Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cell Phones are a Blessing and a Curse

A few years ago, my wife and I were attending her company holiday party.  As we were talking to another couple, the wife realized she had left her cell phone at home.  She said something like "dammit, I hope nothing bad happens at home."  She was saying that the kids were home with a babysitter and if something went wrong, the babysitter wouldn't be able to get ahold of her.  My wife said "what did we used to do before cell phones?"  We all laughed.

I remembered this scene after reading the article below from the New York Times, titled 'Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distractions.'  I also remembered thinking about the ride home after the party, where I thought about what used to happen before cell phones.  We would leave a note for the babysitter with the name and phone number of the place we were going.  If something happened they would call the number and someone would find us.  Nothing ever happened, but we all felt the pang of mild fear in the woman leaving her cell phone at home and couldn't immediately be in touch with her kids.

We gave our son his first cell phone when he was 14.  We wanted to be able to get in touch with him if an emergency happened, but also to contact him after school and before soccer practice.  Originally, we would call him, and leave a message if he didn't pick up.  Then we started texting him.  It was easier and he could call us if needed.

I remember one month, our son used almost 8,000 texts (sent and received).  And our texting has increased over the years.  Last month I used over 600.  We spend over $2,000 each year for cell phones (4 phones total on the family plan with unlimited texting).

My wife went to visit family recently in another state.  While she was gone, we would talk every night before bed time.  But during the day and into the evening, we would text each other occasionally to ask a question, but more likely to tell what we were doing.  "Dolphins jumping OUT of the water!" was one such text from the beach.  When I took a trip to see my parents, I remember my father saying, after watching me send and receive a few texts during the day "I don't want to be in touch with someone that much."  My sister-in-law and her boyfriend, do not have cell phones.  They don't want them.  They don't need them.  Work requires her to have one at times, but otherwise, they have never used one.   And don't plan on it.  They are the only people I personally know that do not have a cell phone.  See how an Iowa couple, addicted to the max, gave up their cell phones for a week.  Can You Live Without a Cell Phone? (ABC News)

Our son is wired.  While he is at home, and not sleeping, he is doing something with an electronic device.  Sometimes two or more at the same time.  He is either playing video games and maybe listening to music (and occasionally texting) or surfing the internet (and occasionally texting) or watching television (and occasionally texting).  Many of his friends do the same thing.  And he doesn't understand when I say something like "you should read a book once in a while."  When he is talking with my wife or myself, and his phone rings, he will answer it immediately.  He says "it's rude to whoever is calling not to answer the phone."  The times, they are a changing.

The article below gives the probable reason for it: there is no 'instant gratification' and 'it's boring to read'. 

His grades are poor (currently C's and D's) and he says he 'doesn't like school.'  Rarely do we actually see him doing any homework.  He is usually playing video games or watching television til the wee hours and then gets to his homework.  If at all.  And even when he does homework, he will watch television.  We have told him that he can't retain the homework information as well if television is going on, but he doesn't care.  "Homework is boring.  TV helps me get through it."

Is this the first generation that will watch grades steadily drop because of 'distractions?'  No.  But it IS the first generation that has more ways to stay connected with friends than ever before.  When the telephone came to be, you could talk with someone, even all day, but it was one person at a time.  Now you can chat on Facebook, update your status, text, talk on the phone, then play networked video games with your friends, while talking to them on your headset (and occasionally text others).

The following article talks about students, their schoolwork and homework, and the distractions that keep them from it.

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction (New York Times)

Comic:  Distraction (All Things Digital)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Playing chess in the park? Must bring a child with you.

Police have issued summonses to chess players who are 'unaccompanies by minors' in New York public playgrounds.  The playgrounds have signs that say adults must be accompanied or they cannot be in the play area.  Chess players are incensed, saying "What is so harmful with chess?"

While chess isn't really the issue, the intent of the law is plain: the playground is designed for children and 'unaccompanied adults' are not welcome.

‘Police! Step Away From the Chess Table’ (New York Times)

While I feel for the chess players, if they want to play, they can find another area or get the law changed.  And the police cannot make exceptions.  Allowing one group and not another would not be a fair way of dealing with the issue.

In the meantime, the chess players are required to go to court before the end of the year where they may pay a $50 fine.  Nothing is listed in the article, but I would think that they would be given a warning before any summonses are issued since this is a minor infraction by anyone's measure.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is that abstract art or a diseased lung?

No later than Oct 22, 2012, all cigarette packages must carry a new graphic on their packaging and in advertising.  The graphics will be of such things as a person smoking with smoke coming out of a hole in their throat or a corpse with their chest stitched up.  These new warnings will help "in protecting our children and the health of the American public.” (HHS)

It's not enough that we have education in schools telling children the dangers.  It's not enough that we have a Sin Tax on cigarettes to dissuade people from smoking.  It's not enough that there are currently warnings on cigarette packages stating things like "Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy."

Yes, smoking is dumb.  Yes, smoking makes your breath and clothes smell awful.  Yes, smoking kills people.  But as long as these adults are smoking of their own accord and it doesn't affect others, including children, there should be no laws or taxes to prevent or dissuade them from doing so.

Just one more step down the path of a police state.  Someone doesn't like that you do something they deem offensive, so they do everything legal to get you to stop.  What is the next one?  Photos of auto accidents on alcohol containers?  Cheese packages with photos of clogged arteries?

If people don't know that smoking is bad for you already, looking at a picture of a dying patient won't stop them from picking up the filthy stuff.  They smoke because they want to smoke or because they are addicted.  If they are addicted, and want to stop, they can seek help.  There are plenty of programs around to help smokers quit the disgusting habit (CDC).

Update: Last night as I was reading an Entertainment Weekly magazine, I came across an ad for USA Gold cigarettes (tagline: Your Spirit.  Your Smoke.).  How many children and teenagers will see the forthcoming ads with graphic depictions of dying and dead people?  Is this something you want your child to see?  These won't be 'movie corpses'.  These are real people.

Cigarette Packages in U.S. to Carry Images of Dead Bodies, Diseased Lungs (Bloomberg)

Proposed Cigarette Product Warning Labels (FDA)

Lots of good comments here:  Cigarette Warnings Go Gruesome: Did the Health Police Go Too Far?
Previous post on Sin Tax

Update: I did not realize other countries have photos on their cigarette packaging already. Cigarette Warning Labels: Brazil's More Shocking than Ours (CBSNews)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

High heels are BAD!

Let me put this right out front: women's legs look awesome when the woman is wearing high heels.

Having said that, I would be happy to never see another pair of awesome legs if all women would wear shoes that are good for their feet.  Or at least not horrible for their feet.

There are no end of stories and studies to show that wearing high heels are bad for feet and legs.

Why High Heels Hurt Even After You Take Them Off (NPR)
Women's High Heel Shoes Lead To Same Problems As Foot Binding In China (The Fun Times Guide)

But that doesn't mean that wearing flat shoes (flip flops and the like) are good for you: The Worst Shoes for Your Feet (Web MD)

Does it deter women when they hear wearing high heels is bad for them?  Are they second-guessing buying a pair of pumps when they know their feet will hurt?  Do smokers stop smoking when they hear how bad tobacco is for them?  "Some people care more about how a shoe makes them look than how it makes their body feel. In fact, 42% of women say they’d wear shoes that are uncomfortable in order to look more stylish, says an American Podiatric Medical Association study."  (Readers Digest)  The fact that this number is so high is depressing.  The only bright spot is that more than half of those polled said they would NOT wear uncomfortable shoes just to look good.  But that number is not high enough.

So what should women wear?  It depends upon the situation, but generally something with good arch support and well-padded.

Types of Shoes (
Selecting Walking Shoes (The Walking Site)