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Carpe Palmium

January 1, 2003

in All Articles,Cellphone reviews

“O Wise and Mighty Oracle… it’s that time of year when the television networks reflect on the previous season and set the schedules for the next. I hear some of the new shows are a bit of a stretch, some old favorites are switching networks, and a few past-their-prime shows are not coming back, save for the occasional made-for-TV movie. So what, exactly, can we look forward to this fall?”

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

“The forests will be less crowded as fewer city dwellers escape the summer heat. The aspen and birch will burst into gold; the maples will explode in crimson. Foraging animals will be easier to watch as the twilight ends each day a few minutes earlier. That spectacular array of lights splashed across the evening sky will be the Milky Way. The full moon on a light sprinkling of snow will make the silent world dazzle. The pink and orange hues of the rising sun on the high thin clouds of daybreak will make the chilly morning worth waiting for.
And you won’t see a minute of it…”

– Internet Oracle Digest #1166-05

A few of you may remember the Great Grand Rapids Ice Storm of 2003. I remember it like it was yesterday, or perhaps last week: It was a warm day in April. Residents in Grand Rapids were exchanging winter jackets for spring windbreakers. Birds were most likely twittering.

Suddenly my house was hit by a cold front from the frozen north: According to Bill Steffen at WOOD TV8, the combination of extra snow cover on Canada plus Lakes Huron and Superior still ice covered made for lots of freezing rain dropping on our trees and power lines. Mr. Steffen called this, “the worst ice storm for some since 1976”. Line crews were called from eight other states to help fix the resulting power outage.

That was it, then. As a computer geek with no electricity, I was toast. What use was I to anyone? And then I remembered my toys – er, my “tools”. I’m lucky enough to have a job that requires me to have aPalm Pilot. (A Palm Pilot is one of those little handheld computers that replaces paper and pencil. You can use a Palm like my wife uses her planner: There are calendar and address book functions. But a Palm, being a computer, has additional bonuses you don’t get with a planner. I can send and receive email, edit Word and Excel documents, synchronize information with my computer, and display pictures and short movies. It also does a few more things that, surprisingly, help you during a power outage.

The power was out. When I came home Saturday night, the house was dark. Having recently moved, I had forgotten where the matches were. No problem: My Palm has what’s called a “backlight” – it’s a brightly-lit screen so you can use the unit when it’s dark. It also happens to be a good temporary flashlight. I held the Palm in front of me like a sword, letting it cut through the darkness. Good, I found the matches.

After lighting a few candles, I was bored: No TV, no radio or computers? No problem. I got the Palm out again and proceeded to play a few games. These smaller-than-average video games are fun, at least for a short time. And Palms are specifically designed not to gobble up the batteries, so I didn’t have to worry about running out of juice.

Then it was time for bed. Even though it was Saturday night, I had to make sure to be at a client early Sunday morning to handle an emergency situation. With no alarm clock. No problem! The Palm has a built-in alarm clock that will chime whenever you tell it to. I set it for 5am and confidently fell asleep.

I woke up to the Palm tweeting cheerily at me, did the stereotypical early-morning-stretch, and got ready for work. On my drive, I noticed that I was even going to be early – a rarity for me. Apart from having a house with no central heating, this was turning out to be a good day.

Then I got to the client, found out that I was an hour late due to the Daylight Savings time change, finished my work and went home grumpy.

What’s the moral of the story? Never forget that the car is only as good as the idiot behind the wheel. I may think my Palm is even cooler than sliced bread, but you can only trust your gadgets and computers to an extent. Turn off the tools, but never turn off your brain. And try to get out more.

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