In the Grasp of 4G

I had a dream. About cellular networks. Now I know I’m ill for sure. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been shopping around for alternatives to my current telecommunications arrangements.

In the Grasp of Cellular: Not

Perhaps it was a reaction to having had a dream about something as commercial and commoditized as cellular phone service. I started to look for for a way to eliminate cellular service from my life entirely. I knew it wouldn’t be simple, but if I could do it fast, my concern about cellular service, costs, contracts, etc. would be history and I could rid my dreams of this commercial intrusion into my peace. The flip side of the coin is that like most people who work, I need to remain in contact, so simply unplugging is not an option.

I found my solution in the iPhone:not. Also known as the iPod Touch. Steve Jobs had died, and so I didn’t have to worry any longer about getting some of his bad karma by purchasing one of his company’s products. The iPhone is basically an iPod touch with the addition of the cellular circuitry, a bit more memory to handle the overhead, and a slightly higher-rez camera. The iPod Touch is slimmer, more lightweight, and when I show it off and tell people it’s an iPhone 5, they believe it. So much for the iPhone being revolutionary. But then, your mom has one so what do you expect? Conversely, the Touch is exactly what I wanted; an iPhone without the cellular. But can you make phone calls on the Touch? Absolutely, yes. The newer Touch models also support Bluetooth, so you can use an earpiece (but Skype doesn’t support Bluetooth!) if you want to.

I needed a phone number, and a way to shuffle my calls around in case my Touch is out of WiFi range. Google Voice to the rescue! I got a Google number.

Here are the remainder of the components I assembled together:

  • Virgin Mobile pre-paid WiFi cellular hotspot, for when no WiFi is available
  • Google Voice account
  • Bluetooth Headset
  • The following iPod Touch Apps (most are free):
    • Google Voice (very limited; requires the others…)
    • GV Connect (handle multiple #’s for personal, business, etc.) ($)
    • Talkatone
    • Whistle (for an additional phone #)
    • Skype (doesn’t support Bluetooth!)

This is not intended to be a how-to article. Nor exhaustive. There are many other apps that support similar functionality; the above are the ones I chose and am using at this writing.

I’m an old fart. I suspect many younger folks are doing this also. Google may be breeding a whole new generation of kids who use Google instead of cellular for phone service. If I were a kid dependent on mom and dad for a cell phone, I’d surely dump it in favor of this and take control of my communications without the cost.

No contracts, no per-minute rate. No cellphone tracking.

Henry’s Extraterrestrial Experience

For Cady.

Hat Creek Radio Observatory

Image by armigeress via Flickr

Henry always wanted to travel into space and visit other worlds. Henry read science fiction novels all day long whenever he had a free moment; and in the toilet too. Henry was an elementary school student with poor vision, and consequently he was equipped with thick glasses that allowed him to read, as well as see reasonably well. Henry was always thinking about space aliens. Space battles between conflicted groups of humans. Or aliens. More often, though, Henry had a vision. A vision of a peaceful, verdant planet. This planet was occupied by a relatively small population of advanced beings that lived in a complete peace and harmony with their planet.

Henry’s family were farmhands. They lived in a small, run-down trailer in Nebraska. The trailer was a few hundred feet from the main farmhouse, and the complex was dotted with trees. Beyond the trees were rows of corn as far as the eye could see.

A retired 1955 Kenworth Model T-216

Image via Wikipedia

Henry traveled to and from school on a beaten-up school bus. The trip was nearly an hour each way. That made for two hours a day in which Henry had to entertain himself. Some of the kids on the bus did their homework. Others sang songs. Girls giggled. Boys fought. Some sat alone and texted themselves, their friends, or other kids on the bus. But Henry dreamed. Henry dreamed of being in space. Henry believed that if he dreamed hard enough, he could will himself to travel to a far away planet. In Henry’s dreams, his will was an awesome and terrible thing that was growing and growing. Sooner or later, it would grow so powerful that it could transport Henry to that planet he dreamed of.

One special night, Henry went to bed as usual. Before going to sleep, he focused hard on his desire to travel to other worlds. His eyes scrunched up and his hands tightened into balls of will. Henry fell asleep.

Henry’s mom awoke to sounds coming from first Henry’s room, and then the door to the trailer as it creaked shut. She sensed a flash of blue light and an odd ethereal sound outside the trailer with eyes closed in her dreamy state. She had been in a deep sleep, and thoughts of getting up and checking out the noise formed in the forefront of her sleepy mind. But the weight and exhaustion of the day’s labors fought and overcame those thoughts, and Henry’s mom fell back asleep, her breath resuming a steady rise and fall.


A rich starry sky fills the view from an ancie...

Image via Wikipedia

Henry awoke under a clear, starry sky. His bare feet were cold and wet. There was a slight breeze, and it carried air that felt strange to him past his nose. He became aware of unfamiliar scents. The weight of his body felt wrong; he felt lighter than normal. Then, a rustling noise and a strange animal sound that he had never heard before.

Henry stood still, and focused on breathing the strange air steadily. His head was clearing, and he was becoming better able to sense his new environment. Henry realized that he was no longer on Earth. A chill traveled down his spine at this thought, and simultaneously the little peach fuzz hairs on his back stood up and tried to be tall. He took a step forward.

It was very dark, and the place he found himself was very, very dark. He tried to identify the horizon, and from what he could tell, the surface of the planet on which he found himself was very, very flat. The surface was evenly covered by short plants, all of which seemed to be the same. Henry took off his glasses and rubbed them with his pajama shirt in an effort to get a clearer view.


Starry Sky over Palo Duro Canyon

Image by r w h via Flickr

Henry’s mind was now excited, and thoughts began flooding into his consciousness as his brain cranked faster and faster. This planet must be smaller than Earth. That would account for the feeling of lightness. Also what appeared to be the low horizon. Perhaps it is a very old planet with little vulcanism, and consequently whatever mountains there had once been were now worn down so the planet is relatively flat. Henry looked up into the cloudless sky and wondered about the constellations… his vision was too blurry to tell, but he expected they would be completely different than those seen on Earth.

Henry took a few steps forward. He realized that he was standing on what seemed to be a dusty road or path, about 20 feet wide. It seemed Earth-like until he realized the implication: there must be some sort of intelligent life here that built the road! He took a few steps to the edge of the road and squinted into the foliage. It seemed as if the plants were organized into rows, or else some other regular pattern – he couldn’t be certain. But it implied either large-scale agriculture, or else a very alien kind of vegetation that naturally grew in this organized way. It occurred to Henry that soon he would have to find food and water, but he decided to put that off until light came; whenever that might be. In the meantime, he relieved himself on a rock that was clearly visible, so he wouldn’t step in it later.

Intelligent life! Something like a road, and something like agriculture. Suddenly Henry experienced a flush of sensation, warm and glowing. It might be possible to live here! Perhaps he could find the aliens, communicate with them, and live here with them. Away from humanity, the trailer, the bus, the school, and the other kids who tormented him! While they lived out their dreary lives on Earth, Henry would be ahead of them all. The first human ambassador to another civilization of sentients! Henry could barely contain his excitement.

Now, in the distance, he heard a noise. A rumbling, steady mechanical noise. Henry turned around to survey all directions, and at one point in the distance, he saw lights. Instinctively, he ran into the foliage to hide. The sound drew nearer, and the lights brighter. Henry overcame his fear and realized that he couldn’t survive long here, alone. He needed to make contact with the aliens right away. The sooner the better. So Henry moved to the edge of the road, took off his pajama shirt, and started to wave it.

What seemed like an Earth-like vehicle slowed and stopped perhaps 100 feet away. An alien form, bipedal, got out of the vehicle and slowly moved toward him. Then, it spoke! In English!

“Henry? Is that you?”

Henry froze in terror as the creature continued to approach.

“Henry, your mama is worried out of her mind over you. Come here boy, and we’ll take you home. Looks like you’ve been out sleepwalking. Are you OK boy?”

It was a police officer. Henry cooperated with the alien, and got into the vehicle, which roared off. Soon he was home, and his mother was weeping and wailing and thanking the police officer. Before Henry knew what was happening, before he had adapted to suddenly being back on Earth, he was bundled into bed, the lights were shut off, the door to his room locked, and with strange ease, he fell asleep. It was probably the exhaustion from the stress of space travel.

The next day, Henry’s mom took him to the doctor, who prescribed a sedative. The doctor assured her that was the last time Henry would travel into space, to visit other worlds.

The End?