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Cell Phones

Pixabay photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know that optical illusion with the vase and the two faces? If you’re looking at the outline of the white object, you see a vase, but if you look at the white as the background, you see two faces.

Is it possible that we might, at times, be missing something in our lives?

We drive from one event to another, often ignoring the people in the car next to us at a stoplight, at the birds resting on a telephone wire or at the last few rays of the sun as the light disappears over the horizon.

Instead, we’re focused on getting where we’re going, giving our mind a chance to wander to important things, like what we’re going to say to the coach of our son’s little league team, to our boss who wants to know why we’re late, or to that person at the deli counter who starts preparing our sandwich before we even order.

Along the way, we might be missing signs that could stimulate or enrich our mind in unexpected ways or that could provide the kind of unanticipated signs that serve as clues about our lives. Sure, some people read horoscopes for such help, they ponder the pithy poetry of fortune cookies, or they visit a psychic, who asks them if they’ve ever known a person named John or if they’ve ever gone with a date to a movie or like to take walks on the beach.

But, with our heads down, living on our phones, focusing on events and people far from us, is it possible that we might miss something akin to a puzzle piece in the mystery of our lives?

Sure, telemarketers are frustrating and annoying, offering us products we don’t need, asking us for personal information, and assuming a far-too-familiar tone.

What if those telemarketers, who are even more unpopular than used car salesman, journalists and politicians, offered us something between the lines of their scripts that might be of use to us? We don’t have to stay on the phone long with them and we don’t have to buy something we don’t want, but maybe we can give them half a minute, listening to them and politely declining their offer for more life insurance, a time share in the Everglades, or a chance to earn money as a personal shopper.

Maybe something they say will remind us of a task we wanted to accomplish, a phrase a friend or relative used to use, or a responsibility we haven’t yet met for ourselves. In a world in which there are no accidents, perhaps they can remind us of something we value.

Along the same lines, the scenery that flies by while we’re on a train, a bus or in a car could remind us of a picture we drew from our childhood, a tree we used to climb, or a friend who might need to hear from us but hasn’t felt strong enough to ask for help.

Hundreds and thousands of years ago, people looked to the skies for the kind of signs that might help them.

When we shut ourselves in our homes, disconnect from the people in the room or from the environment, we close down the opportunity to see or consider any signs from the world around us or to get out of our own limited physical, mental and emotional headspace. We also lock ourselves in to a particular way of thinking, removing the opportunity to consider whether today is a day to see the vase or the two faces.

By getting away from our computer screens, cell phones, and cubicles, we give ourselves a chance to see what the world offers, and how those cues affect the way we think about our lives.

VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore salutes those soldiers lost through the years along with other veterans. Photo by Kyle Barr

A local town official is asking people to donate their unused phones for veterans.

Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) is teaming up with Cell Phones For Soldiers, a national nonprofit dedicated to providing cost-free communication services and emergency funding to active-duty military members and veterans. Donations of devices allow the organization to fund its three programs, which include:

Minutes That Matter: Domestic air time that provides domestic wireless minutes and phones to veterans, military personal and military family members

Minutes That Matter: International calling cards that provide free calling cards to troops overseas to help connect to loved ones.

Helping Heroes Homes: Assists veterans with emergency funds to alleviate communication challenges, as well as physical, emotional and assimilation hardships.

“Our military men and women take extended time away from their families to ensure our safety,” Bonner said. “It is an honor to work with Cell Phones For Soldiers to provide them with a connection to their loved ones while they are serving and protecting our country.”

The drive will take place from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Residents can donate their cell phones at these four Brookhaven town locations:

Highway Department, 1140 Old Town Road, Coram

Rose Caracappa Senior Center, Route 25A in Mount Sinai

Henrietta Acampora Recreation Center, 39 Montauk Highway, Blue Point

Town Hall, 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville

For further information, call  631-451-6964.

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Senator Chuck Schumer is taking wireless network companies to task for poor service in areas of Long Island. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Kudos to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for working to improve the quality of life for Long Islanders. He recently submitted a list of more than 200 “dead zones” for cellphones on the Island to both the Federal Communications Commission and to wireless service providers and told them in no uncertain terms to get their act together. Long Island is a heavily populated area, and we deserve better coverage.

Schumer gathered his list of problem spots with the help of folks who know where they are. He established a page on his Senate website specifically for reporting poor service areas and invited residents to provide the information.

Many of us have our own mental catalog of places where our cell phones are useless, and we try to work around those dead zones.

But what if we can’t work around them? What if something happens to us in a place where there is poor service? What if you need assistance right now but have no way of obtaining it?

Sadly, we were not surprised when our requests for comments from the wireless carriers were mostly met with silence.

Just last weekend, we needed access to the many storm bulletins and the latest news in order to decide if we should stay or evacuate as Tropical Storm Hermine threatened our shores.

Our cell phones are no longer just fun accessories. They are necessities that keep us in touch and help to facilitate our lives. So we believe that Schumer is right. It’s not okay for carriers to just woo us with fabulous coverage claims. They must provide service everywhere we need it.

While we think it’s terrific that 200 plus dead zones will hopefully be addressed by the service providers, it leaves us to wonder — what about all the others? As our editorial staff read over the list, we all thought of spots in our neighborhoods that weren’t on the list, but should be.

But this is on us. We didn’t contribute to this poll. As helpful as Schumer’s plan is, it won’t solve the problem unless we too get involved.

We’re sure President John F. Kennedy (D) had bigger problems in mind when he asked the country what it can do for its government. But it fits perfectly in local cases just like this.

Our local government can only help us as much as we help it.

Senator Chuck Schumer is taking wireless network companies to task for poor service in areas of Long Island. File photo by Elana Glowatz

What started as an isolated “sexting” incident has spread across two school districts in greater Smithtown and led to two arrests and more than 20 suspensions, school officials said Tuesday.

It all started in late October, when two 14-year-old boys from an unspecified high school in Smithtown used a cell phone to record a sexual encounter with a female acquaintance off school grounds, the Suffolk County Police Department said in a statement. That explicit content was later distributed electronically to others in an act referred to as sexting to students at Kings Park High School, which led to widespread suspensions there, Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen said in a statement.

Police did not specify the age of the female or where she attends school, or whether the sexual act was consensual or forced.

Both boys were arrested and charged with two felonies — disseminating indecent material to minors and promoting a sexual performance by a child — and a sexual abuse misdemeanor and were scheduled to appear in family court on a later date, police said. Cops did not release the names of the students because they are minors.

In a statement, Smithtown Schools Superintendent James Grossane confirmed the two boys were high school students within the district, but did not specify whether they attended Smithtown High School East or Smithtown High School West. He said district disciplinary action would be determined pending the outcome of an investigation, and the district was working with the SCPD to find a resolution.

“We are greatly disturbed by these allegations and we express our heartfelt concern to the alleged victim and their family,” Grossane said in a statement, referring to the girl whose image was captured and disseminated. “This is a very serious matter and the district is currently conducting an internal investigation to further explore this incident. We encourage parents to take this opportunity to speak with their children about the long-term negative consequences that the inappropriate use of social media may have on their lives and for parents to monitor their child’s online and cell phone use to the best of their ability.”

Policing the digital realm was not a new topic for the Kings Park schools superintendent. The sexting incident occurred about two months after Eagen hosted an online safety and cyber bullying public forum at Kings Park High School.

“Yes, we do have a serious problem,” Eagen said in a notice posted on the Kings Park Central School District’s website. “However, from my perspective it is that our young people are carrying mini-computers in their back pockets that are both unfiltered and largely unsupervised. This is a shared problem, and more than just an issue of one student, one decision, or one suspension”

In the notice posted online, Eagen referred to modern youth as the “iGeneration,” that has grown up in an era of immediate technological stimulation via smartphones and tablets. He notified parents that students had access to various smartphone applications at their fingertips solely designed for the purpose of concealing pictures and videos, and he suggested changes be made inside the home.

“Some students have shared with us that they sleep with their phone under their pillow,” he said. “This is dangerous and very problematic. The best advice that I was given a few years ago was to create a family electronic device charging station. At night before, bed, all devices go to the family charging station. Something to consider.”

Eagen said his goal over the coming months was to work with the district’s principals and parents to urge young people “to be good citizens and report problematic behavior to an adult.”

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The cell tower located on the property of Smithtown Landing Country Club will be increasing 50 feet to improve service. Stock photo

Can you hear me now?

A cell phone tower in the heart of Smithtown will be growing 50 feet taller, thanks to a unanimous vote by the town board last month that should improve service for AT&T and Verizon customers throughout the town — especially in times of emergency, officials said. The tower, owned by Site Tech Wireless LLC, was given the go-ahead to increase its height from 75 feet to 125 feet where it currently stands at the Smithtown Landing Country Club.

“The primary purpose of the extension is public safety,” said Bailey Larkin, the attorney representing Site Tech. “The town currently maintains two whip antenna on top of the existing 75-foot site. The pole, these two whip antennas, will be on the top of the extension at 125 feet.”

The 50 feet, he said, would make for better service in tough-to-reach areas of town like the area surrounding Nissequogue River in Kings Park.

Michael Lynch, a state-certified real estate appraiser based out of Huntington, told the town board at a public hearing back in 2013 that he did not anticipate the extra 50 feet would affect the surrounding area financially or environmentally, within a quarter-acre radius of the tower.

The unanimous decision came at the board’s June 2 meeting after the town ruled the project would have no negative impacts on the greater Smithtown community. Under the plan, AT&T and Verizon would both be increasing their heights on the pole or replacing their equipment altogether to provide better service. Larkin said both carriers had been experiencing service issues over the past several years, ultimately making it difficult to be effective for groups that rely heavily on it, like emergency responders.

The town had initially built the tower at 75 feet in 2010 without a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, resulting in a $750 fine Site Tech had to pay as a violation.

The applicant said a taller tower could potentially save a few steps in the greater process of rerouting calls to other area cell towers whenever the Smithtown tower falls short. Currently, emergency calls in the area run the risk of being rerouted to Connecticut and then routed again to Suffolk County’s emergency responder system in order to bypass the Smithtown tower’s shortcomings.

The application will now go before the Smithtown Board of Site Plan Review for approval.