Massive power outages, and when a smart phone is not so smart…

I’ve had my Blackberry for a few years now, and rely on its many convenient features.

It gives me access to emails, a browser for the Internet, and my favorite apps like Yelp.  It’s my camera, video recorder, voice recorder and memo pad, which means I don’t have to worry about even having a pen and paper with me.

So when it started having “issues” the other day (as in the keyboard locked up and started to speak its own language), I suddenly had

  1. no phone
  2. no mini computer to access my email and the Internet
  3. no camera
  4. no video camera
  5. no voice recorder
  6. no navigation aid / GPS
  7. and now in need of pen and paper since I could not use my memo pad feature

Then it does not seem so smart after all.

A few days ago, over a million people in Southern California, Arizona and Mexico were affected by a huge power outage.  It was caused by a short-circuit at a substation in North Gila, Arizona.

Photo from L.A. Times Article "Arizona power company baffled by events that led to outage"

Worrisome to think that one botched repair job — on equipment the size of a car — could not be isolated, and ended up cascading and affecting other utility companies in the area.  The San Onofre nuclear power plant near San Diego automatically shut down, reportedly due to grid instability.

Technology connects us…and our reliance on it also makes us vulnerable when it fails.

The Department of Energy, along with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is said to be working to find out the causes of these massive power outages. Click on this link to an article from the LA Times for further details.

In my small world and smart phone example, it is just an annoyance.  In the bigger world, I have to wonder what other systems have been overlooked…and disasters-in-waiting, due to centralizing and connecting so many of these systems.

What do you think?

Lola’s Top 10 Smart Phone Uses

I continue to try out the myriad of features on my smart phone.  For some of you, especially of younger age, you may look at my list and say, yeah, duh!  As for me, 2 years after owning a smart phone (a Blackberry — and essentially a mini computer) I am just now getting around to using these features.  My top 10 favorites:

  • More Communication – Emails/Texts:  Besides the obvious, it is still a PHONE after all, I get my emails forwarded to my phone.  This allows me to respond to emails immediately if needed, or purge spam or unwanted items.  There is less clutter in my In Box when I go on-line.   And of course, texting.  Texting was initially annoying to me —why can’t you just call me(!!!), especially when I got a response from my daughter of “K” — because “OK” was too long.  But most of the time, a text is just perfect, and we now text all the time.
  • Memo Pad: What is better than a paper shopping list (which is easy to misplace)?  Using the memo pad feature on your smart phone of course!  One RARELY leaves the phone at home these days, so your list is always with you and easy to retrieve. Have an idea for a blog topic?  Just use the memo pad on your smart phone, and voila, ideas and key words saved for later.
  • Navigation Aid: I don’t have a GPS in my car, so having a navigation aid as a phone feature is terrific.  No more getting lost—when I remember to use it at least.
  • Yelp App: Apps are like programs for your phone.  My favorite is Yelp. I have the Yelp Blackberry application and with the GPS, we can be in a new, or not often visited town and find out where the best place is to grab a bite to eat in our price range  (after all, life is short and you want to eat well even if in an unfamiliar area!)  I click on my Yelp app and it automatically lists places to eat, proximity ( 1/2 mile, one, two…) from where I am, with the Yelp reviews and all the details you need.  (
  • Coordinating Errands:  We had limited time and we needed to go to a specific store AND get an oil change for the truck.  With Yelp and Google Maps, we found an area where our store AND an oil change place was located within 1 block of each other.   It was very easy to do this.
  • Entertainment: Waiting time in between activities or classes ?  My phone has a standard TV option and every now and then, if the little guys get bored with books or little toys I bring —or forget to bring— they can watch the Disney Channel shows.  I use the earbuds that came with the Blackberry and they can watch in quite and not disturb others.  I can also access the Internet from my phone if needed.
  • Calculator and other handy tools:  How convenient for figuring out exchange rates!  My other phone even has a standard feature of a world clock so you know exactly what time it is in the country you are calling, as well as an easy to use tip calculator.
  • Voice Recorder:  Driving and a brilliant idea pops in your head?  Record it on  your smart phone device! Or record voice reminders that you can transfer to calendars later.
  • Alarms and Calendars: I have a daily alarm that tells me to wrap up what I am working on to get ready to get the boys, and of course, the  calendar for appointments and other reminders.
  • Video Recorder / Camera: The video camera is my absolute favorite feature —what grandparent does not want to capture those special and cute moments?  I have hundreds of pictures and short videos in my camera.  And I can easily send new vids or pics to family and friends,  all direct from my phone.

So the only thing I need to do is back up data on my phone (like NOW and on a regular basis), then I’ll really be in good technology shape.

Let me know other ideas and uses for your smart phone —and making technology work for us.

Lola Jane