When I was a young man, I heard about an old Texas horse rancher who went to his grave convinced that the airplane and the automobile were invented solely to drive down the value of his stock. Sometimes I’ve felt the same way, especially this past week.
When I was a young man, I heard about an old Texas horse rancher who went to his grave convinced that the airplane and the automobile were invented solely to drive down the value of his stock.
Sometimes I’ve felt the same way, especially this past week.
We shared Christmas, as we usually do, with our kids and their increasing number of kids.
It’s a rewarding time to be a grandparent, even though most of the gifts this year came from Best Buy, a place that sells bunches of stuff I didn’t understand or can’t operate.
For instance, my daughter bought us a device that looks like a picture frame. Its function is to display photographs.
The photos are downloaded from a camera disc into this device, which is then hooked up somehow to your television set, so that you can look at the photos on your television screen. I can’t think why.
My son-in-law owns all sorts of communication devices. He has a cell phone, a laptop computer, a desktop computer and, this year, a Blackberry. His Blackberry is a palm-size combination computer/telephone.
When he visits us, he spends a significant amount of time staring at it. It provides him with all sorts of information: the weather, how to get to a restaurant, the scores of football games as they’re being played and e-mail messages from his office or friends.
Sometimes it seems as though his life is in his palm and those of us actually in the room with him are merely virtual reality.
This year he bought his family a device called a “Wii”. Not in the know, I referred to it as a “Why” until my 7-year-old granddaughter set me straight: “No grandpa, it’s called wee.”
Son-in-law hooked it up to the television set – an intricate installation that I couldn’t have duplicated with a gun to my head.
It turned out to be a nifty device that provided the kids with hours of entertainment.
They play virtual games with it, in case you aren’t familiar with one, in which they manipulate a remote control device attached to their wrist. As they do, characters on the television screen react.
Wii applications are extensive and include sports such as bowling, golf, baseball and tennis.
In fairly short order, my 5-year-old and 7-year-old granddaughters grew proficient at some of the games, especially bowling.
In the beginning, the 7-year-old won every game, but by the second day, the younger girl began to hold her own. She would get hot and throw four or five strikes in a row.
This resulted in a unique experience for her: In no other competition with her older sister had she ever before emerged a winner.
This thrilled her at first.
Soon, though, she began expecting to win and would whine when she fell behind.
After one such episode, she flicked her wrist carelessly on her next throw and the control device flew out of her hand.
Since it was attached to her wrist, it didn’t fly far – it merely rose up and conked her on the head. She wasn’t hurt (the device has a soft cover) but she started to cry.
We couldn’t tell if she was crying because she was losing, had been hit in the head or was angry that everyone was laughing at her.
My own new plaything is called a Magellan Maestro. It attaches to the dashboard of my car and can be used to plot a route to some destination.
My son-in-law has one and lives by it. He turns his on even if he’s driving to work, just to see it plot the route there.
My own device seems to be temperamental, however.
I often have difficulty punching in an address for it to follow, but even when I’m successful, it frequently reacts by shutting down.
Then I have to restart it and go through the process again.
It also has an annoying semi-female voice that says things like: “In two miles, remain on the same route.”
I find it much faster to consult a road map.
Maybe the Magellan was created solely to drive down the cost of road maps.
Contact the publisher at email@example.com