Simple Surprise

I have been driving around without a front license plate since November. Fortunately, my Town and Country is as close to an invisible car as man has yet invented. I drove a classic Mustang for some time in my younger days and even then it was always noticed. “I used to have one of those;” “Nice car;” and an occasional challenge to a drag race were common occurrences. Not so with my minivan. It is not a vehicle that usually attracts police attention and the rest of the public don’t really notice them either.

No matter how bland my van is it was only a matter of time until I got to chat with officer friendly so it was time to install that license plate.

I didn’t want that chat that always begins with, “Do you know why I stopped you.” That is about as loaded a question as you can ever get asked and an ingenious invention on the part of a District Attorney somewhere. Whatever you admit to is an automatic confession recorded on tape. “Why yes, officer you stopped me because I was speeding in a school zone, have a broken headlight, have two outstanding warrants, and 10 pounds of cocaine in the trunk.”

Yes, I respect the police. They are indeed a thin blue line that holds back anarchy. Think about it, call them and five to ten minutes from the call they arrive ready to help you out of a very bad situation. I’ve seen them haul away rowdy neighbors, stop insane drivers, break up fights, and stand inches away from high-speed traffic to bring law and order. They are the real life tough guys that stand up to the criminals and take them down. That is serving and protecting and they need to be paid a lot more than they are.  So… Respect the police. Yes, I do. Trust the police. No. I’ve known too many police to trust them. The USA’s police don’t have the rampant corruption that Mexico embodies but corruption certainly exists and the justice system is seriously flawed.

The one officer that really stands out to me is the poor guy I saw one day in Florence, Alabama. Alabama has some nasty thunderstorms and this one was a standout even by Alabama’s standards. The clouds were so thick it was almost dark at midday, the wind was shaking the trees, the rain was so heavy that you could barely see to drive, and the lightening was lighting up the midday darkness every few minutes with accompanying thunder that shook windows. This guy was standing in the middle of a large intersection taking the place of the traffic signal that the storm had knocked out. To stand there braving rain, wind-tossed debris, red necks in 4 x 4 pickup trucks, and lightening was true courage. That guy seriously needed a raise.

But I digress… I expected a fairly difficult install possibly with bolts, dropped hardware, and a serious challenge to my commitment to a clean vocabulary.

The install could not have been simpler. Upon close examination, it became clear that the bumper is basically a big chunk of impact absorbing plastic. The folks at Chrysler made it easy by putting two divots at just the right spot in the bumper. I drilled two small pilot holes in the center of the divots with a cordless drill and a 5/64″ drill bit, lined the plate up, and installed the screws with a plain old slotted screwdriver.

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Life Without a Smartphone: Days 22-25

Going to sleep is easier without the blue screen distractor. I went to bed early two days ago but due to my regular schedule and the unprocessed caffeine from the soda I drank earlier I could not go to sleep. I read until I was tired, then laid in bed looking up into the darkness and thinking. Some productive thoughts and ideas came to me. Previously I would have been playing World of Tanks Blitz or Boom Beach on the phone.

The modern first world ceramic reading throne has been used to read National Geographic, This Old House magazine, books, and other productive items rather than playing games or looking up useless things on the internet.

The past 25 days have been the most productive and focused 25 days in years but it has not been all good. Paper just can’t organize the way the electronic tools can. Every day is precious. Life is so very brief. Even the folks that live to old age have so little time. I wish to waste no more of my time on trivial things.

Life Without a Smartphone: Day 22

It has been about three days since I charged my phone and it still has a full charge.

I am already planning how to reintegrate either an iPad or iPhone back into my life. They are simply too powerful to not use them. The trick will be to gain the benefits and minimize the negatives.

It seems that I’m not alone with the tech neck or text neck problem.

The Value of Scouting

“The knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.” – Lord Chesterfield.

Childhood is a time to make small mistakes so we can avoid big ones later on. Allowing children to play in the street or with matches and gasoline is not a good idea but it is important that children be allowed to make some mistakes that won’t cost them too much. Better a skinned knee at 6 than driving 100 mph at 17 and losing $10 on something stupid at 10 than to take out a $5,000 loan they can’t afford at 20.

“It is going to be cold at night”, I told the boys several times during our planning meetings in advance of the campout and our Scoutmaster and I provided some specific instructions as to what to bring and how to prepare. None of the boys were listening. It was just the normal adult chatter.

Southern Idaho is a desert. Even in August temperatures plummet after sunset making for uncomfortable and sometimes dangerously cold nights for the unprepared.

When the boys arrived to go camping I saw no coats and thin sleeping bags. It was a pleasantly warm day so why would they need a coat? The boy’s average age is 12 years old and none of them have been on more than a handful of campouts. In our first world comfort, cold nights are not something most of us experience very often. The gas furnace keeps our homes at a comfortable temperature. We knew that they were in for a lesson in preparedness.

At dawn I heard numerous loud complaints coming from the boy’s tents about how cold it was and how cold they were.  It was about 28 degrees at dawn. The tents had a nice layer of frost on them. Lucky for the boys there was not even a light breeze. The temperature was perfect. Cold enough to be uncomfortable but not cold enough to do any damage given their activity level and the fact that the temperature was rapidly increasing since the sun was now over the horizon.

I took my time getting a fire started to let the lesson sink in a little. Soon enough they were warm, fed, and busy throwing rocks into the lake.

They cooked breakfast and packed up. We climbed the large sand Dunes at Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park as part of a five-mile hike. The boys enjoyed rolling part way down the big dune then running back to the top and doing it again. One of them was a little scared but make it through fine and a few learned that it is good to have something to carry your stuff in when on a hike. Some other leaders and I paid the price for too much sitting and too many generous meals as we huffed and puffed our way to the top of the dunes.

The boys formed some bonds of friendship, got some great exercise, and learned lessons that no video game could teach them. As they progress in Scouting over the next five or six years they will build friendships, make memories, and learn valuable life skills that they can then pass on to another generation. In the coming weeks, they will be the ones planning the campouts. They will be better prepared for cold nights based on this experience. The life lesson of that cold morning will sink in much better than my nattering ever could.

Life Without a Smartphone Days 16 – 20

The major events in these days were that my son and I packed for and went on a campout with our Boy Scout Troop, I prepared for and gave a 12-minute talk in sacrament meeting (The main worship service in a typical LDS Sunday meeting), and we had a family gathering for Easter Sunday.

The LDS church has lay clergy and no paid ministers so as a member you are occasionally asked to speak in sacrament meeting.

 

View fro atop the dune at Bruneau
The view from one of the large dunes at Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park in Idaho

 

The good and not so good of not having a smartphone were as follows:

Good:

  • My hands continue to improve though my right hand still hurts most likely because of using my trackball computer mouse.
  • I can only write so much on paper so the todo list does not become unlimited.
  • The paper map I printed of the park where we went was faster and easier to read than the version I would have been looking at on the phone.
  • The phone battery lasted the whole camping trip with no need for recharging the battery. I even left the big spare battery home that has been a part of the luggage for a long time.
  • The GPS worked just fine but there was no cellular service where we were.
  • I had a trusty Rand McNalley atlas with no need for batteries in case the GPS died. This is not really an advantage as I carry one anyway.
  • My packing list is a sheet on Google Drive. I printed the sheet and put it in my planner which was easier than trying to use Google Sheets on the phone.
  • Without the ability to look up things once there I had to look up more in advance.
  • I had to use the computer to look up things that would have been looked up on the phone and the computer is much more ergonomic than the iPhone.
  • My neck pain is lessening.
  • The 20-day experiment provided some of the subject matter for my Sacrament talk. We can miss spiritual impressions due to digital distractions.

Not so good:

  • Most of my phone numbers were in the planner when I needed some of them. However, this was a moot point as there was no cell service in the rural location anyway.
  • The Xpression 2’s camera is not nearly as good as my iPhone SE’s camera and does not link to Apple Photos.
  • Several people texted me media content that I could not read.
  • Since all of my contacts are in Apple Contacts I usually don’t know who is calling or texting me and I have no desire to enter all of the names into the phone’s address book.
  • Google Maps is more detailed than the maps on the GPS but again without cellular service that didn’t matter on this trip.

Summary:

Despite a few minor annoyances, I was better off without the iPhone. It is a strange paradox that I am more productive without one of the greatest productivity tools ever to be invented.

Perhaps it is as Hans Hoffman said, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”

Life Without a Smartphone: Days 15 & 16

The phone was calling my name today. Just slip that sim card in… but I resisted.

I gave the phone to my wife this morning. I have still been using it some to take pictures and other things sort of like an iPod touch. My wife and I’s conversation went something like this:

Except that I gave up the phone. Elrond should have just given Isildur a good elf boot in the rump and pushed him and the ring into the lava. It would have saved many lives but then there would not have been that great story to tell. Fortunately, my wife didn’t have to push me into the lava. There is no change for her except that my phone is slightly newer than her old iPhone.

This has been an incredibly difficult change for such a seemingly small thing. The power of that iPhone is much more than its small size would indicate. The iPhone is supposed to be a great productivity tool and by its capabilities and specifications, there is no doubt that it is a powerful tool. What I am dealing with though is my own illogical brain. I feel that I have accomplished more things that matter in the last 15 days than I have in the last six months.

This productivity gain whether perceived or real is not logical. The iPhone is a tremendously powerful productivity tool, but then as the character, Dr. Gillian Taylor in the movieStar Trek IV: The Voyage Home said, “Whoever said the human race was logical?”