Tag Archives: cell phones

How did we do it in the old days?

How in the name of technology did we survive without cell phones? That’s the question I keep asking — rhetorically, of course — as I learn about how school districts are cracking down on students’ packing cell phones into the classroom.

Richardson Independent School District, just down the highway from where my wife and I live, is the latest district to experiment with a plan to force students to lock up their phones before going to school.

I want to applaud Richardson ISD. Indeed, my hope is that school administrators make the ban a permanent one. I also believe school systems all across the country would do well to follow Richardson ISD’s lead.

I’m an old man. I recall the old days when the only way Mom or Dad could contact me in school was to call the school secretary and leave a message. The office staff would get the message to me and I would call back; it was usually Mom who would place the call.

No worries back then.

These days, though, are different. Moms and Dads need to be able to speak immediately to their little darlin’s.

Here’s the thing: Richardson is taking a proactive approach to reducing classroom distractions. Children attend school to learn their lessons. Their parents send them to school to learn as well. Cell phones can be a major distraction, not to mention serving as a tool for bullies and others who would inflict potential harm on those precious children.

I applaud Richardson ISD’s effort to restore a learning environment and I hope other school systems follow suit.


Phones make my head spin

Whenever I have to discuss telephone technology with anyone younger than, say, 30 my head starts spinning around like a top … kinda like Linda Blair’s noggin spun around in the “The Exorcist.”

It happened again today. I purchased a new cellular telephone. My old one croaked on me. It wouldn’t hold a charge. So, with my son’s help this weekend I found a juiced-up new phone and today I trudged to the phone store in Princeton to select what we had chosen.

Now, it got dicey when the young woman who I guess is in her late 20s began chattering in technospeak. I told her she might as well speak to me in Martian. My age was obvious to her, so she got it.

I then reminded her to ask her grandparents about the phones they used when they were her age. Her immediate response was, “My grandpa didn’t have a phone.” Well … there you go.

Furthermore, I told my young friend, there was a time when I was a boy that my parents purchased a new telephone for the kitchen wall plug-in that had a “coiled” cord that allowed whoever was talking on the phone to walk away from the wall a little farther; we weren’t restricted by the stiff cord that came with the previous phone. It was a big deal, I told her. She got it!

It’s a different era these days. I won’t call it a “new” era, because cell phones aren’t all that new.

I try to be a relatively hip old guy. At times, though, the language used to navigate through all this high-powered technology flies over my occasionally thick skull. I’m getting better at understanding some of it.

It’s going to take a good while longer for me to obtain total fluency … if that day ever arrives.


How about cell phone ban enforcement?

My wife and I live in a house that is about 50 feet past a sign that marks the end of a “school zone” in Princeton, Texas.

I am mentioning that because of something I witness repeatedly: the sight of drivers using hand-held devices while they pass through a zone where such activity is illegal.

Indeed, using hand-held devices while driving a motor vehicle is against state law. The Texas Legislature made it so in 2019 and Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law. It was a long slog to get it enacted. Then-Gov. Rick Perry vetoed an earlier bill on grounds that it infringed on driver’s “personal liberty.” Sheesh.

My point is that law enforcement officers surely have a headache trying to enforce this law. It’s one thing, I suppose, to pull someone over on a suspicion of illegal activity. Police officers I know have told me over many years they can act only when they witness a crime being committed.

So, does a police officer pull someone over when they witness that motorist yapping on a cell phone that he or she is holding up to his or her ear? I would hope that would be the case.

My witnessing of such law-breakers driving through my neighborhood, though, suggest to me that enforcement of this law isn’t a sufficient deterrent against motorists from fumbling with a cell phone while driving a two-ton motor vehicle … in a school zone!


Happy Trails, Part 186: Not missing the land line

When you retire from the working world, I have found that you embark on a series of new customs. You at times forsake the old way for the new way and then hope the new way feels as comfortable as what you had all those years ago.

So it has been with my phone service.

My wife and I disconnected our land line several months before we moved from Amarillo to the Metroplex. We moved into our fifth wheel and lived in it while we prepared our house for sale.

We both had been tethered to the land line since we were children. My parents had no choice, naturally; neither did hers. We found ourselves with that kind of choice our parents never had.

So we disconnected our land line. We rely exclusively these days on our cell phones.

Let me stipulate that I do not use my cell phone for many tasks other than speaking to people. I do take pictures with it. I use a number of apps on the device, such as the Google app that guides me to unfamiliar locations. There are some others as well.

What I find myself doing, though, is leaving my cell phone at home if I take off to run a local errand. I look at the device this way: If someone wants to talk to me, they can call my cell phone, leave a message and I’ll answer it when I return from my errand. Hey, it’s like the old days! Except that the phone isn’t hooked up to a wire coming out of the wall.

So I am able to pretend I have a land line when I don’t. It works out well for me. Even when I have the cell phone with me, I am able to say with a clear conscience that I do not miss the land line.

Adaptability is all it’s cracked up to be.

Cameras are … everywhere!

Walking through a teeming crowd of Christmas revelers this weekend, I was struck by the sight of the 21st century’s most ubiquitous device.

Cell phones, man! Everyone has one. And, yes, they all are equipped with picture-taking “apps” that turn these telecommunications devices into cameras.

It begs the obvious question, which you well might anticipate.

Why in the name of social media invasion do celebrities of any stripe — politics, entertainment, athletics, whatever — allow themselves to be photographed doing something they shouldn’t be doing?

Every person is a potential paparazzo. They see someone famous acting up — or acting out! — they point their phone/camera at them and snap pictures to be recorded for everyone to see. By “everyone,” I mean potentially every human being on Earth; at last count that number was well north of 7 billion.

Yet we keep hearing about individuals who get caught punching someone out, or acting inappropriately after consuming too many adult beverages.

I suppose this is my way of saying that if it’s understood by most of us that cell phone cameras are as plentiful as we know they are, then celebrities who get caught misbehaving deserve the recrimination that comes their way.

‘Right of privacy’ argument doesn’t work

I have made this point before, but it’s worth making again. A fellow who comments occasionally on this blog took note of how those who gripe about red-light cameras cite a phony infringement on their “right of privacy.”

He notes correctly that when motorists travel on public streets and are required to follow the law they surrender their “right of privacy.”

At issue is the future of red light cameras in cities across Texas. The Legislature is considering whether to pull back its authorization for cities to deploy the cameras to help deter motorists from running through red lights.

There is no such thing as a “right of privacy” when motorists put other motorists and pedestrians in peril when they break the law.

The cameras do have their critics. They say the timing of the light sequence from yellow to red can be unfair to motorists trying to sneak through under yellow.

Right of privacy, though, doesn’t cut it. I am reminded of the time then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill that banned cell phone use while driving. He cited the legislation as an invasion of motorists’ right of privacy.

Gov. Perry’s thinking at the time was idiotic. The gripes now about red light cameras and the privacy issue are equally idiotic.

‘Lock him up, lock him up’?

What in the name of national security is going on here?

The New York Times reports that Donald John Trump is using an unsecured cell phone to talk about, oh, matters involving national security. And … the Chinese and the Russians are eavesdropping on him.

Wait just a doggone minute, will ya?

Weren’t the Republican mobs yelling “Lock her up!” when questions arose about Hillary Rodham Clinton using a personal e-mail server while she was secretary of state during the first term of the Obama administration? Didn’t the Republican nominee for president say that “if you’re listening,” the Russians should look for the missing e-mails?

Of course, the president challenges the NYT’s reporting on the story. He said in a tweet: The so-called experts on Trump over at the New York Times wrote a long and boring article on my cellphone usage that is so incorrect I do not have time here to correct it. I only use Government Phones, and have only one seldom used government cell phone. Story is soooo wrong!

I’ll take the president at his word that the Times is “soooo wrong” when the newspaper retracts or “clarifies” the story.

In the meantime, I’ll refrain from leading any “Lock him up” chant, given that I’ve been highly critical of the GOP mobs’ call to lock up Hillary Clinton without anything approaching due process.

Although this also must be said: Even though Hillary endured “due process” through endless congressional hearings on the e-mail matter, and was found to have committed no crimes, the “Lock her up!” bellowing has persisted.

We’re better than that now, though. Aren’t we?

Phone books? Pfftt! Who needs ’em?

You’re going to accuse me of being way too slow on the uptake.

I don’t care. I am going to make this declaration anyway. You are welcome to disparage me if you so desire. I’m tough. I can take it.

I have finally come to grips with the fact that I no longer need a telephone directory to find a phone number I need to call.

Yep. Just like the rest of you I am packing my “directory” on my hip. It’s clipped to my belt in the same device I use to scroll the wire services, check my daily page-view stats on High Plains Blogger and, oh, make a phone call when I need to talk to someone.

That ol’ smart phone serves the same purpose the phone book used to serve. I just Google the subject, the nature of the business and I can find it quickly. I hit the “call” button on my screen and, well, there you go.

OK, you can stop laughing at me.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I declared victory in my campaign to be the last man on Earth to own a cellular telephone. It was my mission. I was dedicated to seeing it through.

Finally, I just thought I’d declare victory. I made it! Then I got a flip-phone that worked for good while. I graduated to something a bit more, um, sophisticated. Then I upgraded to the phone I have now.

It’s a slick device.

One of the many discoveries I made about it was the using it to locate a phone number is far less cumbersome, frustrating and annoying than using a printed phone book.

You know why, but I’ll explain it briefly anyhow.

In the not-too-distant old days, I would find that the person whose number I was seeking in the phone book wasn’t listed; he or she had cut off the land line and the cell number wasn’t in the book. If I needed to look in the Yellow Pages for a business phone number, I often would get frustrated slogging through the various topics trying to find the business.

My wife and I severed our land line when we moved into our RV in October 2017 while we prepared to sell our Amarillo house. That event proved to be far less traumatic than I had anticipated.

I wrote about this notion three years ago:

Get rid of the land line? Not just yet

As my comfort level with my smart phone has grown, I have discovered — finally! — that phone books no longer serve a useful purpose.

Are you proud of me?

Trying to understand non-helmet law in Texas

INTERSTATE 35 NORTH OF AUSTIN, Texas — Normally, the sight of four women on motorcycles speeding past us in heavy traffic wouldn’t be worth a comment on this blog.

But I noticed something about these individuals when they zoomed on past: All of them were wearing helmets.

That elicited a comment to my wife and we drove along in our Prius. “You know, it seems that women motorcyclists appear to be far more likely to wear those helmets than men,” I said. It didn’t draw much of a response from my wife.

Hey, maybe it isn’t worth much of any comment.

However, it does bring to mind a couple of thoughts I want to share.

One is that women motorcyclists — and this is just an anecdotal observation on my part — are much smarter than men when it comes to motor vehicle safety. I’ll have to check some traffic studies to validate that observation. Or, perhaps I’ll just let it stand on its own.

The second thought is that I don’t know why the Texas Legislature decided in 1995 to repeal the motorcycle helmet requirement in the first place.

Legislators did that also while increasing the speed limit on Texas highways from 55 to 70 mph, a move made possible when Congress that year removed the federal mandate, giving states the option of setting their own speed limits. Texas legislators and the governor at the time, George W. Bush, jumped all over it.

I’ve seen the studies about how helmets save lives. They help prevent traumatic head wounds. Yet the state said motorcyclists 21 years of age and older need not wear them. The state would require a $10,000 insurance policy, instead. Do you know how quickly a serious injury would gobble up that amount of money? Just … like … that!

The state requires everyone in automobiles to wear seat restraints. It tells us to fasten our young children into approved safety-seat. Just this past year, the Legislature banned the use of hand held telephones and texting devices while operating a motor vehicle.

Good for them. On all counts.

Motorcyclists, though, are given the freedom to expose themselves to grievous injury or death.

I don’t get it. Nor will I ever understand that bit of so-called “logic.”

Cell phones in prison? Really?

LAKE ARROWHEAD STATE PARK, Texas — I know I am missing something, but I have to offer this rant nevertheless.

My wife and I are parked overnight in this state park. While relaxing in our RV, I heard a news report about a prison riot in South Carolina. Seven inmates died in the stab fest.

Officials blame “illegal cell phones” for the riot that became a battle over territory inside the maximum-security lockup.

Illegal cell phones? What does that mean? Oh, I guess it means the inmates acquired them through mail that had been sent to them from The Outside.

Let me think about this. If I were King of the World, here’s what I would do:

I would confiscate every piece of electronic equipment inside the prison.

I would start by ordering prison security officers to enter every cell in the lockup, strip-search every inmate, tear their bedding apart if need be and look for these cell phones.

Then I would set up a sort of “extreme screening” of every piece of mail that comes into the prison. Every package would get opened and examined for contraband. Cell phones constitute “contraband.”

These individuals broke serious state laws in South Carolina. They sacrificed most of their rights. Sure, they deserve some rights as citizens. They do not deserve to be subjected to “cruel and unusual punishment.” The deserve to live in quarters that allow them a modicum of space; Texas prisons were put under a federal court control over that issue, if you’ll recall.

Living in a cell-phone-free zone, though, doesn’t qualify as “cruel” or “unusual” in this context.

There you have it. Rant is over.