Monday, February 25, 2008

Stuck Inside of Memphis, with the Mobile Phone Blues Again

"I hate cell phones."

That has been my mantra against mobiles for many a year now. It has always been true too. Until recently at least. Until we moved to China, I had never owned a mobile phone. Truth is I never needed one. I'm not exactly a big telephone guy. I don't make many calls. Don't receive many calls. I try to stay off the phone as much as possible.

I had never seen a need to get a mobile. I've always had a house phone, and I normally have a direct line at work. I spend pretty much the majority of my time at either of those places, and those who need me have those numbers. When I am out and about, I have voice mail where I can receive messages. Do I really need to talk to anybody so badly that I have to take the call while I'm driving? Shopping? At church? No on all accounts.

I'm sure they come in useful for emergencies, or automobile problems. People survived for many years without mobile phones during emergencies and auto problems, I used to say to myself, and thus I can survive without them now.

And so, without a phone, I often found myself high and mighty. Abuses abound with cellular phones, for sure. You can constantly see people talking on their phones while driving. These same people will be swerving across lanes, driving entirely too slow, they are slow on the take off from stop lights, and often are seen cutting others off.

So many times I see cell phone users, rudely take a call while they are chatting with someone in person, or gathered at a meal. Even worse I see them constantly taking calls while they are ordering food, or at the cash register while shopping. 'How rude' I think to treat the cashier so poorly as to not acknowledge them.

In Shanghai, mobile phones are just about necessary. Traveling about the city, it is very easy to get lost, or separated from the group. Cell phones come in very handy. Often, when I am out, I have had to call someone for directions. Plentys the time I have called someone when getting into a cab so that they could tell the cab driver where to go. Shopping is an adventure all its own. The stores are often very large, and always crowded with huge amounts of people. Amy and I often call each other in the stores just to figure out where we are.


I am sure we could manage without cell phones whilst living here, but the convenience factor finally made us succumb. And now I have fallen prey to all the things I hate. The other day I was shopping for some warm clothes for Japan and just as I was coming up to the counter I got a text message. Amy got one too, at the same time. Both of us immediately got out our phones and began texting a reply.

I threw my items for purchase up on the counter. Paid no attention at all to the cashier, and tried to fish out the cash whilst still texting.

Then it dawned on me on what I was doing and I was so ashamed.

I understand now why so many people become so rude with these devices. It is so hard not to answer when the phone rings. It is crazy difficult not to read and reply to a text when I receive them. There is something so primal about the need to answer the call. In my pre-cell phone days I would often not answer my land line. Certain times of the day I knew the call was not going to be for me, or would be annoying and I'd simply ignore the ringing. I can't do that with my cell phone.

Maybe it is because I can tell who is calling now. Knowing that it is my friend Sara, or my sister makes me need to answer. Even not knowing the number makes me interested in who it could be.

And thus I have become what I have hated.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On Metrics

When I was in junior high school I remember studying the metric system over a couple of years. The teachers all agreed that the people of the United States would abandon the American system and adopting the metric system within a few years. They used the fact that may road signs posted distance in both miles and kilometers, and the fact that you could find centiliters being used in soft drinks as examples of this change that was a-coming. We were taught about how much better the metric system was to use and how the old crotchety Americans who would refuse to change would soon learn to take it the hard way.

That was ten years ago, and we're still not anywhere near close to making the change.

This is completely understandable. For those who have known the American system all their lives there seems little reason to learn something knew. Feet and pounds and gallons work perfectly well, so why change? Most people aren't scientists nor do they travel around the world and thus their need to know the metric system is nil.

I suspect many kids were just like me and were taught the metric system, yet outside the realms of classrooms and tests, they found no need for the entire system. I've spent most of my life wondering why we learned it in the first place.

It is true that the metric system is easier to use. It is a ten base system which means that all you need to know about conversion is which way to move the decimal point. You can learn that pretty easy by memorizing a few pre-fixes - centi=100, milli=1000 an and so forth. There is no need to remember arbitrary things like how many feet are in a yard, or how many pints equal a gallon. The math is simple and that's more than alright.

I mention this because twice now I have lived in foreign countries and both have used the metric system. It hasn't always been easy as my memory of all things metric has long since faded, but the computer does conversions for me and I am slowly learning that 10 degrees Celsius is still cold, but 30 degrees is nice and warm.

I like the idea of teaching my future children (or more likely - child) the metric system. If the school system is still like what I experienced, some old math teacher will probably teach them metrics, but I want my kid to actually use it. I'm thinking it would be cool to have twenty-four hour clocks, centigrade thermometers and kilogram scales.

Maybe cool isn't the right word, cause nobody really thinks the metric system is cool. And I'm sure if my kid actually uses the metric system he'll probably get beaten up. Still, I dig the whole international flavor of it. And if Amy can teach the kid French, then I can teach him meters.

Oh lawd, my poor kid is gonna have no friends.

The Shanghai Diaries - Japanese Edition, Part II: From Tokyo to Miyajima

The new diaries is up. In this edition we finally make it to Tokyo and get devastated in Hiroshima. Plus we visit a castle in Himeji, visit some deer on an island and find the toilets all warm and fare.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Things That Need To Be Discussed

I have been so lazy with this blog, and in so many ways all of my thoughts have moved to the Midnight Cafe, but there are things I want to say here, and I'm making this notes to urge me to do just that.

There is, of course, the Tokyo Story which has been slow to write. With Amy still on break, and us just coming back, there has been much to do (grocery buying, house cleaning)and a great deal of procrastinating (that's where Amy on break comes in, it is a wonder to behold how little I do when she's around save for playing, and watching movies.) This afternoon I started writing and am ashamed to say it just isn't in me. The words are still stunted inside, not yet ready to come out. Give them a couple of more days and I promise something shall be written.

Beyond Tokyo there is the story of me giving blood that I've been meaning to tell, and keep forgetting. Plus I want to talk about mobile phones (and me actually using them much to my own aggrivation.) There is also my new found belief in the metric system and my desire to teach it to my kids in a manner which will make them no only understand it, but prefer its usage (and still not get their faces beat in.)

See, that's lots of stuff right there to talk about. Now if I could only get to the writing of it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

We're Back

In case you don't read my regular blog, belong to Facebook, or get personal e-mails from me, we made it back from Japan a couple of days ago. It was a great trip, with a bit of trouble for me to get back. More words will be written about it shortly.