Saturday, July 09, 2011

My Swiss Army Knife Has No Corkscrew

In my early college days I had a moped. It was a silver thing with pedals and a 49cc engine that burned a gas/oil mixture. While the machine could technically be pedaled, it was hefty enough that I'd pretty much pedal to get it going, pop the clutch and fire it up. It would buzz to life like slightly pissed off metal bee hive and if I had a long, downhill run I could maybe reach speeds of 30 miles per hour. I was never asked to join the Hells Angels.

While I had a lot of fun with the moped, I ultimately sold it. I suppose many people would view the moped as underpowered and trade up for a true motorcycle or a car, but my issues with the machine were not that I found it lacking, but that I found it to be too much. Too much noise, too much weight, too much hassle. I had to buy gas for the machine & insure and license it. The bicycle was simpler and more suited to my nature.

My nature, however, is certainly not minimalist. I like gadgets and stuff. I like looking at cars and listening to Car Talk. But I know that I'm much happier not owning such complex machines. I've managed my life in such a way that I don't need to own or operate an automobile and I'm quite happy on that road less traveled by. Your mileage may vary.

While I value versatility, there's often some tipping point that triggers something in me that says "Too much!" In the case of the Swiss Army Knife, it's the corkscrew. I don't drink wine. I don't foresee the need to open Chardonnay under fire. It's not just that I don't need the corkscrew, its presence on the knife bothered me. So I hunted around and found the Swiss Army Knife I like, the one that has the stuff I really use, the one without a corkscrew. (Actually those clever Swiss make many different knives, many without corkscrews.)

The digital equivalent of the Swiss Army Knife is the Smart Phone and the main thing that bugs me about the phones, the corkscrew that sticks in my craw, so to speak, is the phone plan. Fred and Carrie skewer this perfectly in Portlandia:

The whole "we're going to lock you into a cell provider for 2 years and charge you when you go over this limit" thing was far more than I was willing to deal but I found a way to bypass that. Like my knife without a corkscrew, I have a phone without a plan. I surf the web. I check my email. I send texts. I update Twitter. I play MP3s. I watch movies. I listen to podcasts. I navigate by GPS. I take pictures. Heck I even make calls now and then. But I pay zero per month. Zip. Zilch. Nada. It works for me but it may not work for you. Your mileage may vary.

I bought my phone at Target but you can get the same phone from Amazon for less than $150 these days. It's an Android LG Optimus V. If you want you can turn on the cell functions for $25 per month but if, like me, you live in a WiFi rich environment, you really don't need to. I have Wifi at home. I have Wifi at work. I have Wifi at the coffee shop and the library. Heck, we have it at some of the parks here in King County.

Yes, I'm not always connected. I'm OK with that. Incoming calls go to Google Voice. I use Fring for outgoing calls. All my texts go thru Text Plus. And as soon as soon as I intersect with one of those zillion Wifi spots, my phone grabs everything it needs in terms of connectivity.

I thought I'd turn on a month to month phone plan if I needed it and it turns out I don't need it. I don't need a motor on my bike or a corkscrew on my knife. And I don't need monthly service on my phone.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA
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