We never have to wonder anything any more. Whenever I catch myself thinking, “I wonder…” I then have to say, “Oh, yeah. There is a device somewhere within arm’s reach that will find the answer.” It’s empowering and a little depressing: once I wonder about something I am then obliged to look it up and obliterate the mystery.

Suspicious character

I hate being a suspicious person but it probably saved me from having my phone stolen. A middle-aged woman in a car hailed me while I was riding my bike home from work on Friday. She pulled onto the shoulder of the entrance ramp to I-80 as I passed it.

“Do you have a phone I can borrow to call my sister? She lives around here and I’m lost.”

She could probably see my phone in the back pocket of my shorts. So to me, here was the perfect setting for a crime. She’s sitting in her car with the engine running, right at the onramp to the interstate. All I have to do is hand my phone over to her and she’s off. I’m still 15 minutes from home before I can report it.

I hesitated and asked if she knew the address, thinking maybe I’d know the street or could look it up for her. “It’s in the country somewhere and I got lost,” was all she said. I said no. I felt kind of bad about it as we went our separate ways but I also remembered that my phone is not really a phone. It’s a good chunk of my life on that little device, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to hand it to some stranger sitting in their own getaway car.

Work at work

The little media dust-up about Yahoo ending telecommuting for its employees perplexed me. First of all, I’m surprised that one company’s telecommuting policy became so newsworthy. Second, I don’t think telecommuting is going anywhere. At any rate, I would not want to work at home. I like going to work. I like keeping work and home separate. I do not want to bring headaches from my job into my home (it happens enough as it is). Fortunately, and despite the increased office work I have nowadays, being a park ranger makes telecommuting a faintly ridiculous option.

TV for free!

In between reruns of All in the Family and Diff’rent Strokes last night was the most stunning advertisement I’ve seen in a long time. It was more like a short infomercial, about two minutes long, selling… television antennas. Except the company called it “Clear TV” and they were pitching it as free, high-definition alternative to cable or satellite. No shit, you can watch high-definition broadcast television for free! This is sort of like selling watches by saying “No need for a battery, just wind it up!” While I admire the pluck with which this company was trying to resuscitate the dying television antenna business, I would be suspicious of any enterprise that had such a low opinion of its customers’ intellect.

An alternate history of mobile devices

My new smart phone has a button I have to press if I want to use it as an actual telephone. Which reminds me that not so long ago I would have been very perplexed if someone made the absurd suggestion of taking a photograph with a telephone or anything else that was not a camera. I suppose it was inevitable that the telephone instead of another household device evolved into today’s digital Swiss Army knife, but that was a chance occurrence? Could we today be carrying iToasters around with us, taking photographs, and occasionally pressing a button when we wanted some toasted bread?

In 1987 Steve Jobs pulled over at a rest stop on the Interstate. He plugged his toaster into the car’s cigarette lighter. Because of his fondness for buttered toast, he had adapted the appliance to work in his car while he traveled. Suddenly, while he was waiting for two slices of enriched white Wonder bread to toast to a golden brown, an escaped elephant from a nearby zoo dashed across the Interstate. Cars swerved to avoid the rampaging beast. The elephant paused on the grassy median, raised its trunk and trumpeted. Three more elephants lumbered across the northbound lanes and joined the first. “If only I could take a photograph and send it to my friends at Apple,” Job cried. His toast popped up, each slice making a little somersault before returning softly to the toaster slots. Jobs looked down at his appliance. The delicious aroma of toast filled the inside of his Ford Escort. An idea was born.

If only Steve Jobs had really, really liked toast.


I’m typing this entry on my new iMac. My PC has been pushed aside pending its cleaning out and disassembly. So far I like it but it will take some getting used to. Everything seems to organized by what it is rather than where it is. Apple bills its system as “more intuitive” but I’ve been using PCs for probably 25 years now and their quirks are ingrained in me.