Man’s best friends

What do you get when you combine personal locator beacon wireless technology, a loyal black Lab and three climbers stranded on Mt. Hood: survival.
It doesn’t always turn out that way, but luckily it did this time. Serious hikers are more likely than the masses to carry PLBs-which are linked to satellites and whose price begins at about $600-when scaling mountains. For the rest of us, cellphones. There are those who argue cellphones give hikers a false sense of security, prompting them to take greater risks than normal. Real purists-the Thoreau crowd-might view hikers talking on cellphones as a blasphemous affront to Mother Nature herself. Whatever. And then there are the stories of stranded motorists making critical use of wireless life lines, stories offset by headlines of deadly car crashes involving a driver yakking on the phone while behind the wheel.
It’s a mixed bag, but undoubtedly more lives are saved than lost from cellphones. In contrast, an iPod can make you oblivious to an oncoming car while crossing the street (legislation is being pursed in the New York legislature to fine distracted iPodding), but it lacks the saving grace of a cellphone.
The practical and ideal are at war in this age of cellphones and electronic gadgetry.
Exhibit A: Environmentalists, state bureaucrats and carriers had been squabbling about wireless coverage along parts of the Adirondack Northway in upstate New York. It’s the kind of spat played out all across the country. Here’s the thing. In January, a car carrying a man and his wife ran off the Adirondack Northway and became trapped in their vehicle. The man’s wife tried to called for help on her cellphone, but she couldn’t get a signal. Why? It wasn’t the foliage, better than humans at withstanding strong winds that made it feel like 50 degrees below zero that night. According to press reports, the Adirondack Parks Agency bans construction of tall cell towers (100 feet or taller) in at least that part of the Adirondacks. Environmentalists reportedly blame wireless carriers for not building smaller cell sites. The truth, as usual, is probably somewhere in between.
Now major stakeholders seem to be on track to fix the wireless blackout along the Adirondack Northway, now that Barbara Langner, 59, is a widower.

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