4 December

After Ten Days: The Iphone X. A Happy Choice For Me

by Jon Katz
The Iphone X

I’ve had the Iphone X for ten days now, and while I’m not in the business of telling other people what to buy or not to buy, I promised to share my first impressions and experiences, and I’m happy to do that. I hope it helps.

I want to start by cutting  through what I see as the worst hype surrounding this phone.

First: I do believe it is the most interesting and challenging piece of technology that i have seen since the first apple computer. Simply put, it is the future, for better or worse, and I can get on it now, or later. But we will all be on it, one way or another.

Artificial Intelligence is the next big wave, and I want to ride it, or at least understand it.

Second: I don’t believe me or anyone else has to have this phone.

The Iphone 7 and 8 series are excellent phones with fine cameras and powerful processors and very functional phones. For me, this is a choice, not an obligation. I don’t buy every new device just to keep up, there has to be some special meaning for me. And there is much in this new device.

Third. The hysteria about this phone being a radical departure from the others is just silly hype, concocted to challenge and draw the writers and members of the geek culture, who are nearly hysterical after the launch of any new Apple produce. I guess it is their moment in the geek sun.

I am no tech whiz, I was operating the phone in minutes. We are all different, what I need may not be what you need and what works for me may not work for you.

Over the last ten days, I have had to call Apple four times.

The first three  were issues relating to the set-up. Apple doesn’t believe in manuals, and some of the gee-whiz software doesn’t work on set-up. You are supposed to just set the new phone next to the old one, and when they connect, all of your data will be transferred. Nobody told the phones. This is a silly innovation, as the manual process works beautifully and took under three minutes.  Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

The Apple Tech Support adviser said they were getting thousands of calls about it.

This was not a crisis, it occurs to some degree every time I buy a new phone.

The fourth incident involved a zoom box that kept appearing on the home page, and I couldn’t get rid of it.  The phone worked, but this was annoying and distracting.

The solution was simple,I just had to turn the “zoom” feature off in  settings.

Apple’s  tech support is legendary, and the praise is deserving. In each of the four calls – some at peak times – I never had to wait as long as a minute, and the issue was resolved instantly. Apple stands by this phone. When I needed help, I got it, instantly.

I don’t need help any more.

All in all, it took less than a half hour to understand all of the new swipes and motions – there are very few. By the next morning, I was operating the phone quickly and easily and intuitively, and without thinking about it,  despite all the hand wringing about swiping down and sometimes having to use two hands.

Apart from the now standard messages from anonymous invasive souls on social media about ruining the environment, exploiting Chinese workers, being greedy, wasting money and stealing from others to pay for the phone, there was not one serious issue about the phone.

It works perfectly. It is fast, the screen is every bit as gorgeous and watchable as advertised – the hype was generous there, and true. I will say this phone is very different, which is not to say difficult. it it is not like any other phone I have had. It  forces me to think sometimes, and at other times, the phone speaks to me.

The new SIRI is much improved and very helpful to me, close to being a kind of secretary.

None of my bugs related to the hardware or the mechanisms of the phone. The much ballyhooed Face ID works seamlessly and so quickly I sometimes find it hard to believe it is scanning.

But when I hand it to a friend to open, it never does. It does know me.

I thought it was the old farts who are supposed to squawk about change, the young geeks are fragile.

I am having a blast with the  animated AI Emoji’s that capture my eye and facial and lip movement. I sent some dirty Emoji’s to Maria, and mistakenly sent one of them to a friend. I guess it wasn’t especially dirty, my friend didn’t even get the innuendo, she thought my rabbit face was adorable.

These Emoji’s are fun, but more than they, they symbolize what it is coming, the potential uses for this technology are staggering, even frightening at times.

I especially love the AI sensibilities built into the Ten, for me the primary reason to purchase it, and the most striking thing about it. I do have the feeling of a conscious sensibility inside of the phone. A machine that thinks, makes independent decisions, and learns from me and about me. I see that the more I use it, the quicker it responds to me, as if we are adapting to one another in tandem.

And we are.

That is not something I have ever felt from a computer or Ipad or cell phone.

The phone charges wirelessly and quickly on a metal pad – no cords.That is a big change.  In the ten days, the battery has not yet come close to being used up. When I am not using it, I just put it on the pad. It charges very quickly.

As to cost, it is expensive but not, I feel overpriced. It just seems worth it to me. The phone costs $1000. Accessories – paid tech support, the pad, a case, 256 g’s of memory (optional) add several hundreds of dollars more. I also bought insurance for $25 a month for three years to protect against loss or theft. There is no way I am owning a $1000 cell phone without insurance.

There is a tremendous amount of new technology in the phone, and i imagine it was incredibly expensive to produce. I wish it were cheaper but for me, it is definitely worth the price, given it’s use and centrality in my life and creatvity.

Lots of TV’s cost more than the Iphone X and do much less.

I also need to talk about the camera. It is very impressive, of the first quality. It does not have the wide frame and range of my Canon 5 D, and the Canon lenses are incomparable for me. The X does not have anything like them. It does have a first rate portrait lens feature and very powerful and effective camera. From 1 to 10, I give it a 9. It’s a wonderful camera.I have  been using the X camera for shots and in places where I don’t want to carry a heavy camera.

I still want and need my Canon, but I have already taken some great photos with the X, and I am just beginning to learn. It is astounding to me to have a camera of that quality inside a cell phone.

It’s also important to say that the phone is very powerful, it navigates the Net almost instantly and moves very quickly from one application to an other. That is an important evolution.

The Apple engineers have always seen the smart phone as something much bigger and more significant than a phone, and this is true. It is a very personal information and culture manager, I use it for banking, shopping  (Apple Pay uses Face ID), research, photography, sketching,  playing music (the Beats ear phones are wonderful), e-mailing, streaming, communications, reminders and appointments, what news I can stand, texting and e-mail.

And yes, sending suggestive Emoji’s to Maria. She loves to get them.

A new way of communicating, it is almost irresistible. This phone will create 1,000 new uses at least I haven’t even thought about it, that will be fun to watch. It has great range and power. And it can think and make some decisions. I feel I am witnessing something new and important.

The Iphone X is an indispensable tool for  me, and that is different from addiction. I don’t text all night or play games.  At night, and when I am writing, I turn it off.

I have no problem with quiet and giving my head some space to think.

This probably concludes my series on living with this new device. I hope it is helpful, it is clarifying for me to write it.  If I learn more, or things change, I’ll write more. Thanks for reading it.



4 December

Tim And His Christmas Wreaths. On His Electric Walker

by Jon Katz
Tim And His Wreath

Every day, Tim gets into hi electric chair and sails off down Main Street with the Christmas wreaths he makes out of green clothespins and red ribbons. He has passed them out all over town. Tim rides his cart out almost every day, picking up things for the other residents and exploring the town.

I see Tim riding around the town almost every time I come in, near the Post Office, the Round House Cafe, the Cumberland Farms convenience store. He rides in the summer and the winter, even in the rain sometimes.

I asked him if he needed his oxygen tank was and he winked at me.

We have one wreath hanging in the farmhouse. Tim appreciates getting letters,  you can write him at Tim/The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

4 December

Christmas Sleigh Ride For The Mansion Residents!

by Jon Katz
Sleigh Ride For The Mansion Residents. Red and Helen.

We have just concluded negotiations and arrangements and planning for the first-ever Christmas Sleigh Ride for the Mansion residents, we found a farmer in Vermont with a horse-drawn sleigh on wheels who will take 15 Mansion residents for a two-hour sleigh ride around our town.

This will cost $300, courtesy of the Army Of Good, and there was much talk of safety and access.

The farmer has special stairs that the residents can walk on and rails to keep anyone from falling or leaning out. His wife will be driving and will be  extra slow and careful.

Julie Smith, the Mansion Activity Director, and I, have had long talks about this. It’s all worked out, and there will be plenty of staff on hand to help.

I think Red and I will come along, there is pressure for us to come. If the  weather is awful, we’ll move the date back, it’s currently scheduled for the 15th. The residents are very excited, a sleigh ride was the outing that drew the most interest and excitement next to another boat ride.

The Mansion has five or six beautiful acres of it’s own for the ride, but I think the residents hope to ride through town. Thanks for your donations, which made this outing possible. It is so important for them to get out and into the world, they love it and will be  excited for days.

The Christmas gifts and decorations are pouring in, and thank you so much. This is going to be a wild Christmas there for everyone.


Above, Red spends some time with Helen, a shy resident who is opening up to him and to me. Helen loves to sit by the tree. If you wish, you can write her c/o Helen. The Mansion, 11 S Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

4 December

Video: At The Mansion, Art Prays For Red And For Me

by Jon Katz

Art is coming to love Red, I don’t think he paid much attention to him before, and he calls me his brother.At the Mansion, we had a long visit together, when I knocked on the door and came in, he was watching Dr. Phil on TV, he said it was his favorite show.

We said and talked for an hour, he told me many mystical fire-and-brimstone stories from Montana and other places he has lived – bullets missing people who are believers, criminals miraculously transformed, mystical tales of faith and redemption, and of brutal punishment and suffering for people who defy the Bible., or who are profane do not fit into once conventional ideas about marriage.

We have an understanding, Art and I, he doesn’t press me on my  beliefs,, and I don’t argue with him about his. I do urge him, when the moment is right, to speak more gently and softly about his ideas. He has told others he wants to save me, but he has never tried to do that in my company. We get along, we talk easily, he reaches down to stroke Red while we talk, he is even happy to turn off Dr. Phil once I come inside of his room. ( thought he was reading the Bible in there.

More of his Biblical text books have arrived, this batch is not controversial, the quotes from the Bible on his chest are almost soft.

Art sees his fate as being ignored and despised, he almost sees it as God’s role for him. That, he says, is why he is here, to tell the truth of the Bible as he sees it. The thing about Art is, he doesn’t care a white if you like him or approve of him or agree with him.

Art thinks the people at the Mansion hate him and want to be rid of him, but I have never heard anyone at the Mansion say that. I know he can be intimidating and difficult, that is quite obvious, but the staff is  well-trained and patient, they just roll along with him, and seem to glide through his condemnations of homosexuality or anything else he thinks contradicts the Bible.

Art is always challenging authority and what he sees as immorality, most of the residents stay clear of him, he is especially gallant to women, opening doors for them, helping them navigate their walkers, guiding them to their rooms if their memories fail.

He gets in a lot of trouble, and is often cautioned about being too belligerent or argumentative. He says this has been happening to him his whole life. He smiles when he talks of it. That is his mission, I think.

The real sin with him comes if you lie to him, that seems to be one sin that cannot be forgiven. He and I do not lie to one another, and his stories are rich and full of fire and brimstone and a fiery and frightening God. He is a natural story teller, and so am I.

Art knew that Red was sick and he offered to say a prayer for him, and he insisted, for me as well. So we sat in his darkened room and he prayed for me and Red. Red, always the intuitive,  sat up straight and seemed to me listening, I am sure he knew Art was speaking to him.

We have prayed together before, and in his prayers, Art is nothing but gentle and empathetic, he is never judgmental or argumentative.

I liked the prayer, it was sweet and from the heart, a side of Art many people do not ever see.

Come and see. If you wish to write to Art, you can do so by sending your letters to Art, The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y. 12816. He will be  honest with you, and you can be honest with him.

4 December

Red Is 26 Years Old! : Life In The American Fish Bowl

by Jon Katz
How Old Is Red

I can

I have been online and written about the Internet since it’s inception but I am not sure I will ever quite get used to it. Earlier this week, I asked our vet if she knew the precise date of Red’s birth, she and I both wanted to know his exact age.

When she asked me, I just mumbled something about eight or nine years. I’ll look it up, she said.

I am bad with grammar and numbers –  I flunked 4th grade math four times, and in the Providence, R.I. public schools even likely serial killers passed fourth grade math. My teacher wept when he gave my mother the news.

At various times, i’ve written that Red has been with me five years, four years, seven years.

The truth is, I have no idea.

Maria and I – I have this sneaking hunch we are both no strangers to a kind of mild autism – spent a half an hour the other day trying to figure out how long Red has been with us, and we not only couldn’t figure that out we couldn’t even figure out how long we’ve lived on our new farm.

That’s how bad it is. We do not let these handicaps defeat us, we plow on.

I’ve written many times that Red was seven when he came to me, but since I couldn’t remember how old he was, I didn’t think about how that worked out.

This morning, Maria went back on my blog (I never go back on my blog, part of my disabilities, I think, I live only in the now) and found an entry dated June 18th, 2012, about Red’s First Day at the farm.

I was astonished.

So Red was about five years old when I got him, and he has been with us five years going on six, which makes him ten (like the AKC certificate says.)

Like a lot of creative people with learning disabilities, I can focus intensely on certain tasks – like writing and photography. But I can’t do long division or multiply. Or remember dates or details or names. Miscalculations, misspellings, inaccurate counts are endemic to my work, part of the circus that is me.

But here I am, still functioning and in business and cranking it out, living my life. I bet that’s more than my depressed math teacher could say.

I write a lot, forget a lot and get confused a lot, and don’t even start with old talk, I’ve been like this my whole life. A college counselor told me just before I dropped out of school that I was one walking undiagnosed learning disability, probably several.

And I am undiagnosed because I refuse to be tested, I dislike labels. A prominent ADD counselor I met in New York City offered me money to be his patient.

The day after I looked at the AKC certificate that Dr. Karen Thompson gave me,  and learned that Red was ten, and could not have been seven when he came (I never asked Karen Red’s age and suspect I never knew it), i got the inevitable grumpy message from a reader we shall call Carol, as I don’t wish to make her feel any worse than she hopefully does, but probably doesn’t.

It said simply: “You had Red in 2012 with Simon. If he was seven when you got him that makes him 12.” Then, she added. “Time goes by faster than we realize. I hope that is the case. I never know to believe what you write or not. I know, don’t read it..”

So here we were, my chaotic head was suddenly a controversy. I could ignore it, deny it, or get drawn into it. I  wrote back, politely, I thought, that I’ve never been good at math, and if she didn’t believe me because of that, best she didn’t read me, it will just get worse.

I do write a lot, am doing a lot, and am easily distracted.

I don’t know if it’s an excuse or not, but it’s the truth. I did have the decency to laugh. in a time when powerful and successful men are being called out almost daily for behavior ranging from the vile to the insensitive, I was being called out for screwing up Red’s age.

This is life in the Fish Bowl, Small Fry Department..

My slightly sarcastic message didn’t fly with Carol.  I can be snarky about messages like this, I’m working on it. She was, of course, offended.

Carol wrote back in a huff wondering why I didn’t just say it was a misprint or a mistake, as it obviously was. She had a point of course, she was right,  but I found her message annoying – perhaps people with disabilities get overly defensive.

She seemed to be suggesting a willful and deliberate falsification. And was it really her business how old my dog is or was?

“I am trying to put myself in your place and think of getting corrections from people,” Carol added, “I guess that wouldn’t be much fun. Then she added that despite my protestations, ” I do believe Red is 12 to 13, and that is a crucial age for dogs. I know mine died and I haven’t been physically able to take care of another. You are lucky to have them.”

Ah, her dog..there is always another dog in there somewhere. He was just waiting for his cue.

I pondered this a bit, I do try to please people – sometimes.

If I had known it was a mistake, I would, of course, have admitted it and moved on. Thanks to Carol, at least I finally know when Red came and how old he is, although we all know when I mention this again in a month, i am likely to mess it up again, I don’t retain things in the past.

Or much in the present, either.

By then, he might have been with me for 10 years, or three, and be 12 or 15 years of age. I will not remember  a word of this exchange, I think that’s how I survive social media.

Normally, I would be sympathetic to a writer who just lost her dog and is physically unable to take care of another. But that was manipulative, she doesn’t get a pass either. What I actually thought was, I could hardly believe I was taking the time to have this conversation with a stranger insisting that she knew how old my dog is, and me and my vet don’t. Two things I can’t abide, being called stupid or being patronized.

Now I got the absurdity of the whole thing, and my own stupidity for participating in a debate about how old my dog is. In America, everything seems to be an argument, but I don’t have to join in. Why was I taking this seriously?

I wrote back:

“Carol, Red is actually 26, I just miscalculated and the AKC certificate  I just brought to the vet when he was sick is obviously wrong. So you are right, and I’m very sorry about it. Red passed away some years ago, I keep his skeleton in my study and he is staring at me now, as he used to do when I wrote. I am just lying about it because most people are not as savvy as you, and it’s good for the blog,  you clever devil. You take care, J.”

That seemed to work for her. So far, she has not responded.


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