Android or Apple?

Having demonstrated that I am not afraid to step into controversial issues with this blog, I thought I would post a huge question today: Android or Apple? Your answers may actually show a greater divide than if I had asked “Hillary or The Donald?” Much like our major candidates, each operating system seems to have its own enthusiasts, but in this case I am still struggling with the “why?”

I admit I was a latecomer to the smartphone game. Just over two years ago I got my first data phone. It was an Android and it served me well. Both daughters had iPhones and couldn’t understand why I didn’t get an iPhone at the time. There were some very good reasons: the iPhone was more expensive at that point, some friends had Androids and swore by them, and did I mention the iPhone was really expensive at that time?

So I got the Android and plunged into using it like I do with every other piece of tech equipment or software that has crossed my path: full steam ahead. I have never been one to shy away from technology and if I don’t know something I will figure it out. So I happily went about the business of using my Android phone and became very accustomed to all of its functions and properties.

Now, fast forward two years. The old LG Android slowed down – way down. The battery still charged just fine and it did what I asked it to do, just very, very slowly. I cleaned up as much old stuff and made some moves to delete unused apps, old photos, and some other things, but it was still slower than a snail. I texted my husband last week about something, but it took so long for the text to send that I could have driven to his office faster. So it was time for a new phone.

phoneI told the guy at the counter that I was looking for a small phone. He showed me the iPhone 6, but it was too big. He showed me a Samsung that was still too big. He showed me a few other LG and other models in Androids that were bigger than my old phone and still seemed too clunky for my use. Most of these so-called phones are behemoth devices that look like you’re holding a small tablet to your ear just to have a phone conversation. “Smaller,” I said. Seriously, there is nothing dainty about me except for the size of my hands, so I don’t want a phone that doesn’t fit. Small was crucial. Then, he said, “There is a new iPhone coming out. It’s the size of the old iPhone 5 and you might like it.”

So, I have never been one of those people who orders the newest gadget before it’s even released, until now. Aside from the small form, one admittedly shallow reason for this choice was that you can buy some really cool cases for the iPhone, much more so than for my former LG phone. I am considering one made of burled maple, which is beautiful but a little more than I would like to pay so there’s no final decision yet.

I ordered the iPhone SE. It’s a SMALL phone, but all the reviews claim it packs a lot of power and functionality for its size. It arrived today and I am learning the ins and outs of it. It took me only about 30 minutes to get the phone up and running, including adding my social media apps and loading all the photos and contacts from the cloud onto the new phone. I can make and receive calls, send and receive texts, troll Facebook, scroll Instagram, waste time on Pinterest, check my LinkedIn account, and play around with the camera settings. I can check the news, weather, and email, and review any new stats on my blog. Let me point out that I did all of these things on the old Android, and am now doing them all on the new iPhone. Honestly, aside from a few minor changes in the way the phone functions, I am not seeing a lot of difference here.

I know all of you devotees of one or the other are probably rolling your eyes in disgust right now. But the reality is that they both seem pretty simple to use and both have done all that I ask of them. The apps are easy to download on both.  The camera is nicer on the new iPhone, but I would expect that two years gives everyone a chance to improve their technology.  Right now the Apple operating system seems a bit more cumbersome, but that’s only because I’m not completely used to it after just a few hours.  The more I use it the easier it will become, and I am open to the concept that my opinion on the two systems may change over time.  Anyway, I will use this new phone for a while and get back to you if I find any major differences. Call me a rebel, but at first glance I don’t see too many.

Oh, and as for that Presidential campaign thing, yes, there are MAJOR differences in those operating systems.

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American Success Story

Last week’s post (and a few others) aside, I did not design this blog as a venue for political rants. My objective was to create a spot where I could explore the changing world around me as I charted new territory as a mom whose kids have mainly flown the coop. It has become a place where I choose to make my thoughts public while on my ever-continuing search for the meaning of life. My intention is to still not make this blog all about politics, but to occasionally write it the way I see it in all aspects of life: career, family, relationships, environment, and maybe once in a while politics.

Here is my reality: I am an American success story.

My father was the first in his family to go to college. The adopted son of Irish and Danish immigrants, he was truly lucky in life: lucky to be chosen by a couple who desperately wanted a child, lucky to grow up with an extended family that doted on him, lucky to be encouraged to chase his American dream, and very lucky to find and marry my mother, the daughter of Italian immigrants, who both loved and put up with him. Despite my dad’s college degree, he still struggled to put food on the table and a roof overhead for his five kids.

I was the first of my generation to go to college; an opportunity I nearly squandered, but then created chances to redeem myself later on. My husband, raised by a single mother,  was the first in his family to get a college education and a Master’s Degree. We never chose the highest-paying career tracks, but we have risen from our family of origins’ constant economic struggles to a comfortable very middle class status. It’s not always easy and we don’t have any luxuries in our lives, but we have a decent home and can always buy groceries.

Our elder daughter was the first in her generation to get a Bachelor’s Degree and then a Master’s Degree. She has used her education to launch herself into a career and a city that she chose, where she is now self-sustaining. Our younger daughter will graduate this spring with a Bachelor’s Degree and is headed to law school in the fall. They both work hard and make us very proud parents.

We are an American success story. We have pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps. Ever since my first job in high school flipping burgers and asking, “Would you like fries with that?” I have worked. I spent a couple of years working full time and going to college full time. I have spent more than a few years working two jobs at once in order to pay off debt and sock away a very small amount in savings. We have been able to help our daughters a little bit with living expenses as they struggle to get on their feet. We do not have enough in our retirement accounts and have never worked jobs where there are pension plans. Despite all that, we are an American success story.

Our parents emphasized education and hard work as a way up and a way out of poverty. They encouraged us to seek something better than what they were able to attain. We watched them eke out a living and strove to create a better life for ourselves and our children. We encouraged our children to go to college. Actually, we didn’t present it as one of several options, we always talked about it as the ONLY option. We wanted them to be able to choose a life that would provide personal satisfaction and allow them to pay their own way in the world. We wanted our kids to do better. Isn’t that what all parents want for their children? I am not talking just about earning power, but about lifestyle choices.

It would be glorious to think that every American can do the same thing. I am not naïve enough to believe that. Not all children are born into circumstances where they have choices. Many are born into extreme poverty either in inner city slums or incredibly rural areas where they literally cannot visualize a way up and out. Many have come from generations that have lived in poverty for so long they don’t understand any alternatives, and they may not be able to find one job, let alone two. There honestly are people in our wealthy country who need a helping hand from time to time and we should be generous enough to reach out to them.  We should show them the way to climb out of their oppressive surroundings and give them hope for a better life.

I believe strongly in growth through education. Even when our economy falters, those who have a higher education still make out better than those without. Even if an education doesn’t lead you into a higher socio-economic class, it leads you to become a better person. It opens doors you didn’t even know were closed. Education should be a life-long ambition so that we choose to never quit learning and continue to expand our brains well into adulthood. It is unquestionably harder for young people today to afford a college education than it was when I graduated from high school. I don’t think it should be free for all because I do believe in the value of earning something, but it sure would be nice to make it more affordable.

Without getting into a significant political rant today, I will sum up why this is important to understand. I am the product of immigrant ancestors and I am an American success story. My success has been made possible by hard work, determination, and circumstances in this country where it is possible to change ones’ life for the better. We don’t need some guy who was born with a gold-plated spoon in his mouth to tell us that we should make America great. He doesn’t get it and he truly doesn’t have anyone’s best interests at heart except his own. America is already great.  It has become greater during my lifetime as it grows more inclusive.  America remains the land of opportunity, and I believe strongly that everyone should have the same prospects for success.  Everyone.

Political Low Point

I use phosphate-free dishwashing liquid, and I vote. Well, I guess it doesn’t have the same weight that some other slogans carry, but don’t let that fool you. It doesn’t mean I don’t get angry. In fact, there are many days when I am close to incensed and today is one of those days.

I am incensed over this low point in our American political landscape. Not since the segregationist rhetoric of presidential candidate George Wallace in the 1960’s has there been a candidate who so blatantly incites racial divide as we have now with the current Republican frontrunner. And it’s not just racial hate speech that is creating a dangerous national agenda, it is hate speech against religious groups, women, and anyone who dares to challenge his positions.

When protestors are being removed from his rallies he loves to say, “Get ‘em out of here.” He doesn’t know who they are, but makes broad suppositions that they are unemployed and uneducated.  Obviously, no opposition will be tolerated. He very clearly has no respect for our First Amendment right to free speech. When he asked supporters during a rally in Florida last week to raise their right hand and swear an oath to vote for him, did that strike anyone else as odd, or even scary? This is not a “so help me, God,” oath, unless you happen to be one of his followers who drank all the Koolaid and are okay with the fact that he puts himself on the same level as the Almighty.

Let’s be clear about what we are witnessing: a systemic move towards squelching opposition and inciting violence against anyone who disagrees with the candidate, and a growing movement towards allowing violence in the name of an individual who is establishing himself as an authority figure and working to gain the highest office in the land.

Now let’s take a look at the definition of the word “Fascism”: a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Just for clarity’s sake I want you to read the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Here’s the text:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

So, you want to “Take America Back?” How far back? Clearly not as far back as 1791 when the Bill of Rights, written by founding father James Madison, was approved by Congress. Am I right? No, it appears that you want to take this country back to the days when it was okay to perpetrate violence against people who demonstrated a different point of view. Back to the days of segregation. Back to the days when war protestors were pepper-sprayed or shot. Back to the days when women were second class citizens, and so were blacks, Hispanics, and Muslims. Back to the days when Japanese Americans were interred in camps. Or maybe back to the days when my Irish and Italian ancestors couldn’t find work because they were looked down upon in a class system that we have worked to overcome for decades in this country.

Our President is Commander in Chief of our armed forces, has the power to make treaties, appoint Ambassadors, State Supreme Court Justices, and other officers of the United States government. The main job of the President is to make sure our government runs in a sound way so that it can provide service to the people of our country. So here are the qualities we should seek in a President of the United States: someone who is educated, experienced, compassionate, statesman-like, and able to converse in a civil and meaningful way with all types of people from students to laborers to business people to high level leaders from other governments. Let me add one other incredibly important quality: I want a president who is MATURE. Not a school-yard bully or an overgrown twelve year old with a preoccupation for scatological humor.

There are other Republican candidates with whom I do not agree on policy, but at least they can discuss policy issues in a rational and reasonable way. At least they have an understanding of the gravity of the office. At least they respect the American people enough not to engage in flagrantly embarrassing public behavior. And at least they are not inciting violence during every public engagement. They are, sadly, barely being given the time of day by their own party’s voters.

Unfortunately, the way the delegate count is shaping up right now it appears we will have many more months ahead to put up with a candidate who actually started out looking like a joke and has now gained so much strength that even his own party can’t put him back in the box. It appears the rest of this campaign will have nothing to do with policy issues and everything to do with hate- and fear-mongering. If terrorism that is imported into our country scares you, wait ‘til you see what lies ahead when the terrorism is truly home-grown and government-authorized. This slippery slope we are on is very dangerous, and frightening.

In the Cards

I may be in need of a new obsession. Facebook and Pinterest have become a little boring lately, and with a short lunch half-hour and not enough time to leave my office sometimes it comes down to one thing: solitaire. Playing cards on my screen with nothing but the finest microwaved leftovers for lunch is a cheap and easy way to waste thirty minutes. But here’s a question for you: why does computer solitaire keep score? It’s a game that pits you against the cards. Most often the cards win. But why do we need to keep score? Is it important that I was able to rack up 230 random points before it was flaunted in my face that I lost?

I am a naturally competitive person. I can’t help myself most of the time and simply must compete. So when it’s me against the cards you can bet that I am always seeking ways to maneuver the cards to my advantage. But even with this competitive streak I don’t need to know by how much I have lost or won. I simply need (want) to win. There are certainly far more important things in the world: clean water, breathable air, people learning to get along with one another, and whether or not my children are healthy and happy. Those are important. Whether I win a stupid computer card game should not matter. But in some small corner of my psyche it still does. It’s pitiful, right?

I learned to play solitaire as a child while sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table. My aunt, who was one of the most glamorous women I ever knew, would wash and set her hair and then sit under a hair dryer – one of those behemoth contraptions that looked like the head of a space suit was enclosing your skull. The noise from those hair dryers can be enough to render a person temporarily deaf. But my aunt would post that dryer on a makeshift counter top nearby and play solitaire at the kitchen table, waiting for the heat combined with the curlers in her hair to do their job. Adoring my aunt as I did, I would watch in awe, wondering what she was doing with those playing cards. So when the dryer went off, my questions flowed: What are you doing? How do you play? Why can only the red cards go on the black cards? My aunt was a patient woman and luckily for her nieces and nephew she adored us as much as we did her. So she taught me to play solitaire.

solitaireBeing a loner for much of my life, I can appreciate a game that pits just you against the cards. My introverted nature loves that there is no human interaction during these games, just the deck. As in all card games you learn one of life’s greatest lessons: you must play the hand you’re dealt. From the time my aunt taught me to play it has been a constant reminder that we play the hand we’re dealt, no matter the game. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. I prefer to win, but cheating is not an option and to win by cheating would never carry the same level of fulfillment anyway. That’s actually one great thing about computer solitaire: it literally will not allow you to bend the rules. It’s a cheat-free zone. I can tell you honestly, though, that truly competitive people understand intrinsically how important it is to win fair and square and that a win is only as satisfying as the legitimate steps you took to get there.

So I play, now on my screen with the clicks of a mouse instead of with a deck of cards at the table. But each time I choose to play solitaire a little voice in my head reminds me that this is a life lesson in microcosm and that it doesn’t matter how smart we are or how much money we have or how our hair looks on any given day (old-fashioned dryer or not) or how many people like or dislike us. What really makes a difference is how we play the hand we’re dealt. We can play a clean game and make the smartest moves and we may still not get the win, but we know that we have played by the rules and that’s what reinforces a civilized society and holds up our self-respect. I simply cannot understand those who see life differently. Now that I think of it, maybe winning a few points even during a losing hand is significant since it strengthens the incredibly important concept that we have played a clean game.

If you feel this narrative has perhaps too subtly strayed towards the thin line of addressing the current political and sociological climate you may be right. But there are a few things I know for sure in life and will carry with me until my last breath:  how you play the game is more important than whether you win or lose, cheaters and liars can never really win, and my beloved late aunt taught me some important lessons in life with a simple deck of cards.