Cell-phone upgrade?

By the time you read this, it has likely already been done. I have caved in to the pressure to make my cellular telephone into the modern-day phone/computer bandied about by oodles of adults squinting at the palm of their hand.

I hate it.

This requires not just a decision, but a commitment. I don’t have a problem with decisions – – but commitments are another story altogether.

I have a 2004 Honda Odyssey wagon. It has a CD player, a GPS, and a DVD player. This probably added almost 3 grand to the purchase price. All of these functions are now available in a cell phone.

Many people stay on top of current technologies, especially the Mac-o-philes: They had the I-phone the first week on the market… same with the I-pad. What was once ‘cutting edge’ now seems to have taken on a much more sinister look. It has become The Pride of The Wasteful: “I bought this for 15 hundred dollars a year ago and it is worth almost 200 bucks today.”

I thought my 04 car was cutting edge. When purchased, I believed this would keep me ahead of the curve. But here is the really daunting perspective: Has technology finally advanced so quickly it has become instantly irrelevant?

My current cell phone makes calls. I can send and receive text messages. If the file is not too big, I can get a picture message. That is it. A few years ago, the text thing wasn’t around. That feature would be considered ‘the balls’. It is a mode of communication I truly despise. Compare that with an available technology that falls under the radar: You can record a message, and send it to another phone. Though this has been available for over a decade, nobody uses it. Perhaps it seems too impersonal. Is that even possible?

Spending time looking down at my phone – and punching digits – is a waste of time, energy, and sensory input. This assessment must be mine alone, since texting is extremely popular. In fact, spending time with friends is often spending time with a friend and their phone. They can’t get away from it, and you can’t get away from ‘it’ without getting away from them. 

So do you ask your friends to turn their phone off? Seems – oddly – rude! Imagine how far we have come as a society. Years ago it would be considered rude to talk on a cell phone at a cash register. Now it is commonplace, and interrupting the chat – in order to be present – is rude.

My cell doesn’t work properly. The call waiting feature hasn’t worked for years. I’m not aware of new messages for days. Sometimes service drops for no good reason. Recently the owner of the company I work for called me, and I didn’t get his message for 2 weeks.

But it isn’t simply a phone, it is a whole ‘plan’ decision. I am not under contract, so I could change carriers. Since everyone who has a phone hates their carrier (as everyone who has cable hates their cable company,) most would be delighted to give the middle finger to their provider. I try not to fall prey to this mindset, tempting as it is.

The upgrade would give me roving internet capabilities, and always-available GPS. I would be able to find restaurants and coffee shops with just a few finger movements. I could watch TV. I could read ‘stuff’, during down times, while waiting for scheduled stuff to come to fruition! I could check my email…

This the problem.

I don’t want to be ‘the guy’ who is observed looking at the palm of his hand. This is how a cell phone allows your life to pass by. ‘Life’ is right there in front of you. Is the item in your palm more interesting, pressing, or are you just obsessing?

Technology has taken people away from personal interactions. This has been replaced by a private, cerebral interchange. This isn’t just bad for the mind, it is bad for the spirit. We need to follow our heart, guided by our mind to the lives beyond the screen. This allows us to be positive members of society. Sometimes it even results in boredom.

Nobody has mental down-time anymore.

Imagine yourself on the beach at sunset. There is a warm breeze blowing across your face. The sound of seagulls is mixing with the waves crashing on the sand. Your feet are in the sand, and the water rushes over them and is drawn back out to sea. The sunset is orange bleeding into the blue sky, and a quarter moon can be seen in the distance, weaving in and out of the small wisps of clouds.

If your iphone had batteries, you could ignore it all.

Depressed, you leave this scene and retreat – – to charge the source of all happiness the world has to offer.

There is a world out there, and a world of people missing it.

What in the world has come over us?

People nowadays

Rapture

Okay, okay… so it didn’t happen. The heavens didn’t crash down upon us like cardboard walls on a television set. We are all still here. The birds are relentlessly chirping. Moving veritable mounds of molecules, they live by example: Sing.

So we sing to the heavens, and the gates of hell have closed their entranceway as well. The DJ at my brother-in-law’s wedding announced the upcoming moment when the scheduled event was to happen. I felt nothing. There wasn’t an ominous overtone. The skies were clear and gorgeous. The ground only moved for those who overindulged. But I like to think I am aware of spiritual shifts in the cosmos. With nothing whatsoever to base this assertion, I believe I would have sensed the impending doom. Now, alas, I will never know.

Is it possible we are already there? What if the event took place, but God is taking us – one by one – rather than all at once? That may not be biblical, but neither was the fallen prediction. If one person was gone, would the world notice? As the days went on, I think we most certainly would. If the dude pressing the button at the crosswalk flew into the sky and didn’t return, I would definitely make a note of that. (I would also begin to fear for my own soul, but how long do I expect this post to be?)

Look, it happens to the best of us. We predict we will be millionaires by a certain age, then we predict the government will sap all our earnings for our entire life. Only one of these predictions is guaranteed. The silver lining is that even if we achieve prediction #1, we haven’t avoided prediction #2. While that should make you rest easier, I predict it will not.

I try to keep my predictions predictable:

I predict I will write a blog about Harold Camping’s prediction. I predict this will change less lives than his prediction about The Rapture.

I predict I will love my daughter no matter what she does. Stay tuned.

I predict there will be hardship ahead for myself, and for all of us. I predict many will be unprepared.

I predict The Bible will provide solace for those who read it. I predict those that don’t will deny the solace could exist for them.

I predict I will stay calm. I predict that will work well for me.

Bin Laden

THE Guru Of Evil. The good ol’ USA has hoisted him up to levels undeserving of such paucity. But don’t expect that sheer adulation to end anytime soon. This country is enamored, and our government wants us to stay that way.

Celebrating a death never defines the deceased, it defines the celebrant. We simply must get over ourselves.

It amazes me how badly the bulk of us miss the mark. There is great power in ignorance. That is the power of a 3 year old playing in the middle of a busy street. Ignorance is dwarfed, however, by the power of ignoring: This power presents itself in the form of the parents who allowed their child to be in this predicament. Then there is the power of goodness. This is exemplified by the person who stops their car, gets out, stops traffic, scoops up the kid and returns the child to their parents.

Unless you would drive around the kid – or run them over – you are one of the three.

We all fall prey to these variations, from time to time. There is no getting around it. We don’t always pay attention. We aren’t always at the top of our game. Our human frailty is not a weakness, it is our greatest strength.

Get over yourself.

After 9/11, I spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out how to keep ‘what happened’ from happening again. That was me, staring at my ceiling September 15th at 3:00 AM. I could also be found waking up September 20th at 4:00 AM thinking of how this event could be prevented in the future. Then again on the 22nd. Again on the 25th. I didn’t get much sleep at all that month.

I couldn’t get over myself.

As the Government rounded up the troops to bomb areas of Afghanistan, I was trying to figure out how to keep someone other than the pilot from flying a plane.

Obviously, I missed the boat.

The media sold the story of our victimization. Bin Laden had an agenda, and we were victims. We needed to gather some patriotism, pour in a generous dose of hatred, and begin the bombing. Then the media would keep the public’s attention on terrorists, and training camps, and information gleaned outside the scope of the terrorist networks.

Face it: if we had inside information, the problem wouldn’t exist.

Always looking outward for a solution is a blame game. That is what we have been caught up in ever since. While making it possible to completely ignore reality, blaming and victimization go hand in hand. Responsibility always acknowledges truth, and accepts the burden. You can look to others for inspiration, but you cannot lead except by example.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: hard to have any of it without responsibility.

Look at your own life. Tell me all the success stories you have had from blaming someone else. I’m not saying bad crap hasn’t happened, for surely it has. I just want to know how your fault-finding victimization created success in your own life. Can you give me an example? Even one?

As a schoolchild, perhaps you were blamed for something that another kid did. Perhaps you were able to shirk off the blame, and throw the responsibility on the kid who slung a rubber band at the back of Molly’s head. But this wasn’t success, you simply avoided blame. If the other kid fessed up, he came out looking better than you! He took responsibility. You shirked responsibility, while placing blame.

The whole thing is wildly unfair.

While Bin Laden’s arsenal was far more dangerous than an unguided rubber band in a classroom, shirking responsibility yields correspondingly similar results. The structure doesn’t change, only the stakes do.

Bin Laden’s capacity never scared me nearly as much as the free-range fly zone over our nation’s capitol nearly an hour after two major terrorist attacks. One of these is gone. The other can only be secured through responsibility.

Security has been tightened at airports. Now, despite millions of frequent flyer miles, you or I can be groped like a private lap dancer in front of disgruntled passengers. This wasn’t the ‘responsibility’ I was hoping for. Box cutters weren’t the reason for the terrorist attack.

I think Pilots should have seats which weigh them. When they get up, only their exact weight will be able to fly. In addition, there needs to be a code every time a pilot sits down. Without that code, the plane goes on autopilot. Needless to say, Pilots should have a monitor, with a camera looking into the cabin.

So we have been wrong for 10 years, but now we are all right.

As George Carlin said, “We like war! We’re a warlike country. We’re good at it!” But our vulnerabilities are as wide as the Grand Canyon. While my trust in our government wasn’t changed knowing we corralled Bin Laden in under a decade, implementing the ideas I mentioned would help me sleep. Once we are able to ignore Bin Laden – thus giving him the attention he truly deserves – I will celebrate heartily.

I like to think I can make a difference.

I need to get over myself.

Food Pyramid

The American Diabetes Association had a life-threatening food pyramid on their website. This is no myth. There you could find your path to lofty glucose – in beautiful Carbohydrate-laden technicolor – right on their website:

http://tobyhowl.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/food-pyramid-for-diabetes-designed-by-american-diabetic-association-ada/

In August, I wrote to the American Diabetes Association, succinctly explaining my medical perspective:

From:  <me>
Sent:  8/1/2010 02:03:55 AM
To:  <AskADA@diabetes.org>
Subject:  food pyramid

You forgot to mention smoking illicit substances. This should be right
at the base of the food pyramid, as whoever put the listed foods as
the ‘foundation’ for a diabetic diet was surely imbibing.

It seems that not only don’t these items belong in the ‘foundation’
position, they should pretty much be eliminated altogether from a
diabetic diet. Diabetics who follow the food pyramid listed on the ADA
website are putting themselves at a tremendous health risk.

Who created the diabetic food pyramid, and why hasn’t the ADA changed
it?

Please get back to me on this, as the health of millions of people
worldwide is at stake.

Sincerely, Yours Truly

I got the following response back:

Date:     August 9, 2010 9:09:46 AM EDT

Dear Sir,

Thank you for contacting the American Diabetes Association. We have received your e-mail regarding the food pyramid.

We apologize for the delay in response to you e-mail. We’re in the process of getting rid of the pyramid. There were concerns about analytics etc.

Sincerely,
Jane Nyondo
Center for Information and Community Support
American Diabetes Association
1-800-342-2383

I like to think I can do some good in the world. Perhaps somewhere, someone has benefitted from my actions. Although their website is still laced with horrible food misinformation, today they have eliminated the food pyramid:

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/diabetes-food-pyramid.html

While I offer no proof, perhaps I have saved a life. The Health Care System, Insurance Agencies, Our Government… all needs a major overhaul. Our American system should seek things that are good, regardless of who profits. Oil exists only because their money funds campaigns. How do you change a system which is literally fueled (paid for) by the toxins living in the bloodstream of voters?

Sure, we can vote. But funding determines outcomes, not issues. If voters spent more time investigating the funding for the politicians, their perspective would change dramatically. Fortunately, there is funding in place to make sure voters are oriented towards the issues out of the mouths of politicians, rather than their diametrically opposed funding.

When Pepsi helps to sponsor the ‘run for Diabetes’, is the Diabetes Association going to give an honest evaluation of Pepsi in a Diabetic diet?

When Philip Morris sits on the board at the American Cancer Association…

When Big Oil funds Al Gore… (It wasn’t on purpose, it was Occidental).

People believe what they are fed, while ignoring the ingredients.

Is it truth or myth? Take a little myth, mix in a dose of personal experience and, voila! You become a myth-mongering man on a mission to dispel the mythtics, or you eschew knowledge of disinformation from a personal perspective.

The National Pharmaceutical Association makes money off prescriptions. Doctors make money off patients needing prescriptions.

Only experience can change a myth to a reality. Your health is – and has always been – in your hands.

Health Insurance

I went to the doctor’s office this past week. This was my first visit since my diabetic prognosis reared it’s ugly (half-millennium glucose mark) around 7 weeks ago. The disease is calming down. The Doc was impressed, though he wants to see me lose more weight. It seems extra exercise is in order. Perhaps a gym membership.

I spoke to my sister Liz today. I asked her if she thought insurance would cover a health club membership. “They are not going to cover that.” She said. “People who are obese go to the doctor all the time. If Insurance paid for that, everyone who was obese would be covered.”

I said, “I’m not so sure. I have a medical condition. I have a disease. A health club membership would immensely help my glucose levels.”

“Well,” she said, “Good luck with that.

I then called my health insurance company to discuss coverage for a health club membership. As my sister had prophesied, they do not have these benefits. I am not surprised, but I am incredulous: “You will cover drugs which cost more than a health-club membership, but you won’t cover a membership to a health club?”

“No we don’t cover that.” she said.

I said, “You will cover me if I am hospitalized, and I need an operation. You cover hospital stays… but you won’t cover the cost of a membership to a health club which would prevent these other costs?”

“That is right.” She said.

About 10 years ago a huge branch from the only tree on my (in-town) property fell onto my yard. I called my insurance company. They told me they would come and take the branch away, and repair the damage caused by the fallen branch. I told them that the tree was rotten and needed to come down. “We don’t take down trees which are standing,” they said, “only the branches which fall.”

“I don’t know if termites or carpenter ants have been inhabiting this tree for many years, but it’s completely rotten. It is hollow inside. This is a big tree.” I said.

“We don’t get rid of trees, sir.” They said.

“Okay,” I said, “let me give you a little background: This tree abuts my garage. The eaves of my garage – and my next-door neighbor’s garage – overhang each other. If the tree falls, it will take out my garage, and the neighbors garage. The neighbors had a fire a few years back, so their house has been totally re-done. So it is possible this tree will take out both garages and break into the brand-new house next door. Or, perhaps it will bounce off the new house and land on my other neighbor’s house. It doesn’t matter to me, though. I am just letting you know, because you are the ones who will be paying for it.”

They came out, took a look, and had the tree removed.

I spoke their language! But when it comes to health insurance, the language isn’t about health, at all! If dental insurance allowed 4 cleanings a year, they would be paying a lot less in fillings. That is dental health, but it is not a language insurance agencies speak. I feel sorry to these poor workers who have to deal with me on the phone, I really do. They have no answers and no authority. They only have the ability to regurgitate policy. Before I called, they probably hadn’t even considered whether or not it made any sense. Apparently, I am the only one who has noticed the snake eating it’s own tail. I said to the agent:

“You will cover drugs, but you won’t cover the activities which would alleviate the need for drugs. You will cover sickness, but you won’t cover health.”

“If you want to put it that way.” She said.

“It doesn’t matter how I phrase it. That is the way it is.” I said. (The rest is just semantics.)

Tonight I rode my bike for 45 minutes. My blood sugar dropped to 105.

Can I get a witness?

Ice Cream Stand

Okay, here’s just a little quirk of mine: A pet peeve, which peeves me more than my pet peeving all over the floor.

When you go to an ice cream stand, why can’t they exchange the money before making your order? This is almost never done.

I order a cone. The worker makes my cone, and hands it to me. As I hold the ice cream cone, it begins to melt. I take out my wallet with my other hand. I flop it open on the counter, trying to pry some dollars out of it, while pushing back those I don’t need. Since I don’t know how much the cone is (until it is dripping on my hand,) I am unable to gather whatever change I have. So I pull out the largest possible dollar, producing the greatest amount of change. I flip my wallet shut and secure it in my pocket. I then switch hands, take the change, and put it in my other pocket. (If I put the change in the same pocket, all the loose dollars would come flying out when I pulled out the wallet). After I am done with the ice cream cone, I take my sticky hands and put them into my pockets, so I can put the change in it’s proper place. The sticky remnants are now in my pocket, and on the dollars which are against the walls of my wallet.

Wouldn’t it just be easier to exchange the money first? I think it would also be easier to leave a tip, when the sticky-drip jugglefest isn’t in session.