Dean Clough

June 16, 2021

Portico Darwin: Arrival Las Cruces + My New Phone

Today we fly from San Francisco to El Paso, via the important US transportation hub, Las Vegas.  From El Paso, and with Julie's father, the noted educator and political commentator Dr. Davis Fladgate somewhat ably doing the driving, we'll head to the good doctor's desert playground in Las Cruces, New Mexico

It's two weeks of fun in the sun with Davis; Davis's wife and foundational member of the local medical community, Melynda; Julie's brother, the aerospace engineer and party animal Biff Fladgate (just for the first weekend); and the newest member of the family, the 2 year old silver Labrador retriever, Lucy.

In other words, a great test of my ability to withstand strong gusts of hot air coming from the right.  In fact, Lucy may have some of the most informed opinions I'll hear over the next 2 weeks.  But I jest!

Seriously, for me, it'll mostly be a lot of poolside action, accompanied by ongoing raids of Davis's very fine wine refrigerator (sadly, not a full wine cellar like that on the lower levels of both the Browne IV/Lederhosen and Murphy Manor compounds).  Rinse, repeat, with a bit of Textbook/Killer/CoC/Diamond Certified New Mexican cuisine mixed in, and visits to this and this and this national park, and we're talking about a fine two weeks.  We're also mixing in a pseudo-fat cat hotel, and some fine (OK, we'll see) dining. 

(You can of course look forward to a comprehensive Travel Guide, likely one of the few or none that cover the scintillating Las Cruces/El Paso region.  Never let it be said I don't go to the literal ends of the Earth to keep you informed.  You are very welcome.)

Given the duration of the trip, I'll of course be toting my beloved HP Spectre 360.  After all, it is the Spectre on which I craft these very masterpieces of intellectual discourse. 

But I'll also be carrying my brand new phone, a Google Pixel 4a.   

Nope, not an iPhone Pro 12.6 Mountain Big Sur Lynx XL (in rose gold).  

And no, not even a Pixel 5 or a Pixel 4a with 5G.  What possesses one to, in the words of my oft-delusional close friend Miguel Shannon, "buy a 2 year old phone"?  

Or put another way:  why not be a sheep and follow the flock?

Well, Mr. Shannon, in fact, my Pixel 4a was introduced way, way back in September of 2020.  Yes, it is over 6 months old.  But it also has these features:

  • It's fast
  • Google-blessed and supported pure Android, with years of free OS updates
  • A great camera
  • It's small (i.e., not too giant like some flagship phones)
  • It has a great screen (or at least good enough for my geezer eyes)
  • It's $350 unlocked - a.k.a. owning your phone
  • It is designed for Google Fi (see below)

So while all you cool kids are flashing your $1,200+ iPhone Bono Awareness Pro Model OS X Sierra Madre (in rose gold), I used the money I had left over to buy more colorful sweaters.  $350 is nice and fair for a phone with 128 gigabytes of storage, a zippy 6 gigabytes of RAM, and yes, a headphone jack.  I think the Pixel 4a is Killer and would be for most everyone that doesn't game on their phone.  But who does that?

Wait there's more.  Ho hum, but it's the carrier that's available with the Pixel.  It's called Google Fi (not to be confused with our pal, the [ironically] gaming executive Fi Deuce).  Maybe I can hold your attention if I tell you now our bill, doing whatever we want with our phones, is $70 - $80/month.  For the two of us.

Both Julie and I have been on Fi for years, with zero complaints in terms of coverage and call quality.  In fact, it's optimized to use WiFi (not cellular) when possible, so call quality is typically better.   

But hands down where Fi shines is when we're traveling outside of the United States.  When you land in, say, Croatia, your phone works exactly as it would if you landed in, say, Albany.  So no wild surcharges.  No special service package to arrange.  No - anything.  If there's anything approaching standards-based cell service in the country you're visiting, Google Fi will work, full stop.  Duluth or Dakar, it's all the same price. 

I do think I can hear you sophisticates out there saying, "Oh, Portico Darwin.  We used to view you as a tech God,  but you bought a phone without 5G connectivity?  That seems awfully short-sighted, so we're now demoting you from God to an installer with Comcast." 

To that I say you'd be correct if true 5G were fully deployed and ubiquitous.  It is neither, and I wager it won't be until right about the time I'm ready for my next Pixel - say 2 years?

Yeah, I get I give up some privacy with Android, vs. iOS.  But I've locked things down and I also use Hey for my email and Neeva for search, so I'm in better shape than most, privacy-wise.  And frankly, if you're still on Facebook (against my suggestion) and/or their ilk, your own privacy train left the station a long time ago. 

Lastly:  I understand some of you really - really! - like the Apple ecosystem.  Which I'd completely respect if you'd tell me you've tried a Pixel, or anything else that's not Apple (or Bose)?

Fairly quiet, but there was true wisdom from the good sport Dr. Downs, who, after I poked fun at her for being much, much, much older than I, responded

"Reaching an advanced age beats the alternative! So says Dr. Doreen."

Here, here!  And I liked the definitive tone by which it was delivered - so says Dr. Doreen, indeed!

My late father used to say something similar:

"I like to think I'm distinguished in my old age.  That's better than being extinguished!"

Thank you to any one that is reading this blog. 

Only the OCD among you will get the connection to this post, but come on, it's fine. 

Here, with one of the best live albums of all time, is Cheap Trick and "At Budokan".  Wow, did this album resonate with some of my friends of the female persuasion in high school.  Suffice to say it was more a Robin and Tom thing for them, and not so much Rick or Bun E. 

Me?  I didn't appreciate them as much back then, but jeez, does this kick-ass of an album stand the test of time.  I even made a video in Palm Springs last summer in celebration.

About Dean Clough

Plans To Enjoy Life.