Monthly Archive: February 2013

Smart Phone, Dumb User

Have you ever paid attention to your phone bill? Do you know that they actually still send you a list of all the phone calls you made and received during the billing cycle? Why do they do that? I mean, sure, I think the log should be available if we need it, but really? Who the hell actually looks at every call every month? Does anyone keep a record of it on a notepad or something and then check it like a bank statement, making sure he didn’t get billed for a call he didn’t make?

Another thing you might not have noticed on your bill – for those of you with smartphones – is the fact that they charge you thirty dollars a month for a data plan. Well, I know some charge more, some charge less. But the median is somewhere right around thirty bucks. Well, I know you know you get charged that every month, because when you signed up for the service and got the smartphone you agreed that you had to have a plan on it to be able to use it. But have you really sat back and thought about what this really means? Of course you haven’t, you silly goose!

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 5

Part Five: Dancing in the Streets

When you think of vacation spots, you probably don’t very frequently list Panama City as one of your choices. It seems – to me, at least – to be one of those spots like the Roman Coliseum. It’s beautiful, and you’d love to see it, but you’re not going to lie out and catch some rays on the theater floor. These seem more like educational spots. Culturally rich locations where you go with a history team, or a college class for a field trip. And certainly if you’re staying at Playa Bonita on Diesel Beach, it’s not a great place to catch some sun. The pools are fine for it. Amy (“I’m not getting any sun! I need to wash this crap off my back!”) burned like an unconscious lobster left on a grill. While the fire was lit. On high. And people threw cigarette butts at it. While laughing. Even my red-haired wife caught a little too much sun, and when her skin started peeling it really made a picture of her new Embera Ink tattoos.

But a large part of me is glad we didn’t get to choose the vacation spot for our getaway. Panama is literally the last place on the planet I would have chosen. Ireland? Turkey? Germany? Canada? Kansas? These are all places that sound reasonably like good tourist spots for a nice week away from work. But the company chose for us. As they do every year on their Presidents’ Club vacation. And this unlikely spot made for a fantastic, and life-changing experience I won’t soon forget. Yes, even I – with my terrible memory – am not likely to forget this one.

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 4

Part Four: The Tribal Village of the Embera

We’ve come a long way with technology. This to me is science. I like to stay at the forefront – the leading edge, and all the other buzzwords you can think of that have to do with technology. I sometimes buy devices and gadgets with the full intention of returning them within the fourteen-day window just so I can become familiar with them, learn all about them, and be able to speak intelligibly of them. I would never personally own a Windows phone, but I was quick to hop on my mother’s for an hour or two when she got it, just to check out what they’re all about. I have more gadgets and technology in my house than a Best Buy distribution warehouse. Well, one that’s very small and only has like five laptops and three tablets in it.

I never dreamed I could part with my tech so easily. And maybe I can’t. I brought my tablet and my D/SLR camera with me on this trip to Panama. And my cell phone. And my wife’s laptop, her cell phone, a pocket camera, a 3G wireless hotspot, a GRUB analyzer, a Trip Socket spectrometer, and a bag full of cords, cables, chargers and SD cards. I came fully prepared. Our phones, however, remained off the entire trip. It was nice to be disconnected. Sort of. Not sort of nice. Sort of disconnected. Of course we still fired up Lync and Google Talk to video chat with the kids in the evenings, and I checked my email on my tablet and sent my drawings to my game mates on Draw Something. But we were more off-the-grid than usual. Especially when we went to see the Indians.

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 3

Part Three: The Heart of Panama City

Panama has three beers to offer us. There’s nothing special or fancy – they’re all golden beers, light in flavor and body, and all pretty similar. We tried them all, of course, and actually wanted to venture out into the city to pick some up to keep in our hotel room. Those Panama nights get long, and that balcony that overlooks the Diesel Beach just seems to call to us like the crickets of the jungle. We longed to sit out on that balcony and enjoy a few cold cans of Balboa. Alas, here now we sit in our comfortable leather couches back in Dallas, Texas, and can say we not once sat in those chairs on the balcony.

We did do plenty of sitting and drinking though. I met some really great people on this trip. Certain people with whom I’ve spoken and supported many times were there, and it was great to meet them. But they also brought with them their spouses, and that really rounded out the vacation for me. Tom and Jeremy and Sean – these guys were the perfect compliment to the Suzanne, Shana and Kacy I’ve already come to know and love. Though I’d not yet met Suzanne and Kacy, I was already very fond of them from my dealings with them on the phone. The nights we spent out by the pool crowded around a table drinking beer we had bribed a waiter into serving us were as memorable as the tours and experiences we were talking about around those tables.

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 2

Part Two: Back in the Jungle

This was my second trip to Panama but it was so markedly different from the first in every aspect that I’m beginning to replace negative feelings and emotions about it with positive ones. Where my first trip was dark and unkind, frightening and unforgiving, this one was healing and rewarding. This was my opportunity to change some of my thoughts and feelings on a second-world country and turn an exotic vacation into a therapeutic session and personal growth. Being granted the opportunity to see the jungle again from a cable car, and the safety of a boat, I’ve been able to calm the sense of dread and anxiety that seems to boil up in my gut when I think of the darkness that dwells in that little strip between the Americas.

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The Panama Chronicles: Part 1

Part One: Man Versus Murphy

As our tour guide for the Panama Canal said, “Murphy isn’t just a part of our daily lives here in Panama, but he was also born here.” He spoke of Edward Murphy, the Panamanian native who coined the phrase we all know today as Murphy’s Law. Well, we met Mr. Murphy before we even got to the airport.

State Highway 121, which is perpetually in a state of construction, almost caused us to miss our flight. They had blocked the exit to the airport. I don’t know who ‘they’ is, but I’d sure like to have a little chat with them. Yes, they blocked the exit. How can they do that when there are literally thousands of people every day who depend on that exit to get to the airport? Well, you’ll have to ask ‘them’.

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