Are You Smarter Than an iPhone Revisited

Originally published july 14, 2011.I know I said I’d never do it, but I did it. I finally did it. I bought a smart phone. It’s not what you think. I haven’t compromised my integrity. My smart phone boycott was not grounded in ethics or principles or politics or anything like that. Droids, iPhones, Blackberries, all of them make me nervous. Appliances are not supposed to be smarter than human beings. They’re just not. Frankly, the idea that a phone might be smarter than me is downright frightening.

Phones and fifth graders are not the only things getting smarter nowadays. Washing machines are smarter, too. They sense when items of different weights and textures are combined into the same load (for example towels with t-shirts or blue jeans with boxers and panties). When this happens they become unbalanced as they agitate, or perhaps it’s that they become agitated at being unbalanced. In any case, this is ostensibly what caused my friend’s brand new state-of-the-art front loader to “dance” across the laundry room during the spin cycle.

She called a “certified” repairman who balanced the thing and gave her his “certified” opinion: if she didn’t want it to happen again she’d better update her clothes sorting technique. It’s not just about whites and colors anymore. Like items with like items. I am not kidding. Certified? Sounds more certifiable, if you ask me.

If that were my washing machine, you know what I would say? I’d say, “Okay, Mr. Washing Machine, if you’re smart enough to know the difference between a pair of socks and a pair of blue jeans, you’re darn well smart enough to figure out how to keep your balance, thank you very much. Who’s the smart one now?  Yeah, I’m talking to you, big guy.’’

My toaster thinks it’s smarter than me, but it’s not. It’s one of those four slice jobs, with slots designated for specific food items. One slot is for bagels, one is for frozen bagels, one slot is for toast, and one is for frozen toast. What happens if you want an English muffin? Or a waffle? What then?  I’ll tell you what. You find yourself another toaster, that’s what.

That fancy schmancy Mensa toaster is not made for English muffins or waffles, and do you want to know how I know? They burn. Yep, they do. Drop an English muffin or a waffle into a slot designated for toast or bagels, frozen or thawed, and it’ll burn every time. Don’t even get me started on Hot Pockets

And another thing. That toaster is plotting something. It stares at me when it thinks I’m not looking and I am sick of it. I unplugged that thing and stuffed it in a cupboard. Take that, Mr. Smarty-Pants Toaster with your specialized four slots. Ha! Not so smart anymore, are ya?

I never felt my iPhone-free life was incomplete until I heard about RunPee. RunPee is the app“dedicated to analyzing movies and working out the precise minute for you to annoy the other 12 people in your row, scuttle off to the restroom, release your lager, and return without missing any significant part of the plot.”

Shut up! That is GENIOUS!

All sorts of thoughts popped into my head when I first heard about RunPee. Things like, What will they think of next? and Why didn’t I think of that? But, Hmmm…if I had an iPhone, I’d buy RunPee in a heartbeat, is the last thought I recall pulsating through my brain before I woke up to find myself exiting the Verizon store with a bag in one hand and a two-year wireless contract (complete with data package) in the other. That, my friends, is how I ended up trading my simple little Samsung flip for the summa cum laude of all smart phones (drumroll, please)…the iPhone 4.

I’m pretty confident that I come out on top when I match wits with my washing machine and my toaster. The thing is, I’m afraid I must concede that my iPhone is indeed cleverer than I. Go ahead and laugh, but tell me this. When was the last time you excused yourself to visit the bathroom during a movie and upon returning to your seat, did not need to whisper to the your viewing companion, “What did I miss?’’

I know I said I’d never do it, but I did it. I finally did it. I bought an iPhone. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to RunPee.

Updated note: According to Dan Florio, the self-proclaimed Grandpoobah of RunPee – a.k.a. creator – RunPee has temporarily been removed from the iPhone app marketplace and is expected to be available again in early July. Until then, visit m.runpee.com from your iPhone browser. You may sign up to receive email notification when RunPee is available at RunPee.com.

 Copyright © 2011 by Antoinette Datoc  All Rights Reserved
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Baseball Mom – Part One

It’s destiny.  I am a baseball mom.  As such, my primary responsibility is to be my sons’ biggest fan.  I take that responsibility rather seriously.  When my oldest was three years old, I signed him up to play baseball for the very first time.  I’ll never forget my encounter with a certain YMCA employee on that fateful spring sports registration day.  She was an older grandmotherly looking type, and if I had to guess, I’d say maybe even a volunteer.  There were hoards of mothers and children standing in a line that was so long, it snaked outside the door, around the side of the building, and into the parking lot.  Having genetically acquired my mother’s irrational fear that pedophiles lurked behind every bush or skulked in every inconspicuously parked vehicle, I held tightly onto Christian’s hand.  He yanked on my arm, excitedly bouncing up and down and chanting in sing-song fashion as we waited…and waited…and waited.

“I’m gonna play baseball-I’m gonna play baseball- I’m gonna play baseball.”  Every so often he’d pause, make eye contact with me and gleefully exclaim (each and every time as if it had just dawned on him), “I’m gonna be a baseball player, Mommy!”

“I know, Sweetie,” I would distractedly reply.  You see, I’d become consumed with speculating on how swollen my ankles were going to be by the time we got to the front of the line.

“I’m going to be a short stuff like Cal Ripkin, Jr.”

“Mmmm-hmmm.”  If my calculations were correct (based on the number of people in front of us, multiplied by an average time constant of four minutes per registrant), my ankles would be roughly the size of ancient redwoods.  If that was the case, I’d need to make a quick stop to buy some new shoes on the way home…always a silver lining.

As we entered the building and approached the front of the line, I relaxed my death grip on Christian’s hand.  He took the opportunity to wiggle free.

“Christian, stay right next to me, okay?  I have to fill out one of these registration forms for you,” I said grabbing the appropriate baseball registration form from a nearby table where several different stacks of forms sat, having been collated by sport.  I filled in the required information:  name, address, age, date of birth, parents’ names.  When our turn came, I handed over Christian’s form and became anxious as the grandmotherly lady in charge carefully scrutinized the information I’d provided.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Datoc, but Christian will have to wait until next year to play baseball.  All players must be four years old by the start of the season which is March 1.  The only thing he’s eligible to do this year is a week long pee wee soccer camp.”

Trying my best to look pathetic and lonely, I beseeched, “Is there no way to make an exception?  We just moved to Atlanta a few months ago and we’re doing this as much to make friends as we are to play baseball.  I was hoping for something that lasted more than week and he loves baseball.”

Christian was oblivious to what was beginning to unfold and the very real possibility that he would not be able to play baseball.  Fortunately, at some point he had exchanged his self-stimulating chanting and bouncing up and down for throwing an imaginary baseball and swinging an imaginary bat.  I continued to plead our case giving a nod in Christian’s direction as if to say, “Look at this.  My son is exceptional.  He’ll be fine with older kids.”  I was, of course, his biggest fan.

I’ll never know whether we got our way because Christian’s dry mechanics demonstrated he could hold his own with a bunch of older boys or if it was because I looked sufficiently pitiful as I stood before her, fat ankles and all, in my  coffee-stained maternity t-shirt (in case you haven’t figured it out — i.e. you’re a man — I was pregnant).  Perhaps it was obvious that my hidden agenda in orchestrating some sort of organized activity for my son was really to pursue an avenue for adult human contact for myself.  It doesn’t matter.   That grandmotherly looking lady said  nothing…absolutely nothing, but as she silently peered over the rims of her reading glasses at us, first at Christian and then at me, I saw a ray of hope.  This might just go our way.   I paused to hold my breath while she assessed the situation, registration form  still in her hand, when suddenly with a  single stroke of  her pen, that grandmotherly looking lady changed Christian’s birth year from 1991 to 1990, and my destiny along with it.  She looked at me and winked.

“Well then, Mrs. Datoc, that will be 45 dollars and you can make your check payable to North Metro YMCA and write BASEBALL on the memo line.  Christian’s coach will be calling to introduce himself in the next few days.”

“Thank you,” was all I said, never imaging what the future held for me because of the choice made by that sweet, grandmotherly looking lady.  I often think about her and ponder were it not for that simple, single stroke of her pen, I might have been a soccer mom.  The road not taken would not have made much difference to me, I suppose.  My responsibility still would have been to be my sons’ biggest fan and I am quite certain I would have taken the responsibility just as seriously.  Alas, my destiny was and is to be a baseball mom…emphasis on the mom.  To be continued.

Till tomorrow.  Good night…  Sleep tight…

© 2011 by Antoinette D. Datoc

What Would I Have Done Without You

In a few days, my oldest son will turn 20 years old.  Surely I am not old enough to have a 20 year old son…or perhaps I am.  These days, I barely can recall where I last set down my reading glasses or car keys.  How then, is it possible that my memory of Christian Damian Datoc’s grand entrance into the world is so crystal clear?  How is this possible?  I remember every detail like it was only yesterday.  Okay, maybe that’s not such a good comparison since these days I barely can remember what I ate for breakfast today, let alone what happened yesterday, but you know what I mean.  I remember every detail and every year around this time, I reminisce about it.  I recount the story of Christian’s birth and it never fails to cause the release of a wellspring of emotions in me.  I recall the awakening of my protective maternal instinct and the exact moment I came to know this Universal Mother Truth: IF YOU HURT MY BABY I WILL KILL YOU.  I must, however, confess that not all of my post-partum emotions were filled with the stuff of which Doris Day movies are made.  In fact, motherhood did not come particularly naturally to me.

When I went into labor, my husband’s reaction was one of joyful excitement.  “Aren’t you excited?  Oh my gosh!  We’re going to have a baby!”  He was the oldest of four siblings and as a recent medical school graduate, had a couple of labors and deliveries under his belt.  He was very much a “baby person.”  I, on the other hand, was not a “baby person.”  I was grossly inexperienced when it came to the handling of infants.  When I realized my water broke the, “Oh my gosh!  I really am going to have this baby,”  I blurted was prompted by something quite different from Pat’s eager excitement.  It was prompted by fear.  I was 29 years old and I had never changed a diaper, never fed a baby,  never burped a baby.  The first time I’d even held a baby was when, pursuant to slapping his bottom and proclaiming, “It’s a boy!” the doctor handed Christian to me fresh from the womb.  I never played house and pretended to be the “mommy,” like most little girls.  Of course, I had baby dolls, but I chose instead to dress up my slightly over-weight Chihuahua-Poodle mixed breed in doll clothes and push her around the neighborhood in my toy pram.  As you can imagine, squeezing a dog into a onesy was no easy task and as such, my childhood memories are filled more with pretending to be Gunther Gable than somebody’s mama.

It’s true… I nestled newborn Christian in my arms and made a silent, solemn promise to him, “If anyone, anyone tries to harm you, I will kill him.”  And when that brief mother-son moment was disturbed by the sound of my doctor’s voice, “Pat, would you like to cut the cord?” all I could think was, ‘WAIT!  Don’t do it… Can’t we put him  back for just a little while?  I AM NOT READY FOR THIS!”   After several lessons from the lactation consultant and 100 or so diaper changes later (translation:  one day), Christian and I found ourselves tucked safely into the backseat of Pat’s Honda.  We were on our way home from the hospital and as I gazed into my sleeping baby’s face, one question pervaded my thoughts. “What am I going to do with you all day long…what am I going to do with you?”  The answer, of course, was simple;  I would do whatever my baby needed me to do, and I would, quite matter of factly, do so forever.  There is an amazing gift that comes with being someone’s mama.  It is the gift of being needed.  I soon realized that no matter who was around, Christian’s eyes searched for me.  I was the one he wanted to sooth him when he felt cranky, to feed him when he felt hungry, to rock him when he felt tired.  There’s a glorious power in a baby’s need.  It is the power to turn just another ordinary woman into a mother.

On the day Christian was born, the question pervading my thoughts was, “What am I going to do with you?”  Twenty years later the question is, “What would I have done without you?”   Happy Birthday, Christian.  I love you.

Till tomorrow…  Good night.  Sleep tight.

© Antoinette D. Datoc 2011

Don’t Forget To Flush and Wash Your Hands

I was settling down to watch a sappy Lifetime movie when a commercial aired for a new and improved toilet paper, the brand of which must not be named.  This particular BRAND THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED used to be my brand of choice, but not anymore.  Apparently softness and thickness are no longer the most important features of toilet paper because the makers of THE BRAND THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED have discovered a way to make toilet paper even better than it was before.  That’s right, bionic toilet paper.  THE BRAND THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED is now so strong, it effectively protects users from the problems associated with toilet paper “break-through.”  The idea of toilet paper break through is flat-out disgusting, I’ll give you that much.  But honestly, is toilet paper “break-through” a common enough problem to warrant being addressed by specially engineered toilet paper?  Is toilet paper break through causing wide-spread panic?  As far as I can remember, I’ve never had a break through, at least not one serious enough to make me think, “Hmmm.  I sure do wish somebody would develop a toilet paper that would quit breaking through when I wipe.”  As a matter of fact, in all the years that I have been buying toilet paper, I never have considered protection against break through in choosing a brand.  Softness?  Yes, comfort is a big factor.  Thickness?  Of course, the thicker the paper the better the value.  Protection against break through?  Never.  Me thinks the makers of THE BRAND THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED are grasping at straws, or more likely at the heels of their competitors.

I would quote the slogan for this new and improved BRAND THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED of toilet paper, but I can’t.  I can’t quote it word for word because someone might guess the actual name of the BRAND THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED and that might hurt someone’s feelings.  You know me — If you can’t say something nice, blah, blah, blah.  I really intended that precept for people…not for toilet paper.  Anyway, I’m not going to quote the slogan.  I am going to tell you the ad campaign for this new and improved toilet paper from the makers of the BRAND THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED hinges on the idea that this paper is so effective that wiping with it not only gets you clean in all the important places, but it also helps to keep your hands free from contaminants.  ARE YOU KIDDING?  I imagine the ad men envisioned their campaign would incite consumers to rush out en masse to buy new and improved toilet paper from the makers of the BRNAD THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED.  Did they really think we’d all be bouncing up and down, clapping our hands and exclaiming, “Wow!  I’m psyched!  I don’t have to wash my hands after using the toilet because my new toilet paper gets me clean and keeps my hands clean!”  Frankly, it’s insulting.  That act of wiping oneself is contaminating in and of itself.  Therein lies the irony.  The makers of the BRAND THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED have not stumbled upon some scientific break through.  Do not get excited.  They have not discovered the formula for some miracle toilet paper that is so strong and effective it eliminates the need to WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER YOU USE THE TOILET!  Listen: you will always need to wash your hands after you use the toilet.  Yes, even if you “didn’t touch anything,”  you need to wash your hands, so don’t argue with me. (Sorry.)  And speaking of arguments against washing your hands after you use the toilet, if anything, this marketing and ad campaign is going to backfire.  Do you want to know why?  BECAUSE GETTING KIDS TO WASH THEIR HANDS AFTER USING THE TOILET IS ALREADY A BATTLE.  The last thing I’m going to do is buy toilet paper that claims to simultaneously get your bottom clean and keep your hands clean in the process.  I might as well say, “Hey kids!  Great news!  I just bought this new and improved BRAND THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED of toilet paper, so now you don’t have to wash your hands after you go to the toilet!  You win!”  I might as well hoist up the white flag and surrender on all fronts,” Hey kids, since you’re not washing your hands, you might as well forget about flushing.  Go ahead and pick your nose too, and while you’re at it chew with your mouth open if it makes you happy!”  The BRAND THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED used to be my brand of choice, but not anymore.  Give me some good old-fashioned please don’t squeeze the you-know-what.  And don’t forget to flush and wash your hands.

 

Interesting facts on the history of toilet paper.

( The following facts are pasted from  http://nobodys-perfect.com/vtpm/exhibithall/informational/tphistory.html)

1886 Albany Perforated Wrapping (A.P.W.) Paper Company ad for perforated, medicated, rolled toilet paper
  • What did people use before toilet paper? Well, just use your imagination: grass, leaves, fur, mussell shells, corncobs, stinging nettles… okay, maybe not that last, at least not more than once. The ancient Greeks used stones and pieces of clay; ancient Romans used sponges on the ends of sticks, kept in jugs filled with salty water. Mideasterners commonly used the left hand, which is supposedly still considered unclean in the Arabian region.
  • “Official” toilet paper – that is, paper which was produced specifically for the purpose – dates back at least to the late 14th Century, when Chinese emperors ordered it in 2-foot x 3-foot sheets.
  • Corncobs and pages torn from newspapers and magazines were commonly used in the early American West. The Sears catalogue was well-known in this context, and even produced such humorous spinoffs as the “Rears and Sorebutt” catalogue. The Farmer’s Almanac had a hole in it so it could be hung on a hook and the pages torn off easily.
  • Joseph C. Gayetty of New York started producing the first packaged toilet paper in the U.S. in 1857. It consisted of pre-moistened flat sheets medicated with aloe and was named “Gayetty’s Medicated Paper”. Gayetty’s name was printed on every sheet.
  • Rolled and perforated toilet paper as we’re familiar with today was invented around 1880. Various sources attribute it to the Albany Perforated Wrapping (A.P.W.) Paper Company in 1877, and to the Scott Paper company in 1879 or 1890. On a side note, the Scott Company was too embarrassed to put their name on their product, as the concept of toilet paper was a sensitive subject at the time, so they customized it for their customers… hence the Waldorf Hotel became a big name in toilet paper.
  • In 1935, Northern Tissue advertised “splinter-free” toilet paper. Yep, you read that right; early paper production techniques sometimes left splinters embedded in the paper. And you thought you had it tough!
  • In 1942, St. Andrew’s Paper Mill in Great Britain introduced two-ply toilet paper
  • America experienced its first toilet paper shortage in 1973.
  • The Virtual Toilet Paper Museum opened its virtual doors in 1999.

Till tomorrow…Good night.  Sleep tight.

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

What is the world coming to?!  Global warming?  The polar ice caps are melting?  I don’t know, but I’ll bet Al Gore has an explanation.  It was 50 degrees in Connecticut last weekend, but it snowed in Atlanta.  You heard me.  It snowed in Atlanta.  In fact, it snowed here for three consecutive days.  Nope…I take that back.  Make that four consecutive snow days for Atlanta because it’s snowing again today…right this very minute.  Did you get that?  IT’S SNOWING AGAIN TODAY!  That has to be some kind of record.  It snowed on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and some more today.  Really!  Ask anyone.  Okay.  So nothing accumulated, and it’s been anemic at best, but catching a glimpse of even the tiniest of snow flakes floating gracefully through the air makes me giddy!  (Speaking of giddy, CHRISTIAN WILL BE HOME FROM COLLEGE IN JUST A FEW HOURS!)

I get giddy over snow, and it’s not because it stirs up memories of my childhood winters in Connecticut.  No, no.  It’s because snow whips southern folks into a frenzy and it’s fun for transplants like me to watch.  The minute Glenn Burns (one of our local weather personalities…FYI they’re not weather men anymore…sheesh) even hints at dropping the “S” bomb, Atlantans (and I can only assume this is true for all southerners) rush out and buy up all the toilet paper, bottled water, milk, and bread from every grocery store in the entire metropolitan area and surrounding counties.  I swear it’s true.  And another thing.  Native Atlantans think snow flurries call for umbrellas.  Now any self-respecting Yankee knows that you do not, I repeat YOU DO NOT, use an umbrella when it is snowing.  No, no, no.  When it is snowing, you drop your head back as far as it will go, look up toward the heavens, open your mouth and catch snow flakes on your tongue.  Please do not attempt to argue with me about this.  That is what you do when it snows, and it cannot be done if you are holding an umbrella up over your head.  It’s not proper snow protocol.  I mean the whole point of walking around outside in the snow is to let it land on you for Pete’s sake.  Plus, it’s just plain weird to see people walking around outside in the snow with umbrellas hoisted up over their heads.  And how about those people, caught without snow boots or galoshes, who wrap their shoes in plastic grocery bags and think they can walk around in the snow?  Do they know how ridiculous they look?  Umbrellas overhead, plastic bags for shoes, carrying sacks full of toilet paper and bottled water?

As if southerners walking around in the snow isn’t insane enough, you should see what happens when they get behind the wheel of a car after a good dusting of the white stuff.  Good heavens.  It’s sliding and skidding and spinning and car after car, having bumped into one thing or another, pulled off to the side of the road every ten yards for miles on end.  I’ll tell you what.  Southerners just need to stay put when it snows.  Start a fire in the fireplace, people.  Pop some popcorn and drink some cocoa.  Please.  It’s like the song says, “Oh the weather outside is frightful and the fire is so delightful.  Since we’ve no place to go.  Let it snow!  Let it snow!  Let it snow!”

Merry Christmas to all and to all a…  Good night.  Sleep tight.