell. It has a lurid sub-title of “Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit”. I have been a motor racing fan since the mid-60s and saw the first Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport in 1967. I knew a little about the 1961 GP season but this book, aside from the sensational sub-title, was interesting in that it followed the careers of Phil Hill and Wolfgang Von Trips – the two Ferrari drivers who contested for the championship. The book did a good job of setting the context for the 1961 season, in which Hill won the championship and Von Trips was killed in the penultimate race in Monza. It was a quick read but enjoyable – one that I would recommend, especially for motor sports fans.

The next book was a first for me … on my trip back from Ontario my sister and brother-in-law gave me an audio book – “Team of Rivals” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The books is subtitled “The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”. I found it a fascinating read listen. As a Canadian we learned about the American Civil War, but this book offered details about Lincoln and how the Union government dealt with the conflict. It gave me a far greater perspective on the conflict and I quite enjoyed it. Plus I had never tried an audio book on a long drive. This is probably something I will use again. The time flew by – thanks Lori and Don.

Before I went on my trip, my second son gave me a copy of “The Invention of Clouds” by Richard Hamblyn. This is a book about Luke Howard who came up with a classification system for clouds in the early 1700s that we still use today. Sub-titled, “How an Amateur Meteorologist Forged the Language of the Skies”, the interesting thing for me was how amateur scientists like Howard were treated like celebrities in their age. As a sky watcher myself, the book was fascinating in describing an age when scientific discoveries and discourse was an important part of society. Makes you wonder what the world would be like if we still shared that intellectual curiosity as a society.

Finally, I got a Kindle copy of “Life” by Keith Richards. This book was a treat and a surprise. I had read Eric Clapton’s autobiography a couple of years earlier and was disappointed in how shallow it was. Richards, on the other hand, talks about his passion for the Stone’s musical roots. It wasn’t just a “I did this and that” sort of story. I was impressed on how Richards described the ‘why’ behind his music and what he was trying to get from it. Now of course, he is the ultimate rock star so the book contains the standard rock and roll stories. But I came away with the feeling that Richards was a lot deeper than I ever imagined. I highly recommend this one.

Now, it is just a matter of deciding what is next 🙂

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