Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Yosemite: Technologically Challenged

I recently went on vacation to Yosemite. Rather than giving a running commentary on everything that happened (even for a single day)… I have decided to break my posts about my vacation up into different themes. Below are the themes I have covered already:

  1. Yosemite: Natural Disasters

This next theme relates to technology and how we dealt with it during our vacation.

Cell phone on the plane
On Sunday when we got to O'Hare we checked the departure board only to find that our flight was delayed. Not only that, but there wasn't any gate listing for it. Because of this we were unsure as to how long it would actually be delayed. When we finally found out our gate and knew when we would be boarding— my wife sent a text to her sister telling her how long we would be delayed so that she wouldn't have to wait so long at the airport.
By the time we got on the plane and the stewards were telling the passengers to turn off their cell phones, my wife went to turn off hers and noticed that she had a message waiting. I saw her struggling and noticed that she was trying to delete old messages in order to make room to download the latest message. I knew that the stewards may have given us a look and I just told her to wait until we landed since we couldn't call until that time anyway. Fortunately the message just was a confirmation of what we just sent. More like an "OK… see you there" and not anything that required any followup.
Texting into the foothills
On our drive into Yosemite we were just reaching the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains when my wife got a message on her phone that a text was missed. However, she was unable to download the message at that time. Fearing the worst, she kept checking her phone to see how many bars she had so she could get the message. We finally got a signal at Inspiration Point— so we stopped and got out of the car so she could retrieve the message. The message was from her daughter saying "How are you". She was able to text back to her daughter and then got a reply saying "Earthquake?". It appears that there was an earthquake in LA and she wanted to know that we were alright.There was a thunderstorm in the area and it started to rain, so we chose to get back in the car. After getting back in the car, she was able to text one more message before losing signal again. She did no know if her daughter got the message that we were fine which troubled her a bit.
Losing TV reception
Due to the thunderstorm I guess that we lost reception to the cable TV that was in our rooms. This didn't bother us because we did not really want to watch TV— but it did worry my Brother-In-Law who was looking forward to watching the Lake rs play on Tuesday. He kept telling us that he will be asking for his money back on the rooms if he didn't get his TV restored by game time. Luckily it did come back and he could watch his game Tuesday night.
Reconnecting with civilization
Thursday on the road out of the foothills I kept hearing this ka-chunk ka-chunk sound. I kept checking my camera to see if it was something weird and looked around to see where it was coming from. I isolated the sound as my Brother-In-Law's blackberry and it was downloading all of the phone messages that were waiting from the past three days. Fortunately there wasn't anything serious and we were able to return to LA without any further incoming phone calls. My wife also got the other replies to texts that she sent on Monday that she didn't get because we were in the valley the whole time.
Adding more minutes to your phone
My wife realized that there were a lot of phone calls that may need to be made to home and wanted to make sure that she had enough minutes on her pay as you go phone. So on Friday before we went to to the beach to watch the sunset, we stopped by a local pharmacy store and picked up a phone card. During lunch she tried to activate the card— which you do from the phone by entering in an activation code. The problem with this was that the page to enter the code asked for a fifteen digit number from our receipt and our receipt had a twenty digit number. We tried several different combinations all of which failed. Frustrated we went back to the store to ask them how to enter the number. We then found out that the sales person did not give us the activation receipt which is why we did not have the number. The manager of the store had to dig through the garbage and luckily found the activation receipt and gave it to us.
Dropping your phone and keys in the surf
We decided to go to the beach to watch the sun set. During this time, my Sister-In-Law was showing me how to find the pea-sized crabs that are in the sand. As she was pointing out the tell-tail signs of how to spot them, the tide came in which forced her to back-pedal to try not to get wet. Not realizing that she was also trying to walk backwards uphill, she fell right on her butt and dropped her cell phone and car keys. Luckily I was able to pick them up before they got carried away, but her phone was fried and did not work. She assured me that she was wanting to get a new phone anyway and this was as good of an excuse as any to get a new one.
Dead batteries and the camera
At the same time we picked up the phone card, I also picked up more batteries. I am not criticizing my wife, but I do know that the way that she uses the camera tends to use up the batteries quicker than the way I use it. She tends to turn on the camera and have it in picture mode— even if she is not taking a picture. Usually she can have the camera in hand in this mode for several minutes at a time which tends to drain battery life because the camera takes more power to display the preview screen in picture mode than it would in preview mode. All the same… I thought I would buy a lot of batteries so that we could have enough on hand. I chose to buy the generic brand that the pharmacy store sold and bought a 12 pack for around five dollars.
By the time we got to the beach and took a few photos I noticed that the camera was saying low battery. I changed the batteries and continued to take pictures. No sooner than taking one picture did I get another low battery message. Thinking that I put the batteries in wrong, I proceeded to take them out and put them in again— same message. I then took those out and put the next two in— same message. I then was walking back to the car to get some more when I realized that I still had the rest of the 12 pack in my pocket. I put in the next two— same message. It was at this point that I thought that perhaps the camera was broken and would not accept a charge from batteries. I wound up turning on the camera and quickly putting it in picture mode, snapping a picture and would immediately get a "Please change the batteries" message. Luckily I was able to get some new brand name batteries that worked the next day and was able to continue to take pictures.
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