Many Are Called, But…

If you live in a city, you probably think that cell phones are ubiquitous. You see people using them in the grocery store, or while driving their car and even while in the bathroom.

As hard as it may be to believe, there are still plenty of places in the world where cell phone coverage isn’t available or is just now coming in.

Can you hear me now? (Credit: Alan D. Wilson, via Wikimedia Commons)
Can you hear me now? (Credit: Alan D. Wilson, via Wikimedia Commons)

Take the far north: Service providers are reluctant to set up in places like Inuvik. It’s hard to make a profit when you have a huge land mass to cover, and a very low population.

But those are only the two most obvious problems. Consider the issue of where to locate towers:

TECHNICIAN ONE: Joe, it’s Mike. We’ve lost coverage around Tuktoyaktuk again. Can you check the tower?
TECHNICIAN TWO: Sure. [Pause]. There’s no tower.
MIKE: What do you mean there’s no tower?!
JOE: Well you know how last month, we had to move it 500 feet so it wouldn’t be on the caribou stampede path?
MIKE: Yeah?
JOE: It looks like we put the tower on a frozen lake.
MIKE: A lake?! But the map…
JOE: Was wrong. And we just started spring thaw here. Know anyone with cold weather scuba gear? A really strong fishing pole?

Using a cell phone would also be difficult. Residents must wear, on average, 54 layers of clothing to stay warm. You couldn’t hear a phone ring under all that insulation, so you would have to A) Use the vibrate feature to know someone was calling and B) Keep the phone close to the skin so that the layers wouldn’t muffle the vibration as well.

This means that normally quiet, sane people will suddenly be seen to leap into the air, fall to the ground, and laugh hysterically while digging through layers of clothes to stop the tickling.

Once the phone has been extracted, the user would have less than 2.5 seconds to stuff it under the 23 layers of headgear to take the call. The phone you see, could stand 2.3 seconds of exposure to the extreme cold. At 2.4 seconds it would have become cold enough to stick to the user’s ear, requiring the application of either boiling water or surgery to remove. At 2.5 seconds, the phone would freeze solid and shatter. “Hello, are you there? Your call is breaking up!”

Using the special features of cell phones would be just as difficult. Text messages are hard enough to decipher at the best of times. When entered with gloved fingers, something like: MEETING RUNNING LATE. CUL8R! would become MNERERYTIONMGH RTUINMNMINMGF LKASTRER. CVU89TYER!@

Camera phones would be equally useless, at least outdoors. It’s dark 24 hours a day for roughly half the year in the far north, and if it isn’t dark, it’s snowing. Photos would have to be captioned: “Bob in his black parka, 2 p.m. If you squint you can see the flash reflecting off his visor.” Or “Polar bears checking out our white pickup truck, blizzard of December ’05.”

Speaking of polar bears, can you just imagine if any of the local wildlife managed to snag your cell phone? Trying to get the charges reversed from your bill would be a nightmare.

JULIE: Hello I need to dispute my recent charges.
DODGERS WIRELESS REP: Which ones please?
JULIE: I didn’t make 32 calls to the Aklavik Pizzeria.
REP: Ma’am, you’ll need to provide some proof that-
JULIE: They only serve pizza with seal toppings. And there’s an overfed bear passed out in my driveway, clutching the remains of my cell phone.
REP: Yeah right, why don’t you send photos of that…
JULIE: Yes, photos — I also didn’t download 425 mb of images from the Polar Bears 2014 calendar website.
REP: You can’t possibly expect me to believe…
JULIE: Further, I did not download the games Penguin Bowling, Polar Express, or Ice Fishing Derby.
REP: Ma’am this is ridiculous, I—
JULIE: Shall I put the bear on the line?

In spite of the obstacles however, it’s good to see that our northern cousins are finally getting access to the same sorts of modern conveniences we are.

Now they too can be annoying in movie theatres.




Dear Facebook, please ban motivational quote pictures

motivationalDon’t get me wrong, I loves me some positive thinking and encouraging words.

But if I see one more post that quotes the Dalai Lama, Albert Einstein, or Sophocles, I may barf.

You see, before digitization made it uber easy to share inspirational words, we only got occasional doses of motivation by picking up a copy of Bartlett’s, or by picking up a plaque at the local decor store.

Now, you can hardly log in to any social network without seeing a virtual torrent of bromides.

Oh, lighten up, you say. Where’s the harm?

Because it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

For the readers of such posts, motivation has become cheap, free, and easy. We’re deluged in positivity; it has become commoditized, in the same way that amazing, high-definition photographs of beautiful things have become commoditized.

And ask yourself, what did you do the last time you saw one of these motivational posts? Chances are you said to yourself “Wow, dude, that’s deep,” clicked Like, and moved on to the LOLcats.

You didn’t really read it, much less internalize it, or allow it to change you.

If you’re the person posting, it gives you a false sense of yourself. It makes you feel deep and profound and thoughtful, when you’re not being any of those just now, really. You could be. But posting borrowed thoughts gets in the way of coming up with something of your own.

Worst of all, constant bathing in shallow positivity doesn’t prepare you for when shit gets real. Life is not all rainbows and unicorns, and sadly, wishing doesn’t make it so. If you don’t take a realistic view of things, you can be blindsided and have no real way to cope.

Finally, it also masks the real problems people have in the rest of the world. You and I lead comfy, cozy middle-class lives, but there are billions who don’t, and positive thinking won’t help them much.

Positive thinking is useless without action. Great ideas are worthless without execution.

Having self-confidence issues? Go get something DONE. There’s a world of difference between being able to point to something and say, “Yeah, I read that” and “Yeah, I DID that.”

And if you do that enough times, who knows? Maybe people will someday be quoting you.

Wake Up And Smell The Tiger

Siberian Tiger Français : Tigre de sibérie Ita...
Not something you want to meet in a dark alley. Or anywhere.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On those days when you’re fed up with your job, it’s always wise to remember that it probably doesn’t rank as one of the worst in the world.

Consider the folks who are currently developing a pest repellent based on… tiger dung. Indeed, rank is probably the key word here. Leave aside for the moment the issue of checking the product for, um, accuracy, (*Sniff. Sniff. Gag.* “No, Mike, we need a touch more half-digested wild pig in the mix, I think.”), there’s also the problem of collecting comparison samples.

Max: Right, time to muck out the tiger enclosure. Shall we draw straws again? Remind me, who got the short straw last time?
Bob: Joe did.
Max: Of course, yes. And why isn’t he here?
Bob: Because he now has a very short arm. And less than 10 toes.

Given the hazards, why is anyone going to the trouble of developing tiger dung based repellent? Apparently, just the smell of tiger droppings keeps things like wild goats away from farms in Australia — in spite of the fact that goats and tigers don’t ever meet in the outback. If the repellent can be proven effective over the longer term, it will be a billion dollar industry.

Of course, any serious gardener knows that the use of scent is an important tool in pest control. Dog hair, spread liberally around your vegetable patch, is supposed to scare away rabbits and squirrels. I can’t verify this claim personally; I made the mistake of reading this tip out loud once, and my dog made off with the clippers. She was muttering something along the lines of “I will *not* be made to look like a poodle for the sake of a few carrots!”

Hunters know all about smells as well. Wander into any hunting supply store and you can buy bottles meant to make you smell like a bear, a deer, a pheasant, or even a skunk. If you prefer all-natural scents rather than synthetic ones, you can buy a bottle of racoon urine. I’m not sure I want to know how racoon piddle is harvested, although I suppose those racoons you see in commercials and movies could be subject to random drug tests as part of their contracts.

It would be nice if scents for agricultural pest control caught on. We really need to find alternatives to chemical pesticides; especially if that something doesn’t involving having to introduce a foreign species. The cane toad in was brought into Australia to eat beetles that were attacking sugar cane crops; so far the toads have eaten just about everything *but* the beetles, possibly including pets and small children.

You and I might find a use for scents in our daily lives. For example, keeping an empty wallet in your foyer might ward off door-to-door sales people. Keeping a pile of coffee grounds at your cubicle desk might suggest to your boss that you are too caffeinated to approach safely. You could also rub yourself with money before heading into the bank to apply for a loan; after all, bankers never want to loan you money when you don’t have any.

Of course, there is always the danger that the ruse will stop working after a while, or backfire. Your boss might have consumed more coffee than you have on your desk and thus be able to ignore the smell.

The consequences for animals ignoring their noses are more dire; think of a pair of those wild goats in Australia.

Bess: Look Marge, I’m telling you there are no tigers in… Oh sh-!