See My Thumb, Gee I’m Dumb

Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

I received an email this week from Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, congratulating me as the 7th Billionth customer to purchase an iPhone.  Apparently, there were only two people left on earth –some nomadic Mongolian named Davaa and myself – who had yet to convert.  In my case, I had been resisting Apple’s 21st century phone due to a deep addiction to my Blackberry. In Davaa’s case, he simply preferred texting using smoke signals from horse dung fires.

For years, I have been a power Crackberry user.  Having mastered the ability to type without actually looking at the keys, I sent memos while sitting in dark theatres and dimly lit taxis.  My ability to write a missive under the table at dinner while maintaining eye contact with my spouse placed me in a rare pantheon of Research in Motion uber-texters.  I could bang out three page memos in a matter of minutes.  To the chagrin of my colleagues, I was effectively Twittering with unlimited characters – sharing my frequent inspirations and authoring Pulitzer Prize winning memorandums.

I could compose documents while working out on the elliptical at the gym.  I wrote several chapters of a book as well as numerous columns for the paper while jogging through the air on my metal lectern.  I debated entering the “50 and Over” age bracket for the national texting competition. I was beyond productive.  I was a prodigious, verbally incontinent cyber God.

Yet, my prolific emailing had a darker side and eventually led to several attempts on my Blackberry’s life.  Someone was going to great lengths to incapacitate my hand held device.  At first, it was innocently “misplaced” for a week between the cushions of the sofa.  It was run over in the driveway by a car. Each assault was well coordinated and clearly intended to discourage me from my manic memo writing.  Yet, My plucky hand held partner would not die.

About this time, I became increasingly aware of people using iPhones with Face Time video chat and those glued to Apples and Hulu Plus watching lost episodes of Lost.  My plain Jane Blackberry clearly had her limitations but I had promised to remain with her in sickness and in health. It finally took a very bad day – a depleted battery and a Blackberry server outage followed by the inability to download an important attachment – to force me to defect from RIM and join the Apple Army.

I had been the subject of ridicule by my three teens for failing to keep up with technology.  I countered that this was a productivity tool and that I was a very productive tool.  When I finally relented and upgraded to an iPhone, their reaction would have made you think that I had received a donor kidney.  The phone was immediately ripped from my hands and loaded up with a million useless applications including one that would allow me to successfully sign with a deaf Croatian dwarf should I ever encounter one.

They introduced me to Siri, the fickle female genie and purported personal valet that would manage my cyber universe.  When no one was looking, I attempted to communicate to Siri.

“Hi, Siri”

“I don’t understand you.”

“I just said, hello”


Apparently, Siri is a teenager.  My first attempt to send an email did not go well.  I felt like I was typing while wearing two catcher’s gloves.  With the Blackberry, my digits felt slimmer than Eubie Blake’s fingers.  After switching to the iPhone, my hands suddenly transformed into bloated zeppelins.  I became a human thumb.  The phone presumptuously corrected every word for me resulting in my first gaffe as I responded to a colleague’s email to please review a report he had written before the end of the evening.

I quickly tapped out, “I’ll peek at it when I get home.”

Within a minute, I received an email that simply read, “TMI. It’s not that bad.”

Glancing back at the castrated message, Siri had mischievously corrected my note to read, “ I’ll pee on it when I get home.”

My next multi-paragraph email took one hour and I finally deleted it out frustration due to typos and castrated syntax. Somewhere in the cosmos my colleagues were declaring this day a national holiday from the tyranny of my Blackberry memos.

That night, I dreamed that a giant Isotoner glove was chasing me.   I awoke the next day and went to get my morning Zumbach’s coffee.  My nose was running and my hand was shaking. I was clearly having withdrawals from my Blackberry.  Everyone around me was happily swiping and tapping on iPhones.  I just wanted my old Blackberry – who was now home, drained of his battery and staring up at me with a blank screen saying, “why, Mike, why?”

I sat at the small table tucked in between a bustle of morning java Junkies, reassured by the smell of roasted beans and the caffeine now coursing through my veins.

“I can do this.” I declared as I typed another memo to staff.

After two sentences, the phone kept self-correcting to pronouns and verbs that I did not understand. My blood pressure began to rise and I squeezed the phone – which caused Siri to wake up.

“What can I help you with?”

“I want you to die, Siri!”

“I am sorry. I can’t do that.  Self euthanization is illegal.”

Just then I got a text message from my son.

“How’s the phone?”

“Not good.  It is messing up and writing weird notes.”

“I programmed it to self correct in Dutch. hahaha”

I give up. Anyone know where I can buy some horse dung?

Get a copy of Michael Turpin’s new book, “T-Rex By The Tail” at Elm Street Books and Zumbach’s Coffee. 

Welcome to The Teen Behavioral Network

teen titans
Image by istolethetv via Flickr

How strange that the young should always think the world is against them – when in fact that is the only time it is for them.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

Tired of late night cell phone debates with your teens over dubious sleep-over locations and questionable acquaintances?  Worried what kind of den she is calling from ? Unsure whether those red eyes are really from studying or fighting forest fires?  Does your teen make OJ Simpson look truthful? Consider joining The Teen Behavioral Network (TBN)

At TBN, our mission has remained the same, helping teens avoid self sabotage.  During your child’s transformation from adolescence into adulthood, they are statistically at greater risk from a host of acute physical and mental illnesses ranging from situational retardation syndrome (SRS), serial mood swings (SMS), poor peripheral vision (PPV) and episodic events such as auto accidents, broken bones and ruptured relationships.

We want to take this opportunity to socialize you to the benefits, provisions and clinical protocols of our program.  TBN is an incentive based care coordination program underpinned by an exclusive network of friends, acquaintances and families.  Under a typical TBN program, your teen’s activities will require them to call an 800 number to obtain preauthorization for certain risk based activities. Our goal is to help direct them toward people, places and activities that are most likely to reduce their risk for catastrophic events which could sidetrack their progress in life.

Based on decades of evidence and outcomes based data, we have designed a comprehensive physical and mental health program that incorporates the following:

1)      Biometric, academic and psychometric baseline testing – At TBN, we believe you cannot improve what you cannot measure. Periodically, your teen will submit to a basic biometric testing administered by a primary care physician.  We will test key biometric markers such as fasting glucose (blood sugar), weight, blood alcohol and banned substances to baseline overall health status.  We triangulate this data with your child’s grade point average and a two-hour annual psychotherapy session to determine an overall risk score. The lower a teen’s risk score, the less likely they are to commit a monumentally stupid act which could irreversibly impact their future.  Our goal is to reward good behavior and to limit at risk activities to within our preferred partner network.

Based on each child’s risk score, we develop a customized plan to assist them in moving toward “first quartile” social stewardship and personal responsibility.  Our assessment may uncover abnormally high glucose and insulin levels from consumption of sodas, fatty foods and empty carbohydrate diets.  The absence of lactic acid in your teen’s muscles may suggest they are leading too sedentary a lifestyle. 

Our initial baseline risk assessment will graph your member teen’s risk status against local, regional and national peer risk groups to drive toward improvement.  As he/she achieves milestone events, our incentive plan rewards them with behavior points which can be converted into a range of valued rewards such cell phone minutes, PC and phone upgrades, sleep-overs at approved in-network homes and iTunes purchases. Failure to achieve agreed targeted benchmarks results in a series of compulsory physical and behavioral remediation programs offered through affiliated local law enforcement and armed services partnerships

2)      Preferred Partner Organization (PPO) – Every teen member will be provided a customized approved network designating “in-network” friends, family and institutions.  Members may participate in a range of activities in network with no out of pocket expense or preauthorization. 

TBN has gone to great lengths to develop a process for screening and stratifying in-network friends, families and institutions. We pride ourselves on the little things. Our “family” reviewers perform on site inspections and are sensitized to the most subtle signs of laissez-faire oversight such as the absence of alcohol or medicine cabinet inventory controls or content blocking on cable and computers.

While our criteria is kept extremely confidential, each network is unique based upon your teen’s risk profile and the risk factors attributable to other teen members. Certain low risk places or people such as a local church youth group, YMCA or deli are likely to be shared across multiple teen networks.  Certain “in network” friends may receive additional performance stars for characteristics such as intellect judgment, civic responsibility, home supervision and number of text messages sent in a 24 hour period. Five star friends are considered “centers of excellence” (COEs).  COEs are eligible for subsidized activities such as inclusion on family vacations, movies, deli and coffee coupons.

Given the extreme variability of teenagers, our PPO network guide is updated hourly

3)      Out-of Network PPO Access – A teen attempting to access out-of-network friends or institutions must submit an out of network request at least 24 hours prior to the planned event.  Our 24 hour authorization line is staffed with retired teachers, clergy, grandparents, animal trainers and clinical psychologists expert in dealing with pathological behavior.

 You will be provided five micro-chip GPS patches that can be surreptitiously  inserted in your teenagers phone, purse and/or high top sneakers.  The “soft perimeter” tracking device allows you to instantly access your teen’s location via any personal computer or cell phone.  

 Unauthorized Out of network PPO activity may include penalties such as chore deductibles and/or community service co-pays. Each teen must submit location information that includes a JPEG photograph transmitted via cell phone for verification. 

We have retained several per diem private investigators to assist the out of network approval review process.  For a few extra dollars a month you can receive full individual and family background checks and a risk dossier outlining of all public domain information of every person and institution with whom your child may be attempting to affiliate..

4)      Appeals – Teens desiring to appeal out of network denials can request a supervisory appeal from our verification team. Our appeals teams are composed of recovering alcoholics, parole officers and social workers – – all bi-lingual in text messaging and English.  We have recently contracted with Apple to introduce “ iTruth”, a polygraph based wireless application for the iPhone where teens can  attach sensor pads from their phone USB port to their temples. Through an ASP server, users can be evaluated to determine if they are telling the truth. Future programs include iBlow, a breathalyzer app and iBrain, a dopamine and serotonin measurement device.

5)      Final Appeals – Some determined teens may refuse to accept appeals as a basis for final resolution. In these cases, we have designated a “final appeals” protocol. A teen may invoke two final appeal challenges within a one year coverage period – similar to professional football’s red flag challenge.  We employ retired juvenile court judges on 24/7 retainers to arbitrate specific appeals.  Appeal overturn rates for 2010 were less than .005%.  Problematic or disrespectful members will be automatically redirected to a payphone at Bellevue Hospital for the Criminally Insane where teens can attempt to reason with equally irrational people.  These calls are recorded and forwarded to the member parent for entertainment value.

At TBN, our program is simple – – we seek to improve the health and well-being of your teen and to assist them as they navigate a period where they are physiologically and socially incapable of distinguishing risk and consequences.  Youth participants are socialized to understand that in a small town, one’s reputation is easy to lose and hard to recover.

Our motto: “Trust But Verify” reflects our mission to establish guard rails characterized by mutual respect, honesty and consequences for behavior.  We will leave no teen behind and our goal is to ensure that any misstep is minor ……………….(no pun intended).