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That’s Right, I Invented Tokémon Woah.

1 Aug

by Roger White

 

It hit me—almost literally—the other day just how pervasive this Pokémon Go craze is when my daughter yelled at me to stop the car (in the middle of the road, mind you) as I was driving in our neighborhood. Panicked, I slammed on the brakes, fearing I’d unknowingly plowed over a squirrel or baby deer or a neighbor kid or two.

 

“Wait! Wait, I almost got him,” Lindsey ordered. She had her cell phone aimed at a stand of trees beyond the curb.

 

“What? What is it?” I cried, scanning the area for a gray fox or some rare albino ocelot or something.

 

uh, Magmar“It’s Magmar. There, I got him!”

 

I kept eyeing the trees to our right, hoping for a glimpse of the magmar, whatever the heck a magmar was, until the driver behind me honked at me to get my butt in gear.

 

“Magmar?” I asked, waving apologetically at the driver’s one-finger salute to my traffic faux pas. “What is that? Like a roadrunner or something?”

 

My daughter scoffed at my ignorance. “Magmar, Dad. He’s a Pokémon dude. Looks kinda like an angry duck on fire.”

 

Lord. “You mean I almost got us rear-ended for that silly game?”

 

“Not silly, Dad. Magmar’s very important. He could help me take over a gym.”

 

I shook my head in amazement. I wondered what the most horrifying development of the year was: the prospect of the lunatic Donald Trump becoming the leader of the free world or our country’s absurd obsession with risking life and limb to capture imaginary cartoon characters. I’d heard the stories of people getting hit by trains and walking off sheer cliffs in blind pursuit of these Pokémon creatures, but I presumed they were cautionary myths. Not so, apparently.

 

Lindsey gave me a layman’s tutorial—Pokémon Go for Dummies—whereby she explained that there are three teams of different colors: Team Mystic, Team Valor, and Team Instinct. Players join a team based on whether they think they’re brainy, strong, or intuitive. The object of the game is to capture creatures that pop up on one’s cell phone while one is out and about in the real world, then battle each other at places called Pokémon gyms. I asked Linz if they had a Team Dad, wherein players could capture beers throughout one’s house and battle to take charge of the couch. No response.

whatever

This got me thinking, however. What if we came up with a local version of Pokémon Go? Ya know, Austin being Austin, how ’bout something like Tokémon Woah? Think about it. You could have Tribe Willie, otherwise known as Acapulco Gold. Members of Tribe Willie would be guided by music, a somewhat relaxed attitude toward paying one’s taxes, and simple pleasures—like sittin’ ’round in their underwear. Then there’d be Clan Kinky, or the Grandaddy Purple Tribe. Folks drawn to Clan Kinky would be inspired by satire, matzah ball soup, and delusions of living in the governor’s mansion. And then, of course, you’d have Clique McConaughey, or Tribe Redbud. Redbud Tribe members would be moved by such things as UT football and nude bongo-playing. Alright, alright, alright.

 

Now, the object of Tokémon Woah would be to venture about the capital city in search of various Tokémon creatures, such as Budzilla, Panama Red, Buzz Lighthead, Bong Bong, Roachymon, Spliffowak, Ganjasnorf, and the like. Once you capture a Tokémon, you pluck out any wayward seeds and take your Tokémon to the nearest Tokémon CrashPad, where you compare your Tribe Willieparticular Tokémon with those from other tribes. Once it’s established which tribe has the smoothest Tokémon Woah, that tribe enjoys dominion over the album selection for that CrashPad. No Stairway or Free Bird, however. Any playing of Stairway, Free Bird, or any and all Styx selections is grounds for immediate CrashPad banishment.

 

I got really stoked about this. I went so far as to fax my game proposal to the offices of Mr. Nelson, Mr. Friedman, and Mr. McConaughey. I got two “Cease and Desist” orders and a handwritten response that simply stated, “It’d be a lot cooler if you’d leave me the hell alone.” Hmm.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a morbidly obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

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Huzzah for Hard Line on Hardheads with Handhelds! …Huh?

16 Sep

by Roger White

 

Normally, I’m not one to send out hearty huzzahs to governmental entities for actions they’ve taken, and this is likely because governmental entities these days rarely take any action at all (unless it involves evasive action from pursuing police cars, gaggles of reporters, or issues of real import). But I must say that I feel a robust huzzah coming on for the gallant move the Austin City Council made in August. The council types put their pointed noggins together and approved an ordinance banning cellphone use while driving within the Weird City Limits. So here goes. Let’s hear it: Huzzah!

 

Carl, I didn’t see you huzzah-ing.

 

I imagine that this new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2015, will be called by some shorthand name like the DWP law. Driving While Phoning. Or maybe DWT—Driving While Texting. Or we could simply stick with the term DWI and call it Driving While Intexticated. distracted dudeRegardless, label me a cappy hamper. It’s about time we put these handheld monsters in their place. I mean, crikey, time was when you saw a car weaving all over the road and sideswiping lampposts it was usually 2:30 in the morning and the driver had a handful of cheap hooch. Now, any time of day or night you can easily spy a meandering motorist, but these days he’s got his head down, engrossed in his handful of high-tech hosannas. Holy high-speed highjinks!

 

Alas, too, in the olden days, the term “distracted driving” meant that a guy was accidentally steering onto the sidewalk on Guadalupe Street because he was ogling a crowd of college coeds walking down the drag. Nowadays, it usually means somebody put his Dodge in a ditch because he was watching a Vietnamese potbellied pig play the harpsichord on Youtube. It’s insanity, man.

 

So I not only applaud the council for standing up to the mobile madness, I say we take it a few steps further. I vote we enact stiff fines, public shaming rituals, and/or jail time for the following:

  • WWT: Walking While Texting
  • WMWT: Watching a Movie While Texting
  • IYPWT: Ignoring Your Parents While Texting

And, of course:

  • CWRLPWT: Conversing With a Real Live Person While Texting

 

WWTYou’ve surely seen the videos out there of those unfortunate saps who’ve strolled into mall fountains or off sheer cliffs because of their single-minded attention to their devices. And I suppose some of the yahoos in these videos were actually watching videos of other yahoos walking into fountains or off cliffs. Gads. It’s a glimpse of infinity—the fractal geometry of the absurd. Don’t you see? Where was I?

 

Oh. Get this. The Chinese, recognizing the inherent dangers of WWT, have actually devised an urban solution. The city of Chongqing has decided to parse its sidewalks into normal human walking lanes and cellphone user lanes. Apparently, the cellphone lanes have warnings painted onto the pavement about such things as the fact that the sidewalk is ending soon, there’s a naked lady walking right next to you, and your neck could stay permanently frozen in that position if you don’t stop gawking at your phone.

 

I would guess that such walking lanes might need rumble strips or warning buzzers for the hardcore cellphone addicts who refuse to tear themselves away. Such measures may have saved WWT2the tourist in Melbourne, Australia, who walked right off a pier into the frigid waters of Port Phillip Bay recently. According to news reports, the woman thrashed about in the sea for about 20 minutes before being rescued. “There will be no need for a lost property report as the woman kept hold of her mobile phone throughout the entire ordeal,” said a local police officer. The woman’s child and two dogs, unfortunately, were never found. OK, I made that part up.

 

So, anyhow, here’s to our intrepid city council for taking a swipe at all the app-addled addicts out there. I’m with ya, pointy-noggin council types. Is it so hard for people to PUT THE PHONE DOWN? My hope is that once we move into the second phase of our fair burg’s sanctions—the laws against WWT, WMWT, and the like—that eventually we’ll develop edicts against the more grievous mobile device offenses. Such as SWT. You know. Nudge, nudge.

SWT

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Hey, You! Get Off My Cloud.

29 Apr

by Roger White

 

Our eldest offspring graduates high school this spring, and as we help her gear up for her college adventure, we find ourselves dealing with periodic outbreaks of sanguine eagerness and heartrending nostalgia. Not from Lindsey, mind you; steady girl she, this one can’t wait to hit the road. Nooy, these schizophrenic episodes of brilliant, optimistic sunshine followed by immense black clouds of wistful despair emanate from her mother and me. One minute we see our dazzling world-changer bound for an abundant horizon, and the next we cover our heads with ash lamenting lost childhood. Oh, where is that little girl we carried? If I were a rich man, yadda deeba deeba...

 

But that’s for another episode.

 

Hang with me here, however. The point I’m meandering to involves clouds and horizons and atmospheric disturbances. Kinda sorta. You see, one of the many things on the higher ed checklist for daughter numero uno is the purchase of a new laptop for our bright, shiny grad. For middle-aged, big-pink-eraser-loving boomers such as ourselves, attempting to pinpoint the optimal laptop computer amid the chrome and plastic jungle of touchpads and notebooks and ultrabooks and RAM capacity is a daunting task.

 

For example, one such high-tech, high-priced gizmatron we’ve been considering is something called the Chromebook. Have you seen this thing? From my limited understanding, a Chromebook is a laptop computer—and it isn’t. Apparently, the Chromebook doesn’t have any actual real things in its innards, such as word-processing programs and photo-editing da cloudfunctions and the like. Nope, the Chromebook points its user to the web for all that stuff. If you want to create a document, you have to access the internet to find the appropriate program, and if you want to save said document, you have to store it on the internet, too—in some nebulous realm called the Cloud.

 

I have several issues with this concept, not the least of which is understanding just what the hell it is. So I’m buying a slick, sleek, razor-thin, state-of-the-art laptop that has nothing in it? Whenever I hit any function key, do I simply get shuffled off to the interwebs?

 

Me: “Let’s see. Let’s try the calculator.” Click, clack, clack.

Chromebook: “See Cloud.”

 

Me: “Hmm. Create Word file.” Clack click.

Chromebook: “See Cloud.”

 

Me: “Well, f*#@! Chromebook, see wall.” Throw.

Chromebook: “See8 Cloj j4j. Sorry, Dave. Don’t, Dave. 601.”

 

Now, you should note that Chromebook didn’t invent this odd paradigm; it’s just the most visible example. This setup is known in the geek world as a thin client. Thin clients, to use the vernacular, “only provide a web browser and rely on web applications to provide general-purpose computing functionality and storage facilitation.” So if I crack open this here thin client, I imagine I’ll find nothing but a tiny modem and a sticker that reads, “For repair or maintenance assistance, you guessed it, pal: See Cloud.”

 

So what is this Cloud? Is it the interwebs its own self? Does it hover above the interwebs? And who runs the Cloud? God? Bill Gates? Is there one great big Cloud or 650 million tiny little head cloud guyClouds? How do I know that you’re not poking around in my Cloud? Hey, you, get off my Cloud.

 

And why the Cloud? Clouds are so ephemeral. Clouds tend to disappear or drift away. Or turn into messy storms. The idea of storing my vital documents, such as my personal collection of cats-playing-the-piano videos, on something called the Cloud doesn’t fill me with confidence. How about calling it the Vault? Or the Core? Even the Big Weenie, for crying out loud. But the Cloud?

 

Aha. I looked into this a bit more, and in my research I found this unsettling piece of info. And I quote: “Network-based services, which appear to be provided by real server hardware but are in fact served up by virtual hardware simulated by software, are often called cloud computing. Such virtual servers do not physically exist and can therefore be moved around and scaled up or down, somewhat like a cloud becoming larger or smaller without being a physical object.”

 

Hence, the Cloud. So the Cloud doesn’t physically exist? Is this like the tree falling in the forest? If a writer’s soon-to-be-blockbuster novel was stored in the Cloud, and the Cloud drifted away, did the writer actually write a novel at all? Where the hell is my dark and stormy night? And what if a college student’s term paper is due tomorrow and a dark and stormy night knocks out internet access? Is she up the creek, in the forest, with the trees falling, in the night, under the Cloud, with no paddle, in the thing, with the deal?

 

Upshot of all these lamentations: The whole idea feels like a hoodwink. A scam. A fiddle faddle. state of artThe reality may be that we just aren’t tech-savvy enough to get it, but we’re taking no chances. In the meantime, dear daughter o’ ours, here’s a spit-shined, reconditioned Smith-Corona with new ribbon. The “n” sticks, but you’ll get the hang of it.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Let’s Play the Blame Game

11 Dec

by Roger White  

 

Did you ever notice how a lot of bloggers and columnists these days start their blogs and columns with “Did you ever notice…”? Uh oh.

Actually, in all the 2,103 columns I’ve written over the past (censored) years, I don’t believe I’ve ever kicked off an installment with those four Seinfeldian words. So allow me this one:

Did you ever notice how there is always someone or something to blame for every cotton pickin’ thing these days? In this age of victims, nothing just happens by chance or circumstance anymore—someone must be blamed. Fault must be found. Perpetrators must be punished. And surely somewhere down the line, lawyers must be compensated.

I have resisted this mindset as long as I can, dragged my feet against the rushing tide of the times until my heels are raw. So I give in. I will now add my voice to the din; therefore, I give you my “blame” list for some of the odd quirks and tendencies that are endemic to li’l old me.

Scapegoat No. 1—Doorways. Ya know the age-old question of “what did I come in here for” that hits you when you walk into a room and then draw a complete blank? Well, at my age this happens just about every hour on the hour. I thought I was getting old and feeble-minded, but as it turns out, my door is to blame. Yep, psychologist types at the University duhhhhof Notre Dame have determined that walking through a doorway triggers something called an event boundary in your noggin. In other words, what you were thinking of in one room goes flying away when you go to another room, especially when the TV is on and the Cowboys have the ball. Okay, I made up that last part. But isn’t this great? I have a lawsuit in the works against Pella Doors and Windows. If you want to join me in a class action suit, dial 1-800-DUM-DOOR.

Scapegoat No. 2—Apple Maps. I get lost a lot; now, I’ve someone to blame. Did you hear about this? Seems that Apple Maps, in its rush to compete against Google and other major online map companies, goofed big time, putting many cities and landmarks in the wrong places.

In one grievous instance, Apple plopped some town called Mildura, Australia, more than 40 miles away from where it really is, and—believe it or not—some drivers actually ended up stuck in the rugged Australian outback and had to be rescued by police.

Can you picture this? The road sign reads “Mildura Straight Ahead” but the car’s Apple Map says “No, Ron, turn left.”

you are here, no here“Crikey!” says Ron and turns left against his better judgment. Ten hours later, as Ron scorches in the 110-degree heat of the outback, he decides to leave.

“NO!” orders Apple Map. “You are here. This is Mildura.”

“But…I’m thirsty.”

“I’m sorry, Ron, but I have shut off your motor.”

This is ripe for another juicy legal action, no?

“Uh, yeah, hello? Is this Apple Maps?”

“Yes.”

“Listen, I have Apple Maps on my iPhone, and it told me that to get to Dallas I had to drive straight ahead off the Galveston Sea Wall, and my car is now in 15 feet of water. Can I speak to your legal department?”

Scapegoat No. 3—Kitty litter. One of my duties around the homestead is waste management—and this includes changing that most toxic of entities, the kitty litter box. I have always thought that this lovely, touchy-feely euphemism—kitty litter—is one of the cruelest of domestic ironies. The term “kitty litter” sounds cute, harmless, even cuddly somehow. Have you ever changed a kitty litter box that hasn’t been touched by human hands in over a week? This is one of the foulest, nastiest, zombie apocalyptic-type things you’ll ever come in contact with. I honestly believe that you could arm the U.S. Marines meowuhohwith cats, turned back end toward the enemy, and you could send any opposing force running faster than Iraq’s elite Republican Guards.

Anyway, it turns out that, now stay with me here, some suicide attempts have actually been linked to kitty litter. I believe it. A study by a guy named Teodor Postolache (really, that’s his name) claims there’s a link between an infection called Toxoplasma gondii, which you get from handling kitty litter, and suicide attempts.

So there you have it, honey. I would change the box, but, man, I’m so down. What’s the use in living?

Side note to self: File suit against the Fresh Step company.

Now, this last part has nothing to do with anything, but I believe it carries a strong message for you and me. Seems that a Florida man remains in the hospital with severe injuries after the cops stopped him for DWHATSIYS.

What’s DWHATSIYS, you ask? That’s police lingo for Driving While Having A Traffic Sign In Your Skull. Duh. The Florida Highway Patrol pulled over one L.R. Newton after he smashed into a road sign and then kept on going. When they stopped the guy, they found that a big chunk of the traffic sign was sticking out of his headbone. Newton’s in stable condition, but the sign didn’t make it.

Stupid sign. I’d sue the sign makers.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apps

2 Oct

by Roger White

 

The other day I was reading, with mild interest, a story about an 11-year-old girl who beat all these teams of professional computer whizzes in a contest to see who could design and market the best app to reduce distracted driving. Sixth-grader Victoria Walker won this AT&T-sponsored contest held in Los Angeles by creating something she calls Rode Dog. Just from the name, I liked the idea right off the bat. It seems that Rode Dog allows users to create mini-social networks of family and friends—or “packs.” Each pack member is tracked by GPS at all times, and members are alerted whenever someone in the pack is using a phone and driving at the same time.

 

And here’s where it gets fun. When other pack members are made aware that one of their own is texting while driving, they then send barking sounds to the offending “dog” to make them knock it off. The app makes money by enabling users to download the sounds of different breeds for 99 cents. So you can be a yappy, obnoxious chihuahua; or you can scare the bejeezus out of the errant pack member with a deep basset hound woooof.

 

Second place went to an app called Safe Car Key, which shuts the car down if the user’s phone is removed from a loading dock built into the car. Drive Pledge, designed to reward drivers with points, games, and songs for miles accumulated without texting or using their phone, won third place.

 

Now, I noted that I read this story with mild interest, but that interest turned instantly keen when we caught our oldest daughter DWI recently. No, no, alcohol wasn’t involved. This was a case of Driving While Intexticated. Yep, she came home the other day with the right side of the car scraped and creased and looking not at all well. After a little interrogation, she confessed to fiddling with her phone while the car was in gear and moving. She says she thought she was stopped, but the big, metal bike rack at the neighborhood park where she was driving didn’t just jump out and attack our Honda.

 

I’m thinking now we should become Rode Dogs.

 

This new app idea also got me pondering about what folks might consider their ideal, fantasy app. So I conducted a highly unscientific poll of our family—er, pack—and came up with the following (allow plus or minus 3 percentage points of standard deviation in Iowa and Tennessee; not valid in New Jersey; 10 cent deposit in Michigan; void where prohibited):

 

Parents (that’s me and Mom): How about an app designed to prevent our offspring from secretly texting until their homework is done? This would require some linking with teachers through the Gradespeed service, whereby any of our kids’ texts to their friends during homework hours would be intercepted by the appropriate teacher. A sample:

Jamie (our youngest): “Yo yo yo GF wadup? Dont u h8 Span?”

Señor Moya: “Yo, yo, yo, yourself, Señorita Jamie. Have you conjugated your Spanish verb infinitives yet? And by the way, I love Spanish.”

Jamie: “O me2 adios!”

Mom: I would appreciate an app on Dad’s phone that monitors sound coming from the nearest TV set. If the app detects dialogue matching that from Top Gun, Casino, or Animal House, the app immediately shuts off the television and calls Dad with a friendly reminder about the catbox and the lawn.

 

Lindsey (our oldest): An app that taps into the long, long history of Dad’s driving record and displays on all family members’ phones all of Dad’s, um, lapses of judgment he’s experienced over the years behind the wheel. DAD!

 

Jamie (our youngest): An app that links to all the phones of my friends when they’re over at my house and, through this network, is able to pick up sour notes and off-key singing by Dad. The app then makes him cut it out with high-pitched sirens or electric shocks or something.

 

Dad: Well. In light of all the other apps requested by my loving pack, I envision a nuclear app that overrides all other apps in a 50-foot radius of Dad and gently beeps Dad when the mountains are blue on the side of his cans. Nyah.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.