Hang Up and Say Goodbye to the Phone Call

When I was teenager, I used to love to talk on the phone. I got my own phone in my bedroom for my 16th birthday – when I was 15-and-a-half because I’d kept the family phone line tied up so much no one (except my friends, who would routinely call the operator and make “emergency interruptions”) could get through.

As the years went by, I was fascinated by the “car phone”, something that was financially out of my reach. I used Sprint, had a calling “circle of friends” and dialed bizarre codes like “10-10-111” before a number to get cheap long distance rates to keep reaching out and touching those I liked as we moved around the country.

Then along came cell phones, tons of minutes and the ability to talk from one end of the nation to the other while “on the go”. In the days before laws that banned one from driving while talking on the phone (and headsets) everyone could have a “car phone”. What joy (and convenience) to be chatting with your best friend in Connecticut while looking for a parking space at a mall in California!

And then one day my phone rang and I didn’t answer it. Even though I knew who it was (my mother), I couldn’t be bothered. Can’t she learn to text, I thought. The phone call became an intrusion, an interruption to my time on Facebook where I was telling 272 people what I was doing right now. Anyone who was anyone (my circle of friends had grown way beyond the five I used to be able to pick as part of my calling plan) knew I was making a chicken tortilla pie (amazingly, with one hand on some keyboard).

Then nearly as strangely as my phone started ringing all the time back when I was a teenager, in the last few years it kind of stopped. Oh, the telemarketers still call (no matter how many “Do Not Call” lists I register my number on). And Mom still calls (although she does log onto Facebook every day, so when we do talk, we simply comment in real-time about our recent status updates). But my phone time is down about 999% and I’m not alone. If your phone isn’t ringing as much as it used to, chances are you’re not dialing it as much as you used to either.

According to Clive Thompson of Wired, on “The Death of the Phone Call“,

According to Nielsen, the average number of mobile phone calls we make is dropping every year, after hitting a peak in 2007. And our calls are getting shorter: In 2005 they averaged three minutes in length; now they’re almost half that.

For all the reasons I mentioned above, and then some. We are “in constant, lightweight contact in so many other ways: texting, chatting, and social-network messaging. And we don’t just have more options than we used to. We have better ones: These new forms of communication have exposed the fact that the voice call is badly designed…[they are] emotionally high-bandwidth, which is why it’s so weirdly exhausting to be interrupted by one.”

And, according to Thompson we apparently find voicemail “even more excruciating: Studies show that more than a fifth of all voice messages are never listened to.”

It appears the phone call as some of us like me used to know it, it going the way of so many other once cutting-edge forms of technology (like the car phone and the answering machine). Caller ID kind of signaled its death knell years ago. But the phone call as a coordinated plan to catch up with Mom or those in your real “circle of friends” once a month or so is still a coveted slice of downtime. Just be sure to use email, texting and an instant message or two to set it up in advance, rather than a cold smile and dial.

Clive Thompson, Wired.com, “The Death of the Phone Call.

Let’s “Like” Lunch – Have a Topping of Twitter on Your Burger

It was only a matter of time – in fact it still is, but in 23 days “a new, hyper-connected, ‘healthy fast food’ restaurant called 4Food,” will open in New York City on 40th and Madison Avenue.

4Food will allow you to build your choice of burger online, tweet your creation or post it to your Facebook status and earn points (in 25-cent increments) based on others who “like” or “re-tweet” your burger in the best possible sense – they order it for themselves. For each order of “your” burger in the time it takes you to get to 4Food and pick it up, you earn points in 25-cent increments. Earn enough points, and you get a significant discount, or in the best case scenario a free lunch. In the worst case scenario, your burger is deemed so disgusting (maybe you’ve ordered the salmon burger topped with macaroni and cheese and baked beans?) you end up paying full price. Oh, well – isn’t that what you’ve always done at McDonald’s?

For now, 4Food will be a strictly in Manhattan phenomenon. But if the burgers turn out to be any good, look for other outlets to start popping up anywhere wi-fi connections are strong – like within range of your local Starbucks.

Source: Bits Blog, the New York Times, “Making Lunch a Social Networking Game.”

Up to Speed on the Australian Federal Election

With just a week to go, Australia’s first woman prime minister, Julia Gillard faces a tough challenge from so-called “blunt conservative” Tony Abbott.

But setting aside politics for the personal, the Australians seem to be taking a cue from their American friends, with “human interest” items like these bound to play as much a role in the election outcome as the candidates’ stands on taxes, climate change and immigration.

* Gillard is an atheist.
* Abbott trained for the priesthood.
* Gillard favors Hillary Clinton-style pantsuits.
* Abbott, a triathlete, has often been photographed in red Speedos.
* Gillard is not married, and lives with her de facto partner, a hairdresser named Tim.
* Abbott, a married father of three, has been described as “an anti-scientific, old fashioned, conservative Catholic” – but any comparisons of some of his buffoonish George W. Bush-style antics should stop there. He is a Rhodes Scholar.
* Gillard trained as lawyer. She has been a career politician since her mid-thirties. She’s 48 years old.
* Abbott is 53.
* Gillard has called Abbott, “a snivelling little grub.”
* Abbott once described Gillard as having a “shit-eating grin”.

May the best woman, or man, win this one.

Source: Guardian.co.uk “Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott face photo finish in Australian election”.

Photo credit: Alan Porritt/AFP/Getty Images.

US Cities Demand Equal Immigration Rights for All Citizens

Out4Immigration’s Grassroots Support for Federal Legislation Raises Awareness that LGBT Americans with Foreign Partners Need Immigration Reform, Too

More than 30 US cities, counties and the state of California have issued resolutions or written formal letters of endorsement urging Congress to pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). This federal legislation would grant LGBT Americans with foreign partners – same-sex binational couples – the same rights their heterosexual counterparts access through marriage: the right of an American citizen to sponsor their life partner for a green card and keep their families together in the United States.

These actions, spearheaded by Out4Immigration, an all-volunteer organization of same-sex binational couples and their supporters, takes heed from the late Congressional leader Tip O’Neill’s belief that “all politics is local.”

“We are tired of waiting for Congress to act on our behalf,” said Amos Lim, one of the founders of Out4Immigration, who points out that UAFA has been introduced in every session of Congress in various forms since 2000. Although it remains one of the most popular stand-alone immigration bill in the House, and had a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2009, it has failed, along with Comprehensive Immigration Reform, to move forward in 2010.

“More than 36,000 same-sex binational couples need this law passed now,” said Lim. (read more)

Video: Taxi Jazz – Move Over Texting While Driving, This is Multi-Tasking

Hat tip to some friends on Facebook for this hyperlocal San Francisco gem: the clarinet-playing taxi driver. This guy ought to make Oprah re-think that retirement, her work in getting multi-taskers off the road was clearly only beginning with the driving-while-texting crowd. In my many years in San Francisco, I haven’t had the pleasure of a cab ride with this guy yet, but I have gotten a ride with the burrito-eating bongo player. Anyone have a video of him?

Equality Wins in California: US District Judge Overturns Proposition 8

In another historic landmark day in the ongoing battle for equal rights in California (and America), US District Judge Vaughn Walker struck down Proposition 8, the statewide ban against same-sex marriage.

The judge based his decision in part on the fact that opponents to same-sex marriage simply had no compelling argument against it. Key findings included:

“The Proposition 8 campaign relied on fears that children exposed to the concept of same-sex marriage may become gay or lesbian. The … advertisements insinuated that learning about same-sex marriage could make a child gay or lesbian and that parents should dread having a gay or lesbian child.”

“In the absence of a rational basis, what remains of proponents’ case is an inference, amply supported by evidence in the record, that Proposition 8 was premised on the belief that same-sex couples simply are not as good as opposite-sex couples. Whether that belief is based on moral disapproval of homosexuality, animus towards gays and lesbians or simply a belief that a relationship between a man and a woman is inherently better than a relationship between two men or two women, this belief is not a proper basis on which to legislate.”

“Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians, including: gays and lesbians do not have intimate relationships similar to heterosexual couples; gays and lesbians are not as good as heterosexuals; and gay and lesbian relationships do not deserve the full recognition of society.”

Said Mickey Lim, a San Francisco resident, US Air Force veteran and the vice president of Out4Immigration, a group that advocates for equal immigration rights for same-sex couples denied equal protections due, in part, to marriage inequality at the federal level, “[the ruling] shows that basic individual rights cannot be trampled on by a mob, whether the mob is carrying pitchforks or at the voting booth.”

The Bay Citizen reported that “some 300 supporters of same-sex marriage marched down Market Street to City Hall in celebration early Wednesday evening.” It appears that the Bay Citizen has lost a “zero” in that estimate. KazzaDrask Media was on the scene and reports at least 3,000 supporters left the Castro area at 6 pm en route to the Civic Center.

Source: Bay Citizen; photo by KazzaDrask Media (taken with an iPhone).