Friday, May 7, 2010

New technology

I’m not a huge fan of technology.

Well, that’s not true. I love technology. I’ve watched, even participated, in awe over my lifetime as it’s changed our very existence on this planet. For the better, I have to believe. No, I do believe.

So okay, technology is fine.

It’s figuring it out I’m not crazy about.

Because all too often, I can’t.

But nonetheless, last week I decided to take the plunge into G3-land. A new cell phone. A “smart” phone. One that may well be smarter than me. Even though I have a Ph.D. But that degree is from the 80s. And it is now a new millennium.

My old cell phone was also of this millennium. It was an LG “Dare”—as in, I dare you to use me to my full potential. It won that bet, hands down. I used it as a phone—easy enough—and eventually I got quite enamored of texting as well. The camera was good, and my friend Ruthanne in Boston and I would occasionally share photos out of the blue. (The best was on my last day in China two years ago, thirty-four floors above Shanghai: the shrill beep-beep-beep of a text message waking me to deep dark night. I fumbled for the phone, and up popped a bucolic scene of emerald green grass framed by a white picket fence, golden dandelions fluttering in the sunny breeze. “In Vermont: thinking of you,” read the text. Later that morning, in the back of the minivan on a clogged gray highway inching toward the airport, I turned and snapped a photo of the bunched cars behind us, and sent that off to Vermont.)

Although with the Dare I had the possibility (I dare you) of the internet, and email, and all that froofraw, all I really wanted was a phone. I got a fancy one for the camera—and because I like having the best. But I didn’t want to pay for the “frills.” So Just a Phone it stayed.

Since then, I’ve watched friends manipulate their iPhones, Palms, Blackberrys to conjure up pertinent information, fun facts, new leads, places to go, things to do—and felt, yes, pangs of envy. “Via Facebook for iPhone”: you’re sitting in a movie theater, waiting for the show to start, and oh—I can let everybody I know know that I’m, yes, sitting in a movie theater, waiting for the show to start!

I rather doubt that I’ll do that, but now . . . I can. It’s a new lease on life.


So today, David and I are on our way to do some geocaching—five or six spots in Rip Van Winkle Park, Pacific Grove, plus one or two at Asilomar. We’ve just come from Verizon, where I got my phone activated and all my contacts transferred from “I Dare You” to “Incredible” (so much friendlier), and have decided to stop for a cup of coffee while we download a geocaching app or two, to test these babies out. (David got a new phone too—his first cell phone.) I decide on CacheMate ($8), whereas David goes for GeoBeagle (free). (There’s a theme here, but I’ll save that for another posting.) While I’m struggling to input all the data necessary to make my purchase—my fingers feel so cumbersome—David says, nonchalantly: “Hey, a cache was placed just today. And it’s only 167 feet from here.”

One hundred sixty-seven feet? Placed today?

“Finish that cappuccino,” I say. “We’re gonna get us a first-to-find!”

The last time—the only time—we got a first-to-find was a fluke: it happened to have been planted the day the weekly update arrived on my computer; and it happened to be a quarter mile away from our house. But this—167 feet? And we learn about it thanks to our droid? How much more serendipitous does it get? This was meant to be!

I dash to the car to get the GPS—since we haven’t gotten quite so far as to be able to use our phones as homing devices. We then head a short way up the street—a parking lot away—to a sparse stand of three struggling eucalyptus trees. And there, tied to a branch with fishing line, is our quarry: a seed that is not a seed: Corymbia ficifolia (was Eucalyptus until 1995, I’ve just learned—those taxonomers . . .)

If I’d been on my toes, I would have published our FTF then and there, but I waited until I got home to my computer—when what did I discover, but a posting by another geocacher (from his cell phone, of course) saying that he was second-to-find, which “isn’t too shabby.”

No, not shabby at all. And now I'm a little less shabby myself. If I can grasp the use of this new incredibleness I've harnessed, I might be making a few more FTF's.

At the very least, I'll be showing this new phone that it’s not smarter than me.

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