Does in-flight cell use ring the death knell for manners?

November 26th, 2013

The FCC recently announced it may start allowing the use of cell phones on flights, as long as the flights are above 10,000 feet. This announcement opened up a firestorm of debate about the benefits and drawbacks of allowing cell phones to be used in-flight.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about in-flight phone etiquette, suggesting that if cell phone calls are allowed in flight, it could be “the last call for manners.” Without a doubt, cell phone users are often obnoxiously rude, carrying on loud conversations in elevators, check-out lanes at the stores, and in the middle of romantic restaurants. Still, the last call for manners?

Playing the Devil’s advocate for a moment, I would suggest that manners don’t really exist on most airlines to begin with. Think about it: the brusque businessman who spreads out his papers all over the place, including your lap. The teenage kid who keeps playing air drum on the back of your seat. The harried flight attendant who would rather be anywhere other than serving you a tiny cup of watered down soda and a handful of peanuts. The traveling salesman who bores you to tears during the entire flight with stories of his wonderful sales pitches and extravagant lifestyle.

Now, imagine this: the businessman making phone calls instead of fiddling with papers in the wrong place for that sort of work. The teenager texting instead of beating your back. The salesman making phone calls. Meanwhile, you can put on your headphones and listen to music without the incessant tapping, beating, and shuffling of papers. Tune it all out.

Now, if cell phone etiquette really might be a problem, here’s an idea for the airlines to take and run with: cell phone seats and no-cell seats. Until our government decided smoking on an airline was dangerous, we had smoking seats and no-smoking seats. If the government opens up the use of cell phones in-flight, maybe the answer to everyone’s concern is to cordon off a section of the plane specifically for those who don’t want to be disturbed by cell phone users.

Just an idea…

Samsung, just tell Grewal how you did it, already!

November 10th, 2013

Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal, according to the Wall Street Journal, has all but told Samsung they should just ‘fess up and tell him how they got ahold of information about Apple’s licensing agreement with Nokia. To make a long story short, the judge’s order basically tells Samsung, “Look, we know you did something bad and need to be punished, we’re just not sure how you did it. Care to explain yourselves?”

Ponderings on Windows 8

February 7th, 2013

This post is certainly late to the gate, since there’s been quite a bit already said about Windows 8. I, however, didn’t get around to installing and playing with Windows 8 until this week. And even that was a reluctant installation, given what I’d already heard, read, and seen of Microsoft’s newest offering.

Honestly, the only reason I installed it in the first place was because my supervisor has started talking about upgrading to Windows 8 and I wanted to scare him away from it. (I think that’s worked out, by the way.) So, now that I’ve been playing with it for a few days, what do I think about Windows 8?

In the simplest of terms, it sucks.

Now, I’m a huge proponent of critical thinking, so let me explain why I say it sucks.

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1st thoughts: Apple’s attempt to revolutionize education

January 19th, 2012

Today, Apple announced iBooks 2, iBooks Author, and a new, free iTunes U app. Apple executives tout these as efforts to reinvent education and curriculum, and at first blush, they look very exciting. The video demos of interactive textbooks, allowing textbook authors to embed videos and interactive elements within their textbooks are definitely in keeping with current trends in educational philosophy. The price points for the textbooks ($14.99!) is an amazing departure from the normal (astronomical) prices of textbooks. The expansion of iTunes U to K-12 institutions is also a potential game-changer, allowing primary and secondary schools to offer their courses for free online.

When you dig down into the innards of how it all works, though, the plan seems to break down quite a bit. Will iBooks 2 really sound a death knell for more traditional paper-based textbooks? Will iTunes U become the next trend in digital learning, replacing the likes of Blackboard and other Course Management Systems? Could we really see our children carrying around a slim iPad with all of their textbooks on it, instead of backpacks overflowing and bursting at the seams with textbooks? I’m trying to be optimistic, but I’m quite honestly dubious. The problems I see with this fall into these categories:

  1. Institutional adoption of the iPad as the sole means of content delivery
  2. Restriction of textbooks to a single marketplace
  3. Furthering the premise that education has to be entertaining in all aspects

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Me, a Good Samaritan?

June 19th, 2011

I’m feeling so incredibly blessed today, and so very thankful for the work God is doing in and through me. Most of us have heard the parable of the good Samaritan, but I actually lived it out this past week, and saw a glimpse of the fruit of it this morning.

On Tuesday (June 13, 2011, if you want specifics), I was volunteering at Vacation Bible School at North-Mar Church. I finished up a bit early, so I thought I would go ahead and leave earlier than expected, get to work a half hour early, and then go home from work a half hour early.

So I left the church, and stopped at a gas station to fill up. After that, I was driving up the Market Street Extension in Howland, planning on taking Howland-Wilson Road over to 82, then taking 11/711 into Youngstown. So, I was driving along, praying, and then realized I’d missed my turn. Oh well, I thought, I’ll just turn around and catch it on the flip side. I turned around at the Howland library, headed back towards Howland-Wilson Road, and…missed my turn, again.

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Dead Terrorist Heads and Lady Liberty Don’t Go Together!

May 2nd, 2011
Preface: This blog post contains my thoughts on the recent killing of Osama bin Laden. Before you read any further, Dear Reader, please understand one thing: I write this in full support of and with full gratitude towards the men and women of our military forces, who are risking their lives to protect my freedom. Any condemnations I might voice here are against the prevailing thoughts on justice and vengeance held by many Americans, and against those who have ordered our troops to commit murder.

I’m almost expecting a special forces team to break down my door soon and murder me the way they did Osama bin Laden, because I’m just as guilty of numerous murders as he was. No, I’ve never pulled the trigger on a human being…I’ve never driven a knife or a sword into someone and killed them…I’ve never set off a bomb. Still, I’m guilty of murder, because I have harbored angry thoughts against my brothers and sisters. In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus told us:

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.

I’m subject to that judgment, even today! The murder of Osama bin Laden bothered me last night, even before I heard about it. Around 9:30 last night, I developed a foul attitude that I couldn’t shake or explain. I had a feeling that something was about to happen to truly upset me, and I reacted very badly to the uncertainty and worry the feeling brought me.

This morning, seeing the response many of my Christian brothers and sisters gave to the murder of Osama bin Laden, I became very angry. It took me several hours to calm my anger, pray for my brothers and sisters, and then forgive them.

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Politics and Hate-Mongering

April 2nd, 2011

There’s a reason I’ve never gotten very involved in politics, and why I’ll probably never run for a political office. That reason is the extreme hatred that seems to fester between the two political parties. That hatred, unfortunately, is aimed at the people, more often than not, rather than the issues themselves. The hatred seems to me, at its core, to be little more than juvenile name-calling, and it’s something I would love to never even see or hear, let alone get involved in.

For example, the latest offshoot from the Republican party, the Tea Party. I’ve heard otherwise intelligent people, grown adults, defame members of the Tea Party, calling them “Teabaggers.” On the other side of the coin, I’ve heard people refer to me as a socialist or, worse, a “Communist,” because I believe we have a responsibility to look out for one another. If someone’s political views go hand-in-hand with their Christian religious values, they’re called “Jesus Freaks” or “fundamentalists” or whatever the latest slur is for the “religious right.” I’ve heard people claim they “hate all of the liberals.”

What does any of this name-calling or hatred really say about the issues at hand, though? What does it truly accomplish to antagonize one another, slur one another, and engage in hostile verbal wars to see who can come up with the most original insults?

Do any of you, dear readers, really think you’re going to sway my opinion on an issue by telling me I’m stupid, I’m a bleeding-heart liberal, or that I’m a Communist because I believe differently on the issues than you do? Are any of you really going to gain any allies by diving head-first into a debate with your verbal guns a’blazin’, shooting off insults faster than the Waco Kid could shoot the guns out of the bad guys’ hands in Blazing Saddles?

I’ll tell ya what: go ahead, and call me a Commie. Tell me you hate me, because of what I believe. That’s fine. I still love each and every one of you for the talents you bring into the world, for the gifts that you leave the world. But you’re not going to convince me that my opinions on the issues are wrong when your idea of argument is to hurl names at me or tell me how much you hate me. I’ve been the victim of name-calling for decades, and it doesn’t do anything to impress me nowadays. All it does now is make me dismiss your opinion as unfounded, immature, and unsupported. Show me you’re willing to talk, rationally and in a mature manner, and try to come to some form of agreement on the issue; then, maybe, we’ll be able to get somewhere.

Saturday morning Bible studies…

March 26th, 2011

I have to admit, I was skeptical when my wife suggested I start going to the Saturday morning men’s Bible study group at our church. The group meets at 7:30 in the morning, and I’m…well…I’m a night owl, and don’t usually like getting up early in the morning.

Three weeks into the group, I’m finding that it’s much easier than I thought it would be. I’m enjoying the fellowship time with men, I’m enjoying the spiritual growth, and I’m enjoying the book we’re studying (Hazards of Being a Man, by Jeffrey E. Miller). The book is really digging deep into me, convicting me on the things I’ve been doing wrong in my life and affirming my choices in the things I’ve been changing in an effort to grow closer to God.

What I really, really appreciate about the group, though, is the timing. As I said, we meet at 7:30 on Saturday mornings. When I leave for Bible study, my wife and kids are usually still sleeping. I’m done by 9:00 in the morning and, barring any other events at church, home by 9:30. That leaves the rest of the day wide open for family time…doing things around the house, spending time with the wife and kids, or…whatever.

By taking part in the early Saturday morning Bible study, I’m finding myself growing closer to God and also growing closer to my family, since it’s not taking away any of the weekend time with them. It’s a terrific thing, and I thank God for the opportunity!

The Secret Treaty: Interesting, but with its problems

March 24th, 2011

Wayne Josephson’s latest novel, The Secret Treaty, has recently been published in book format and on the Kindle. Prior to the book’s publication, released it at a heavy discount on Kindle to allow reviewers an advance look at the book. Although I don’t normally review books, I decided to take a look at it, anyways, simply because of the content.

Josephson is the author of the “Readable Classics” line of books, which retell classics such as The Scarlet Letter, Jayne Eyre, The Odyssey, and the like in modern language. The Secret Treaty is different from all of those; it’s an original story wrapped around historical facts from the early days of the American Revolution. The story is based on the contents of the rumored Bruton Vault, built by Sir Francis Bacon and Thomas Jefferson to safeguard their most prized possessions and writings. Within the vault, supposedly, is a “Secret Treaty” that answers the question of whether or not America was founded as a Christian nation. The Bruton Vault has been guarded and kept secret by Bacon’s and Jefferson’s descendants until a plot to steal the Secret Treaty unfolds. From there, the story becomes a suspenseful and sometimes action-filled blend of history and modern intrigue.

Josephson has done an excellent job of weaving history with mystery and suspense. The book had me fascinated by the historical tidbits about Bacon, Jefferson, and the formation of the United States of America. At the same time, I often found myself at the edge of my seat, reading eagerly to find out what would ultimately happen to the protagonists, Josiah Bacon and Amanda Jefferson, and the Secret Treaty they were struggling so desperately to save.

Unfortunately, as soon as I’d get to the edge of my seat with anticipation, Josephson would break in with a history lesson imparted by way of stilted dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book…but quite a bit of the book’s dialogue just isn’t the way two twenty-somethings would really talk. At one point in the book, Amanda Jefferson tells Josiah, “We had many stimulating conversations about the content of the vault, but he never communicated any information about where in Williamsburg it was located” (location 685-702 on Kindle). Really, Josephson? “Never communicated?” People today rarely, if ever, talk that way…and Josephson, as the father of a teenage girl, should know that.

The dialogue within the book suffers from an attempt to avoid redundant word use. A noble cause, to be sure, but not always recommended for dialogue. After all, people do repeat themselves, often, and use the same figures of speech and phrases over and over again. It’s a natural form of dialogue, and Josephson’s attempt to avoid it is, in my opinion, a mistake.

The book also has some occasional bouts of questionable continuity. For instance, early in the book, a reference is made to a man leaving the ancestral home of the Bacons in Colonial Williamsburg and getting into an automobile. Later in the novel, however, it’s revealed that vehicular traffic isn’t allowed near the home. It distracted me from the story, scratching my head and asking how the man could have left a house and gotten into a vehicle when only foot traffic was allowed. It’s not a big lapse in continuity, but it pulled me out of the story, which is not something you really want to do, as an author.

My last real quarrel with the text is an unfortunate break in tense. The book is written in past tense, but includes historical information about a group known as the Children of God. When Josephson details the Children of God, though, he switches from past tense to present tense. As an English instructor, this bothers me. There’s no reason, to my mind, why the information couldn’t have been provided in past tense. Again, it’s not a big deal…but it was one more thing to pull me out of the story and have me questioning the timeline.

All in all, even with my nitpicking of the dialogue, continuity, and consistency of the text, it’s a good story. It’s got history, intrigue, and a surprising twist near the end. It’s a good read and will most likely teach you something about American history without the pain and tedium of reading a history book.

Or, click The Secret Treaty (Kindle Version) for the Kindle version.

Yes, Virginia, the iPad can replace your laptop (maybe)

June 10th, 2010

Both lovers and haters of the iPad have been quick to point out that the iPad isn’t a laptop or netbook killer. They point to the closed OS, the difficulty getting files on/off the device, and the lack of Flash as “proof” that the iPad is pretty much just an entertainment device, and not much more than that.

I beg to differ.

A true geek finds workarounds to problems, rather than simply throwing their hands in the air and bemoaning the limitations of their device. A true geek finds a way to make it work. At least, that’s how I feel about it. Maybe that’s because of my roots; after years providing support for IBM’s OS/2 and then proselytizing Linux, finding a way to “make things work” is almost second nature to me and seems, to me, to be the defining characteristic of the hardcore geek. After all, Microsoft seemed almost deliberate in blocking many Windows applications from running in Win-OS/2, and the same holds true even today for running Windows applications under Linux. The code monkeys are constantly tweaking WINE to get more and more applications working properly, and those of us who simply cobble together solutions are still, to this day, trying to figure out how to make things work outside the software environment the applications or hardware were designed for.

From what I can gather, critics and fans have listed these as reasons why the iPad cannot be considered a laptop replacement:

1) You have to activate it in iTunes before you can use it
2) There is no easy way to transfer files from a computer directly to the iPad
3) You can only run software Apple has given its stamp of approval
4) You can’t use any hardware you want with it (such as game pads, joysticks, printers, etc.)
5) I can’t play my Flash-based games because Apple hates Adobe!

So, my response to these reasons:

1) So what? I’ve plugged my iPad into a computer only once or twice since purchase. I have an iMac at home, and another at work. I don’t consider plugging my iPad into iTunes for activation any different than the steps you have to take to set up your laptop for the first time, and copy your documents over to it.

2) This is true, and yet not. I’ve been a Dropbox user for quite some time, and have the Dropbox app installed on my iPad. Through the Dropbox app, I can read any document and view any image file I have saved to Dropbox…and anything I truly need to work on is saved to Dropbox. There are a host of other applications that provide similar functionality, and more on the way. QuickOffice for iPhone works on the iPad, even if it looks like crap…and I expect the folks at QuickOffice will have their iPad suite of applications ready for purchase any day now. For those who don’t know, QuickOffice can pull files from MobileMe, Google Docs, and Dropbox, among other sources.

The other option is to email a document to yourself, and then open it in Pages, Numbers, or Keynote for iPad. This really isn’t that difficult…I do it from Dropbox all the time when I need to edit an existing document that I don’t have in Pages or Numbers yet. Not that big of a deal, IMO.

3) Don’t really care. There is a wide enough variety of apps that I have yet to find something I can’t do with the apps available through the App Store.

4) True, but how often do you lug a joystick around in your laptop bag? For that matter, how many laptops out there are good gaming rigs to begin with?

5) Ahh, but you can! You just can’t do it directly. I’m a Farmville fanatic, and have tested this a couple of times…you CAN play Farmville (a Flash-based game), for example, on the iPad…just a bit indirectly. See, I have LogMeIn installed on my desktop computers, and have LogMeIn Ignition installed on both my iPhone and my iPad. When I want to do something that requires Flash, all I have to do is a remote login via LogMeIn Ignition, and voila! I just use my desktop, via the iPad, to view or run whatever software I want! It’s a bit slower than if I were sitting at the computer, but not terribly so.

So, here’s my final word: you CAN have an iPad replace your notebook/netbook computer…IF you are flexible in your computing needs and think through some decent workarounds. It might be a little frustrating to get everything set up, if you don’t enjoy the challenge…but I LOVE a good geek challenge!