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Archive for December 17th, 2006

Stupid infomercials

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

I suddenly remember why I don’t watch TV. I just want to catch the headlines, and all any of the major stations is talking about is the climbers in Oregon who are missing/dead. Yes, this is an important story, and yes it is heart-wrenching. But, certainly there are other headlines worth mentioning at least? No? CNN, MSNBC, even (or maybe especially) FOX News all seem to think nothing else in the whole world is happening. Gah.

Anyway, the point is between the talk/repetition of how little info they actually have/leading questions on CNN (what else other than news would I have on in the background?) I just saw the dumbest infomercial I’ve ever seen (except maybe the annoying “HeadOn apply directly to the forehead” commercials — p.s. that’s a link to Aman’s parody not the commerical). It was for the MXZ Saw. They compared it to another saw by saying basically, yeah sure that other saw can cut through wood… but what about this cinderblock? Now, the MXZ saw can… I don’t understand why this would convince anyone to buy the saw. Who tries a cut a cinderblock with a saw? Nobody sits around and thinks, man, if only I had a stronger saw, I could cut through that cinderblock. What a stupid gimmick. These types of things are why I’d rather read the newspaper or catch the headlines on CNN.com.

OK, now Meet the Press is on. That’s better.

A superthin MacBook?!

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

There are rumors circulating that the next big announcement from Apple will include a 12-inch “MacBook Thin.” If this is true, I want one.

I’m happy with my current MacBook and have no major complaints. At 13 inches, it really isn’t that big and is smaller and lighter than my previous 15″ HP laptop. My MacBook is also a much better fit than my friend’s 17″ MacBook Pro (which is ridiculously big). I like that I can comfortably balance my computer on my lap. My desk (as the picture at the top of this Web site implies) is almost always overflowing with other things leaving little room for my computer. Also, 13 inches isn’t so small that I feel my eyes are straining.

But, as with cell phones and cameras, I have a thing for tiny technology.

How young is too young for a cell phone

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

I got my first cell phone at 15. I wasn’t the first kid with one, but I certainly was in the minority at that time. My brother got his when he was 14, even younger than me. My sister Brandiann had a pager in middle school. (Wow, remember when pagers were the cool thing to do?!)

At the time, having a cell phone in school was a very definite “don’t,” and teachers regularly confiscated them from students. My cell phone only ever rang in class one time. AP Calculus senior year. I remember diving at my bag and grabbing it to hit ignore so fast that I almost fell out of my seat.

Today, high school and college students are almost expected to have cell phones. I don’t know anyone in college who doesn’t have one. I also don’t know anyone in college who has a landline. It’s just a cultural thing.

But still, when my sister bought my 11-year-old nephew a cell phone for his birthday in June, I raised my eyebrows. Certainly 11 is too young for a cell phone. But then my sister told me recently, she thinks she’s going to get a family plan and put both my nephews on it with her. My nephews are 11 and 7. What 7 year old needs a cell phone?!

I was reminded of this when I read David Giffel’s column in the Beacon. He brings up the current/possible cell phone ban the Akron Public Schools is considering:

… this is also an opportunity to teach a larger and more basic lesson: What you want is not the same as what you need.

Children want cell phones. In order to keep them during the school day, they will try to convince grown-ups that they need cell phones. Most adults can see through this argument, and most adults understand that children can’t have everything they want.

If you are climbing the Alps, you need a cell phone.

If you are in fourth-period algebra, you do not need a cell phone.

If you are driving cross-country, you need a cell phone.

If you are having lunch in the cafeteria, you do not need a cell phone.

If you are an embedded reporter in Iraq, you need a cell phone.

If you are making a pit stop at your locker, you do not need a cell phone.

Grown-ups know this. They went to school in the 20th century, when children somehow managed to get through six hours of classes without a constant wireless connection to the outside world. They talked to the people around them without interrupting the conversation to talk to someone else who was not in the room.

It’s true though. There is a huge difference between wanting and needing a cell phone. And I can say from experience, cell phones are distracting, and high school students really don’t need any more distractions (what with hormones, college, parents, work, friends, life… to keep them perpetually occupied). Plus, there is the concern over cheating/passing answers to each other. If the instructor is diligent and pays 10 seconds of attention, he’ll notice a kid looking under his/her desk at a phone or heaven forbid the more obvious taking a picture of the test with his phone.

I never had a problem with cell phones or pagers being confiscated in class. They are distracting and unnecessary in class. But let high school students have cell phones. Why not in the hall ways or cafeteria at lunch? Who cares if you choose to talk to someone else then? You’re not distracting from education. As long as you get to class on time, put the ringer on silent and pay attention, who cares who you talked to between classes/at lunch?

There was mention of the cell phone ban issue in Al’s Morning Meeting, including a story from The Milwalkee Journal Sentinal about students cheating with cell phones.

What it really comes down to is this, ban them or don’t it won’t matter. As the MJS story says, “it is obvious to anyone around a high school or middle school — and sometimes even elementaries — that a vast majority of students carry them and use them frequently.” The trick will be balancing the students desire to carry them with their need to stay focused on the task at hand. Making them a forbidden fruit is not going to achieve the desired outcome.

The Beacon…

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

Obviously, as anyone who actually reads my blog can tell, I love the Beacon Journal. The Beacon is my “hometown paper,” and even though it’s technically a metro, it has always felt like my local paper (a vibe I definitely don’t get from the Plain Dealer). I read it every day. When I have time to stop and buy it in print, I do. But even when I can’t, such as all summer when I was in Findlay, I still read Ohio.com throughout the day to keep up with the latest Akron news.

All that said, I just want to comment on a few stories from today…

First, I saw they gave out the monthly Do the Right Thing awards yesterday. This program is always great, and it holds special meaning for me because when I was in 8th grade, I was in the very first group of students to receive the award. That was a decade ago. I wonder if the officers who organized the program ever saw it taking off as much as it did. This is also the type of story many reporters dread, but it proves my mantra of “everything’s important to someone.” It’s not about corruption or about telling the untold story. It’s just about giving little kids and their families something to smile about because everyone can read about them in the paper. How do I know? Well, somewhere around here, I still have the clipping with my name and headshot that ran with the article the day I got the award.

Second, although I don’t understand the headline, this was a cute story… However, I am left wondering… what Wal-Mart at the Stow-Kent Plaza? There of course isn’t one. There’s a K-Mart that’s going out of business. There’s a Wal-Mart in Stow, which is what he’s talking about, but it’s at least a 10 minute drive from the Stow-Kent Plaza. I don’t recognize the byline. He is apparently a BJ business writer, which is probably why I don’t know the name as well as the metro reporters. But he could be new and from out of the area, which is the point of bringing this up… A local would have (and several beside me probably did when they read the line) scratched their head and said, that’s not right. But if you weren’t from the area, you probably wouldn’t have had occasion to know the particularities of what makes up the Stow-Kent Plaza. But still, an editor or someone in copy should have caught that; for all I know, one of them could have inserted it, creating a fact error by trying to give more context to the location. So, how did it get through? Because, chances are they’re new, too, or just plain busy. (I know several students who’ve been hired PT for copyediting. All of them good, but none of them are Akronites.) It definitely makes me hope that wherever I take a job, I’m able to pick up on these little nuances about the city and that I have editors who know the town well enough to do the same.

Web site hours?

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

I will never understand why Web For Students is not available 24/7. It is the only Web site I’ve ever come across that has set hours, like a store or business. The site isn’t open or accessible between midnight and 8 a.m. Isn’t the whole point of the Web that you can access info any time, anywhere?

Aside from being annoying, especially for the students for whom it is supposedly designed and who are frequently up past the hours of operation, it makes no sense. I understand the registrar’s office and bursar’s office need to run nightly account logs. But why is that other companies can keep accounts up to date without shutting down access to account information?

This is one of many technology-related annoyances I will be glad to leave behind at Kent State. Among the others? 15MB mailbox limits, Flashline, WebCT, hit-or-miss Wi-Fi that required me to authenticate each time I opened my computer, paperless e-billing that wasn’t compatible with Macs… but mostly, Web for Students.