Monday, October 22, 2012

I Hate the Phone

I hate using the phone. I hate using it at work because it's an interruption. If you IM or email me, I don't have to leave "the zone" and can get to you when it's convenient - which could be when my code is compiling, or something similar.

I hate using the phone outside of work because it's so inconvenient. I have to hold my iPhone up to me ear (and no, I am not getting one of those Bluetooth earpieces). So I've lost the use of one hand. A phone call can take a long time - at least with the people I call it can. Then there's the annoying hand-shaking procedure; "Hey, it's Andrew. Howzit goin'?" "Not bad, and yourself?" "Oh not too shabbs." yadda yadda yadda "Well, I guess it's time for me to go." "Okay, thanks for calling." "Alright. I'll talk to ya later." "Okay, have a good one." "Okay, you too." "Alright, g'bye." "Buh-bye." *Click* The engineer in me sees all that data being translated in the name of social convention. That doesn't happen with IM. Of course, skipping it in a voice call would be rude.

Speaking of rude, there are lots of situations where talking on a cell phone is rude - however socially acceptable. Most people would agree they hate hearing one-sided cell phone conversations, yet a lot of people do it. Unlike land-line calls, cell phone calls can take place in public; on the bus, in line at the store, in a theatre, in a library, etc.

Then there's all those times both people on the phone speak at once, or the reception is bad, or someone can't hear, either because they're not holding the phone in the exact right part of their face, or the other person isn't holding it right, and the sound gets muffled, or silenced, or the talker sounds far away. Then, with these touch screen phones, the buttons are right up against your cheek. I have an iPhone, and my cheeks have hung up on a lot of people. One friend recently called me, and her cheek kept pressing the buttons on her touch-screen phone.  I kept hearing "Beep beep beep." It was really annoying.

And let's not forget about dropped calls. I haven't had too many, but they do happen. Some people experience them quite a bit.

Instating Messaging (IM) seems to avoid most of those problems. IM just takes a minute for each one, and can be responded to on convenience. It also gives you time to think about your response. A little bit of reception is the same as strong reception. True, it might take both hands to IM, but it's for a much shorter time.  Public is almost the exact same as private.  No dropped calls.  They can be composed out of reception (like on an elevator) and sent when reception returns.

I consider IM to include texting, tweeting, Facebook chatting, MSN, and other similar technologies. (I don't consider emails to be IM because they can be, and often are, longer.)

Ask anyone who tries to call me. They'll tell you they can't get a hold of me. But people who IM me hear back pretty quickly.  I can take a few seconds out to text you, but a phone call may require lots of time to be set aside.

In fact, here's a list of things I typically do during the day that won't stop me from IM, but will stop me from a voice call:
  • Lying in bed ready to go to sleep
  • Riding on a bus
  • Cooking
  • Eating
  • Being with a group of friends. (ie: a group large enough where it won't hold things up or seem rude if I IM.)
  • Being in a large meeting where my presence is required, but full attention isn't, like Town Halls
  • Waiting in line
  • Waiting in the theatre for a movie to start
  • Church. (Yes, I admit it. I'll do a small amount of IM at some points during church, but a voice call won't happen.)
  • Watching TV
  • Reading.
  • Spending time in Chapters (Bookstore chain in Canada)
  • Anywhere where silence is important
  • Riding in someone else's car
  • A classroom
  • If I'm nearing my low minutes-cap on my voice plan
  • If I have a laryngitis (Hasn't happened in a while, but you never know.)
  • When long distance might be an issue. Don't call me when I'm on vacation in Halifax, but feel free to text me.
  • Any other time I just don't feel like talking
  • When I'm trying to co-ordinate plans with multiple parties.  I can have multiple simultaneous IM conversations, but only one phone call at a time. Of course, you can always do 3-way conversations with the phone, but these are long and tedious compared to IM.
  • If I'm trying to have a technical discussion with people and we need to trade programming code, or screen shots, or something visual.
When phone/video chat is useful:
  • When I'm communicating for the purpose of catching up, and/or staying in touch. In this case we set a large chunk of time aside to simply communicate.

In other words, if you're wanting to talk to me on the phone, good luck with that. :) My uncle called me 6 days ago. But I was with a friend waiting to be seated in a restaurant, so I didn't answer. I will return his call. Eventually. I promise.

UPDATE: I just found this comic from The Oatmeal that graphically (and humourously) illustrates some problems with phone calls.

Monday, July 02, 2012

The Wall - Live

Ever since I was in high school, I have thought Pink Floyd was the awesomest band on the planet.  Their music is timeless.  My first Pink Floyd album (actually, it was a tape) was The Wall.  And it has remained one of my favorite albums of all time (right up there with Dark Side of the Moon).

Unfortunately, Pink Floyd is no longer together.  One member, Richard Wright (the keyboardist) has passed on.  David Gilmour (the guitarist) has a solo career, as does Roger Waters (the bassist).  The Wall was Roger Waters' "baby".  It almost was his first solo album.  So, if you're going to see someone perform that album live, and you can't see Pink Floyd do it, Roger Waters is the one to see.  (I'd rather see David Gilmour do Dark Side of the Moon).  For years, it has been a dream of mine to see The Wall live.

Last week Roger Waters came to Ottawa to perform The Wall at Scotia Bank Place.  I went.  It was awesome.  I had a great seat.  I was in the 14th row.  Even though the Scotia Bank Place website says "No cameras allowed!", the first announcement was to tell people to force their camera flashes to "off" so the quality of pictures would be better, and wouldn't ruin the visuals for the audience.  Everyone pulled out their smart-phones and digital cameras.  I guess that "No cameras" is a formality from yesteryear.

I started by taking pictures, then slowly transitioned to video.  It was pretty dark, and I couldn't really see the details of what I was shooting most of the time, so I did manage to get a lot of the back of someone's head taking up more of my pictures than I would have liked.  I also had a mal-configured setting on my iPhone for the first few photos, so they're a little blurry.  They get better.

Incidentally, I have not posted the videos on YouTube.  I don't think quality of the videos is that great, and other people have posted better videos on YouTube.

Anyway, I did post my pictures on Flickr.  Take a look at the slideshow (also shown below).

For those who don't really know the concept of the concert, it's not just concert; a collection of songs.  It leans more towards the theatrical.  A Rock Opera, if you will.  As the show goes on, wall is built, brick by brick dividing the audience from the band.  For most of the second half of the show, the audience does not see the band.  (There are a few exceptions.  In the song Nobody Home, Roger Waters appears in a little room that opens up in the wall.  In Comfortably Numb, a guitarist appears at the top of the wall for the solo.  The band comes in front of the Wall for the final few songs, starting with In The Flesh, then disappears for The Trial.)  At the end of the show, the wall gets torn down, and the band comes out playing hand-held instruments like tamborines, ukuleles, etc. for Outside The Wall.

There is no opening act.  There is no encore.

The closest thing to the opening act, was in the original show, another band would come out to play the first song, In The Flesh? with the band members wearing masks of Pink Floyd.  That didn't happen in this show.  The band that played In The Flesh was the same band that played all throughout the concert.

As the song Another Brick in the Wall (Part II) started I wondered what they might do for the part where the kids sing.  In other performances of that song I've seen, they've had one or more female vocalists singing the kid's part, or they just played the recording.  But in this concert, a bunch of kids ran up on stage and started singing "We don't need no education....".  During the guitar solo part, the kids ran over to the inflatable Teacher puppet and pointed at him in sync with the music.  The kids looked like they were having a lot of fun.  I felt sorry for them, though, because I knew that every single one of them was going to get detention the next day in school.

Monday, May 07, 2012

How To Turn Terrorists into Honest Folk

The North American aviation transportation industry in conjunction with the airline industry has figured out something very important. Something that I think we can all learn from. Something the rest of the world can learn from. Something criminal justice systems can learn from. They have figured out how to turn terrorists and criminals into honest people in a very short time. In fact, they can do it in about an hour.

How do they do it? What's their secret? Easy. Just take any terrorist or criminal and put them on a flight. Any commercial aviation flight with a security screening area near the beginning and a baggage claim at the other end.

Not getting it? Don't worry.  You don't have to understand it. I don't understand it entirely. But they do.  I just know it works. It must.  Because they do it.

If you've taken a flight from a major aeroport in North America in the last few years, you've experienced it. When you check in for your flight, they ask you all kinds of questions like "Have you left your luggage unattended?" before you can get to the next step. If you manage to convince them you're okay, they send you onto the next phase: the security screening.

This is the part where, in the interest of equal treatment, they assume everyone is either a terrorist or a criminal - even public servants and airline employees. (I've been both and I still get the treatment.) They scan you with technology of questionable safety in order to see through your clothes. It doesn't matter that these screeners miss obvious things like guns and 12 inch steel razor blades. The point isn't to find anything. The point is to treat everyone equally - like criminals/terrorists. Neither the TSA nor the CATSA have ever caught anyone anyway.

If you make it through that part, you get to get on a plane - if your i.d. checks out. Some of these flights have air marshalls on them, so the criminals and terrorists aren't fixed yet.  But the plane takes off and goes to its destination.

Then a miracle happens. You land! You leave the plane! You go to baggage claim! Suddenly everyone is a saint! You just walk up to the carousel and take a bag! It doesn't matter if it's your bag. There's nothing stopping you from taking a bag at random. You might as well. Chances are, someone else's stuff is nicer than yours. At the carousel you're on the honour system.

An hour ago you were being searched like you were going to a maximum security prison, and now you're on the honour system. Like I said earlier, I don't fully understand how the flight acts like some sort of baptism that washes away your criminal intent, but it must. Otherwise, you'd have to claim your bags like you claim your coat at a coat-check: no ticket, no jacket. If you can't be trusted at the coat-check, but you can at the baggage carousel then it must mean you're more trustworthy and honest at the baggage claim. I'm not sure how it all works. Maybe it's an effect of altitude?

Saturday, May 05, 2012

A Case For Piracy

In Today's Article a Case For Piracy is made. Well, it's not so much a case for piracy as it is an explanation of how the TV/movie/music industries are screwing customers. Those hassles can be avoided by going online by getting content "illegally".

If you poke a bear with a stick for long enough, can you blame the bear for turning around and mauling you?