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iDiocy: The lowercase i

Posted: Thursday, February 04, 2010

Steve Jobs has given so much to humanity: the one-button mouse, the personal computer that only freezes sometimes, the most expensive paper weight you'll ever give your parents as gifts. Oh, let's not forget what he's done for mock turtlenecks.

Not many know this, but Steve Jobs also invented the lowercase i, which, when added to any product name, immediately compels people to buy it. And its service plan. And stylish carrying case.

Now, I've got nothing against iParaphrenalia. In fact, I'm a total convert, an "iDiot," if you will. iMac, iBook, iPod-we even switched from regular butter to iCan'tBelieveIt'sNotButter. Seriously, our house is like an Apple Store, only instead of a "Genius Bar," we've got an "Intellect Strip."

Anyway, Jobs has done it again. Earlier this month, his company introduced yet another piece of revolutionary technology that disguises its mediocre functionality behind a hip, user-friendly interface. No, I don't mean the iPad-great name by the way; no one will ever make the same obvious joke about it over and over again.

I'm talking about a new addition to the App Store, which, for 99 cents, enables users to wield their iPhones as several different types of bear repellent. I scat you not-there's an app for preventing bear maulings. See? When they say there's an app for that, they really mean it (thanks mostly to the app for generating new apps).

ScareBear Trail Companion by Flying Jalapeno Software, comes with three sounds-bells, clapping, or a rock-filled can. The user activates these sounds by shaking the iPhone, assuming the bear hasn't already torn off both hands while the user is distracted by a text message en route to launching the ScareBear app.

Of course, ScareBear isn't without its bugs. Most Alaskans don't even use analog bells on the trail, let alone a digital simulacrum that lacks the volume to be effective. Also, the rock-filled can sounds more like a large North American land mammal crunching on human bones. And Juneau's 3-G is so spotty, even if you could get enough bars to prevent a bear attack, what's to stop him from using the threat to mug you for your iPhone? It's not like they can walk into the AT&T store and buy one. Terrible credit.

Now, I, myself, don't have an iPhone, but my wife does and honestly, it's made me an iWidow. So, naturally, I've been hesitant to get one-after all, I don't want to iOrphan our daughter. Sad to think of all the children who lose their parents to iDdiction.

But on the other iHand, ScareBear makes getting an iPhone a matter of safety. Safety is how my wife convinced me she needed new powder skis. It's also how I convinced my wife I needed a new float-coat-we don't even have a boat (I just look hot in a survival system; I find it strangely slimming).

Safety is the only way to get anything past any budget committee. Just look at all the neat stuff the U.S. Department of Defense has-remote control robots that blow stuff up? Badass. I sure feel a lot safer. You?

Anyway, if that angle doesn't produce an iPhone, you can always break out your Kindle, start reading the bear passages from Going Rogue until it flees or passes out. Better yet, take the hardback version with you. It's always good to enter the wilderness prepared, and despite its name, a Kindle makes terrible kindling-it just sort of smolders and lets off these toxic fumes that don't even get you buzzed. You also can't use a Kindle for toilet paper. Palin's memoir, by contrast, 432 pages of burning/wiping goodness.

I'll leave with a quick anecdote: for our daughter's baby shower, someone gave us this souped-up Jeep jogging stroller-for those of you who aren't baby gearheads, Jeep is like the Cadillac of jogging strollers, much in the way Rolls Royce is the Cadillac of cars. Or like how Mecca is the mecca of meccas.

Anyway, the stroller had a sound system to hook your iPod to, or, in my case, a very old Sony Walkman. My daughter and I spent her whole first summer bombing up and down Dan Moeller Trail cranking the gems of my middle school cassette tape collection.

Let me tell you, this side of firearms, there's nothing more effective at frightening bears than Slayer's "Seasons in the Abyss," except for maybe Slayer's "Haunting the Chapel." Or Slayer's "Reign in Blood." Basically, anything by Slayer. Incidentally, Slayer works remarkably well at dispersing party-stragglers. One day, I look forward to using it on my daughter's would-be boyfriends.

That'll be fun.

• Geoff Kirsch lives in Juneau. His column appears twice a month on Wednesdays.



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