Friday, September 21, 2012

The amazing new iPhone 5 is here!

Today Apple released the much-anticipated iPhone 5. It has many features that, apparently, we cannot live without. The first of which is an alarm clock. Several billion people have been camping out on the doorsteps of Apple stores across the country in hopes of being one of the lucky few to grab one of these new phones. When asked why they were camping out, several replied that they were afraid they would not be up early enough to beat the rush. 

As eager as some people are to be able to use their brand new ultra-expensive alarm clocks to wake up in the morning, Swiss Rail, the national railroad of Switzerland, was not happy with the new iPhone. It alleges that the phone's clock infringes on a patent, for a clock,(picture below, from that they have held for almost 70 years . To clarify, they have had the patent for all those years, the clock I am not sure about. On the face of it, there are some similarities between the two clocks. An Apple spokesphone stated that “we will not be railroaded in this matter. The iPhone does not infringe on any Swiss patents, just as a common kitchen knife does not infringe on the patent for a Swiss Army knife because they are both sharp.”

Besides the alarm clock, other updates include a larger screen. The largest group of new smart phone buyers are the 40 and over demographic, and apparently Apple has realized that some of us in that category resent having to take out our reading glasses just to set our alarm clock.

Getting back to the patent infringement, it would seem to me that the patent holders of the Swiss Army knife actually have a case for infringement against Apple. The Swiss Army knife is a collection of many different tools, all in one knife, such as scissors, toothpick, knife, etc.  The iPhone, with all of the apps that can be downloaded, is a collection of many different tools in one package. iPhones can play music, scan barcodes, solve complex equations, act as a GPS, keep track of appointments, and of course, they have the ubiquitous alarm clock.

All of this patent-infringing, space- aged, cutting-edge technology makes me long for the good old days of telecommunication. Remember good old rotary dial phones. The big black hunks of plastic, with the coiled cord that would insidiously wrap around your neck as you paced and talked. Those cords probably choked a good number of people to death; but I miss them. Which causes me to wonder, can you actually make phone calls with the iPhone? One contemporary philosopher has put this question succinctly, and I quote,

Hey, I just met you, 
And this is crazy,
But here’s my number,
So call me, maybe.
-Carly Rae Jepsen.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The first week of school: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

My very first ever blog post was about confusing technological phrases. In that post, I mentioned that Eldest, who was then in High School, was taking Spanish as her foreign language. Now she is in college and is majoring in English and Spanish. She has the same professor I had when I went back to finish my degree. The professor doesn’t know Eldest and I are related, and that is a good thing. She is also taking English Literature with the same professor I had in college. He knows she is my daughter, and that isn’t a good thing, but I hope he doesn’t hold it against her.

 Middlest, who was a freshman, was taking Latin. I originally thought it was so she could talk to Latvians, but apparently since Latin is a dead language, she wants to talk to dead people. Some time ago she took the National Latin Exam and won some sort of metal; it was either gold, silver, aluminum, or latinium. This year Middlest has elected to continue with taking Latin, and in addition she is taking Spanish, starting in Spanish 2, rather than Spanish 1. When her teacher explained something to her, another student stated they already knew that. The teacher replied that they had a Latin Scholar in class who hadn’t taken the first year of Spanish and needed a little extra explanation. Some of the students responded, “What is a scholar?” Middlest, as she related the story, simply shook her head, put it in her hand and said, “Oh heaven! Bless their poor souls.”

Littlest was taking French and continues to do well. About her teacher for Advanced Placement World History, we are a little suspect. She asks questions like, “Does anyone know where the glossary in the textbook is?” and “How would I use the table of contents?” These questions both exasperate and worry Littlest. She is concerned that if “the teacher doesn’t know the answers to these simple questions, what is she going to do when she has to teach us about Ibn Battuta and his impact on the world view and his insights into lifestyles of the peoples of the early 14th century?”

Littlest was thrilled to announce that after 7 days of classroom instruction, her History teacher is giving a quiz. When I asked what period of history the  quiz was going to cover she replied, “The past week and a half and all she has talked about is class room rules and the difference between taking a regular history class and an Advanced Placement history class. She has yet to teach us anything, so the quiz is going to be less of a history quiz and more of a current non-event quiz.”

Friday, September 7, 2012

How was your first day of school?

Today was the day; the day that children have been dreading, and parents have been yearning for all summer. It was the first day of school. I celebrated by going to work, driving a school bus. When I got to the garage, other drivers were gearing up for a busy morning. Soon, they had all left and I was hanging out waiting to see if my boss needed me. Sure enough, after a few moments of quiet, my boss looked out the window and barked, “Distaffen! There is a bus out there; go fire her up and pick up some kids and get ‘em to school.”

I asked which kids I should take to which school. There are a lot of children and a lot of schools in the district I work for.

“I don’t care!” He snarled, “Just get ‘em to school. Let the teachers and administrators figure it out, and smartify them. That is what they got all those college degrees for.”

I dutifully went out and started picking up students and dropping them off at school. Lots of different students, in different neighborhoods, and when I passed a school, I would drop some of them off. Although, once I mistook a lumberyard for a school, and the students pointed out my mistake.

When I got back from picking up dozens of students and dropping them off at a myriad of schools, my boss asked me how it went. “Just fine,” I replied. He grunted, “Fine? Then come back this afternoon.”

That afternoon I returned and looked around for my boss. He was chewing out a mechanic for using an amber light bulb instead of a yellow one. The mechanic looked plaintively at me. All I could do was spread my hands and shrug, because I couldn’t tell the difference either.

Finally, the tirade relented and my boss spotted me. “Distaffen! What are you doing back here?”

“You told me to come back this afternoon.”

“Well, yeah, whatever. Remember those kids your dropped off at school this morning?”


“Go put them back.”

My children’s first day wasn’t much better. Except I think they had a good bus driver. Littlest and Middlest had large packets of surveys to complete. Beloved and I had stacks of papers to sign, assuring that our daughters would be respectful, involved, and interested members of the learning community. I always have nightmares that one of them will yawn in class and the school police will hunt me down with a copy of my signature on one of those forms, and when they find me, they make me go to detention.

Eldest, who is finishing up her secon week of her freshman year lamented over a paper she had to write for some guy named Phil. I asked her who Phil was and why she was writing his paper. She groaned, “Daddy, Phil isn’t a person, it is a class in Philosophical Ethics”

I couldn’t help her, so off we went to see grandpa, who has a bunch of college degrees and he smartified her.