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Another Way to Say “We Are All Made of Star-stuff”

First of all, there’s a fabulous new Overcompensating comic today. Click this specially-made teaser to see the whole shebang:

(When Jeffrey Rowland helpfully made that teaser panel for me, he also offered this. Look don’t ask questions, it’ll only hurt your delicate brain.)

Speaking of Danny Devito, I have a new post over on the SGU blog that was too depressing and redundant with today’s Quickies to bother x-posting over here on Skepchick as I normally do. But there’s the link anyway.

Also, frequent commenter and Official Friend of Skepchick Blake Stacey has published a book! Those of you digging on the sci-fi should go purchase Until Earthset now. Now!

And, save the date: Boston Skeptics in the Pub will be held January 26! Speaker TBA in the new year.

Finally: I need a new phone. Please talk me out of or into an iPhone and/or a Blackberry Storm. Thank you that is all.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. No iPhone. Whenever buying something that fits in a pocket think about what happens when it falls into the toilet. Or bathtub. Or gets left on a bus or at a bar. This seems to be the fate of most cell phones.

    I used to have a Verizon flip-phone that gave me 400 minutes, roamed everywhere, and cost $85 per month. Every month. Whether I used it or not. That’s $1000 per year.

    I started thinking about what I could do with $1000 when researching a new phone. The first year I spent $100 for 1000 minutes from T-Mobile plus $30 for a cheap phone. Ever since then I give them $10 or $20 per year, the unused minutes roll over. Granted I make/receive maybe 15 calls a month and they last a minute or less. I don’t have all human knowledge in my pocket, but then again I’m rarely more than 15 feet from a real computer. Should the day come when my Nokia finds itself sharing a porcelain bowl with the remains of yesterday’s burrito I’ll calmly flush, pony up another $30, and I’m off to the races.

    My total cell phone investment over the last three years is $160 which is a savings of about $1500 over the cheapest iPhone plan I have ever heard of. I remind my iPhoned friends of this whenever they complain about being broke.

  2. I mentioned this the last time you brought up Blackberries, but our folks at work who have them are constantly having technical issues with them. Maybe the Storm is less sucky than the models they have, but probably not.

    Not that I own an iPhone for comparison, or anything.

  3. I voted for Kerry Edwards, and he personally came to my house and beat me up for it! Now THAT’s the kind of president I could get behind (if only because it’s harder for him to hit me when I’m behind him!)

    Also, that DeVito image made me laugh so hard I snorted, which can be seen as some sort of good thing/bad thing hybrid.

  4. I have a basic cellphone that doesn’t even take pictures. If it were any more primitive, it would be made out of wood and I could bash in other cavemen’s heads with it.

    It also doesn’t cost me an arm/leg. Hmmm…basic communication. What a concept. ;-)

  5. Rebecca,

    iPhone is the way to go for several reasons:

    1. it’s an iPod, integrates with your existing iTunes library
    2. you have a keyboard built right into the iPhone
    3. the texting interface is slicker than any other phone I’ve ever owned.
    4. you get FREE email integration with any system – Microsoft, GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.
    5. the Apple AppStore – you can download hundreds of custom-made applications, games, tools, twitter/facebook/myspace tools
    6. the internet is literally at your finger tips – I use my iPhone to post comments on SkepChick all the time
    7. user interface simplicity – Apple has really made the iPhone process natural. it’s easy for beginner techno-illiterate people and what every other phone should have been for the techno-wizzes
    8. it’s a GPS device – you’ve got Google Maps at your finger tips with driving/walking directions anywhere in the US
    9. it’s inexpensive – you can grab the 8GB model for as low as $199.
    10. youtube at your finger tips – when I get bored, I check out youtube on my iPhone. it is fast, simple, fully-integrated and fun
    11. iTunes remote control – your iPhone can act as an iTunes remote control changing songs on your PC/Mac iTunes from any room in your house – I love having the power to change tracks on my house stereo laptop via my iPhone – great for parties

  6. Hm, perhaps I should explain why I want an iPhone or Blackberry:

    1.) Because I get 100+ emails a day, and spend 3 to 4 hours a day commuting on the subway.

    2.) I’m currently on the cheapest rate plan I can get but it still is costing me upwards of $60/month thanks to texts, many of which I could cut out if I can email from my phone.

    3.) I’m out a lot, and sometimes there are bloggy emergencies that must be dealt with.

    4.) I hate my current crappy phone, that no longer holds a charge well and can’t send or receive pics.

    5.) My cell phone is my only phone so I do need plenty of minutes.

  7. @pkitty: I notice that calling someone is not on your list…If I wanted a tricorder, I would buy one. ;-)

  8. Thanks for the plug. I’m gonna feel really bad if the cover alignment or the internal margins or something like that got screwed up in between my test copy and the one anybody buys. . . But hey, even Cuttlefish had a few glitches in the first printing of its book (which means I own the uncorrected first edition, which is naturally a more valuable collector’s item).

    I still can’t figure out how to get the pictures downloaded from the Samsung/Verizon gizmo I carry with me. Some of them are ruttin’ hilarious, too.

  9. I have a Blackjack II and I loves it. I know they have a new Blackjack touch screen, but I can’t remember what it’s called (I don’t think it’s actually a Blackjack, exactly, but it’s basically the next model, but with a touch screen. I’ve heard good things about it.

    @davew: You say no iPhone, but that’s because you don’t have any use for it. Rebecca obviously does.

    I pay about $80 a month for my BlackJack through ATT, with unlimited data and text msg, plus 450 roll over minutes, which is just about perfect. I use the crap out of the text and data. I can’t view certain blogs at work (blocked) but I can on my phone. Woot!

    It’s worth it to me.

  10. I’m holding out for the cerebral implants like in s/f novels where I can do all that stuff just by thinking about it…no phone or computer needed. I wonder what spam would do in that case, much less viruses and worms…Hmmm. S/F book plot brewing? ;-)

  11. iphone and blackberries serve their purpose to those who need them – rich or not. Shit…
    I think iphone rocks it but I am a sucker for style – the iphone does not take video and a blackberry does (i think) – but since the new ones cost only $199 you can afford a snazzy flip camera along with it. Or get one as a gift.
    The iPhone wont fall out of your pocket if you get one of those rubber protector thingies. It will if you don’t.
    Your commute time will become billable time. <–is that a word?
    Good luck in this very important decision. May the iPhone be with you.

  12. @BlakeStacey: Heard of it, but haven’t seen it. So much to do, so little time…

    I was thinking of Ian bank’s Culture novels, actually. My goal in life is now to become a Mind. LOL

  13. @marilove: “You say no iPhone, but that’s because you don’t have any use for it.”

    This is a good point. Different people have different life-styles. However we westerners use the word “need” way too easily. I think every now and then it’s good to reexamine one’s “needs” especially those that come with a monthly bill. Over the last five years I’ve come to realize I didn’t need a car ($1000/yr) or cable TV ($40/mo). Right now I’m trying life without an office phone (free to me, but useless). So far so good, and many fewer interruptions.

    If I were in Rebecca’s shoes (ouch, ouch, tight, tight!) I’d suck down my email to a laptop, answer it off-line on the subway, and plug back into the net on the other end. This is what I currently do on my coffee-shop days,. With my job, however, I can be out of touch for an hour or two and nobody cares. They care more about my productivity. I don’t know about Rebecca’s job(s).

    Hmm. No land-line. I wonder what life would be like without a phone at all? What if the only reliable ways to reach me were email and Twitter? Life would be somewhat different for sure, but would it be worse or better? I’m thinking better. Now I just have to talk my wife into it. There goes another $25/month bill!

    I think what plagues us now is our life is chopped up into teeny, tiny slices between interruptions. We pay through the nose to be highly available, but all it really seems to do is make us highly distracted. I need large wodges of uninterrupted time to make any progress on difficult problems. “Highly available” is just another circle of hell for me.

  14. @davew: Funny, because I see the iPhone as another step of keeping myself sane and uninterrupted. I rarely actually answer my phone now, preferring to just call people back when it’s convenient for me, and preferring even more to simply email them.

    I’m surprised this is the first time you’re considering no land-line. I haven’t had one in years, nor do I have a TV, car, or radio.

    And thanks for the suggestion re: laptop! But there’s absolutely no way I’m dragging my precious laptop back and forth to work every day on the T!

  15. I vote iphone… I love mine and am neither rich nor trendy. I just love staying connected and the GPS thing is great even for us non-drivers out there. (The camera is fairly decent as well… and the web browser is really good and very fast.)

    I also don’t have a radio or a car or a land line. I have a TV… it plays DVDs and gathers dust.

    But yeah, iphone is the way to go… for all the reasons listed above.

  16. @Rebecca Having just been in your position, may I suggest ur doin it rong…

    R: 1.) Because I get 100+ emails a day, and spend 3 to 4 hours a day commuting on the subway.

    Me: Most of the emails are probably not anything you need to respond to, yes? Set up filters. You don’t have to read every email you get. And it sounds, my dear, as if a move would be in order. Either work from home or get a pad nearer your daily 3-4 hour destination. Either will be cheaper than the iPhone or Crackberry.. I mean Blackberry. Don’t get addicted to your digital life.

    R: 2.) I’m currently on the cheapest rate plan I can get but it still is costing me upwards of $60/month thanks to texts, many of which I could cut out if I can email from my phone.

    Me: My Sprint phone plan has unlimited texts, picture mail and video mail, and 450 minutes, $50 a month. You cannot go much cheaper. Using your phone to talk to someone is so September 10th. Use the phone to set face to face meets and text the rest of the time.

    R: 3.) I’m out a lot, and sometimes there are bloggy emergencies that must be dealt with.

    Me: Unless your house is burning down or someone is dying, it isn’t an emergency. Make the choice to run your blog, not the other way around.

    R: 4.) I hate my current crappy phone, that no longer holds a charge well and can’t send or receive pics.

    Me: Plenty of phones send and receive pics and have fresh batteries (which is the hold-a-charge problem). Some of these might be close to or actually free depending on how long you’ve been with your provider. I upgraded from a three year old phone to a razor for free. Actual free, no mail-in rebate bullshit.

    R: 5.) My cell phone is my only phone so I do need plenty of minutes.

    Me: Perhaps you actually need a better phone policy. I’ve virtually eliminated phone conversations and I’m socially & professionally busier now than I was when I gabbed incessantly. It’s awesome. And I only have the one phone as well.

    If I were you I’d upgrade (prob’ly for free) to a better, text/picture mail capable phone. Then get a 32 GB iPod Touch, $250, which can do virtually everything the iPhone does except make phone calls. That way you have everything you need for much, much less money.

    AND you’re still, with the iTouch, able to say you’re following the herd, which is what the iPhone is actually all about. : )

  17. So, I’m also on the no tv, no landline, no radio bandwagon…and my husband and I (gasp) share one car (because the bus system here is next to useless) Anyway, I LOVE my iphone…and it’s not as fragile as it looks…I’ve had it for over a year and it has flown out of my pocket and skidded across the parking lot, or slammed into the wall when the headphone cord wrapped around an opening door or various other NDE’s with no ill effects. It’s not even particularly scratched. The only thing you can’t do with it is submerge it in water. And it’s wonderful to have the internet nearby when you’re talking to an idiot and need to do a quick fact check, or you’re out of town and hungry.

  18. @Blake Sure. Working from home instead of living two hours from one’s jobsite is usually possible if the employee has the stones to go for it. Living in the area one works in is possible if one isn’t married to one’s current home setup.

    Easy for me to say, though. I have jettisoned most of my possessions over the last couple of years because I want to take up less room. Not everyone has that kind of life mentality.

  19. @Justin: Oh wow, thank you! Move closer to my job, you say? Or work from home? That is brilliant! I never thought of that! Wow! Congratulations, you win most condescending post of the day, until this one right here!

  20. @Blake Stacey: And don’t even get me started on “you don’t have to read every email you get” and “use filters.” As if I’m sitting here all night, carefully reviewing letters from Nigerian princes.

  21. I could give it all up but the radio and my internet. I am a freaking NPR addict. I guess I could listen to that over the internet but it just doesn’t feel the same.

  22. Rebecca – I am, as you know, a Blackberry fan. However, I absolutely HATED the Storm when phlebas got one. He hated it too and eventually turned it in for an iPhone.

    My problem with the Storm and also with the Iphone is the keyboard. I hate the touch screens and I can’t get used to them. But I’ve used a Blackberry for almost 5 years now, so I’m probably biased.

    I currently have the new Blackberry Pearl Flip and I LOVE it. It has a reduced size keyboard which takes some getting used to (most guys hate it because the keys are too small for bigger fingers) but I can type like a demon on it. Plus, the size is perfect – it can fit into my pocket without looking like a hip tumor. The flip has a bigger screen than the original Pearl and it’s protected better with the flip option.

    Phlebas got the iPhone so I’ll let him chime in on that. At the end of the day, I would suggest you go and try out the keyboards on both and get a feel for which you prefer. In my experience, it’s very much personal preference.

  23. Hi Rebecca,
    I take it you live way out in the ‘burbs from BOS and take the commuter train(s) into work?

    There’s a lot of people here in the DC Metro area that have the same problem with their commute: as in “I have no life.” It’s a major problem for employers to keep good people here, because they keep insisting on employee’s physical presence in this electronic, telecommuting age. Is it the same in BOS or is it the nature of your job that requires you to be there? (I don’t know what you do for a living.)
    Many people here are able to negotiate “work on the train” as part of their workdays to at least gain some of that time back. Others are able to negotiate partial telecommutes.

    Of course, as a contractor, I have to sit at my desk and do nothing rather than be allowed to telecommute. Your Government at work…or not. :-(

  24. Rebecca, I went through the same thing just this last month. Gather ’round and listen to ol’ phlebas. Sitting on my lap is not required, but not disccouraged either.

    I picked the Storm first, because I knew there were things I didn’t like on the iPhone. (I also wanted one or the other.) My initial impressions were favorable, but it wore off quick. The click screen thing is pretty cool at first, but it was slowing me down. And typing wasn’t a real problem, but it would do things I didn’t like — like when I’m trying to click a link, it would zoom instead of click. It wasn’t unusable, but it was frustrating.

    Blackberries are famous for their email integration, but that’s really only a concern if you are integrating it with an enterprise server at work. I don’t know if that’s the case for you, but it wasn’t for me. I had a clunky interface, untapped email potential, and a phone that weighed as much as the smaller of my dogs.

    Verizon has a deal where you can return the Storm within 30 days and get a full refund, and cancel your contract. Since I joined Verizon because of the Storm, when I turned the fucker back in, I also canceled my membership and the whole thing didn’t cost me a dime.

    So I went to the AT&T place and got the iPhone. Couldn’t be happier. The things I knew I didn’t like about it have either been fixed or are less of a hassle than I expected. For example, the browser doesn’t do Flash, and you can’t rotate the phone to get the landscape view when you’ve already started writing something. if you want landscape, you have to back out, rotate, and start again.

    And all my music is in iTunes, which makes everything easier. I *love* having my MP3 player and my phone in the same device, because I’ve been bad in the past about missing calls because my music was too loud or I had my headphones. Never again. And Blackberry has nothing that can compare to Apple’s App Store.

    I don’t know who your carrier is now, but I’d consider giving both phones a test run, unless you are in a hurry to make a decision. (If you are on Sprint and want to fiddle around with a BBerry, you can have my old 8830 to play with.)

    But there is much to be said about Justin’s ludditish “Can you semaphore me now?” approach. Perhaps you can find a cave or some sort of culvert near your place of business, and you can blog by tying copper wire to an abacus and dangling the other end in salty water, or perhaps urine. Christmas is coming, and since you are a dear friend, I can send you palm fronds for clothing and perhaps some bamboo to construct a coffee machine. I have already started rewriting the lyrics of the Gilligan’s Island theme.

    So point your browsers here, my friends
    And you can hear her bitch —
    This half-naked Jersey girl
    Here in Rebecca’s Ditch

  25. Oh yes, also – I think that the IPhone browser is better than the Blackberry’s. I don’t ever blog from my phone, although it’s possible. I think it is probably easier from the iPhone than the ‘berry.

    And I agree that a big part of my love for the ‘berry is because I use an Enterprise server at work and integration is much smoother through that, I think.

    Also, did my husband just offer you his device to fiddle with? Wow :)

    Finally, I must disagree with @phlebas on the ditch. WAAAY too connected. Who needs a big ole ditch with all that pretentious ditch water? All you need is a rock, a stick and a thick piece of cardboard. Simplify.

  26. Oh, I almost forgot —

    It may have been fixed by now, but when it first came out, the Storm was having problems synching with Macs. If I remember my brief tour of Skepchick HQ, you are a Mac owner, right?

  27. I loves me some iPhone, but it’s not without drawbacks. It’s still difficult for me to type quickly and accurately (and one outta two doesn’t really cut the mustard in this particular regard). Also, you mentioned picture mail. If you mean MMS, the iPhone elegantly and simply plugs its fingers into its ears and yells “LA LA LA” until you move on to something else. You can of course get your friends to send pictures to your email address, but that’s unlikely to happen for most people.

    That said, I get my email over IMAP and the iPhone works great in that regard. And the interface is very nearly perfect. Do your own research (a novel concept around here, I know) and if you’re happy with the features the iPhone supports, I think you’d be happy with the overall experience. But you should probably try out the keyboard if possible.

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