App Appeal: Stay warm (or alive) during the Polar Vortex
If you're worried about being stranded while traveling in a winter storm try the app Winter Survival Kit. And Teller the magician tells us his favorite app.
Winter Survival Kit
In “The Day After Tomorrow,” filmmaker and oracle Roland Emmerich depicted a possible (but not that possible) future where Global Warming had turned the earth’s weather bananas. New York City was among the hardest hit: It became a frozen ice palace, buried in snow and conquered by hungry, rampaging wolves. (Emmerich would later make the apocalyptic “2012” — remember that craze? — as well as “Anonymous,” which tried to legitimize the “Oxfordian” theory that William Shakespeare did not write the plays of William Shakespeare. He’s not always with the right cause.)
This winter hasn’t been as bad as that, but it’s been closer than most of us would like. With still more snowfall en route, it’s worth at least jokily entertaining the notion that living in a urban wasteland won’t save us from the bitter, wretched cold. If you want to get all alarmist and Grizzly Adams about the cold and the snow, the Winter Survival Kit is your app.
A generously detailed (and generously) free service, it’s there for you if you suddenly find yourself outside city limits and stuck in the snow (probably in a dreaded car). Hit the handy button labeled “I’m Stranded” and it will walk you through the steps you take to increase your chances of not dying a horrible death. It will help you measure your gas, while reminding you that running your engine can result in carbon monoxide buildup. It will also send out periodic alerts to your emergency contact, should you find cell phone service lacking.
In fact, it’s worth going through Winter Survival Kit before you take off in dangerous weather. Having read all of its worst-case-scenario scenarios can save your life — although traveling at all during this block of Polar Vortex might be worth curtailing in the first place.
Never underestimate the power of some well-chosen delusion. If you indeed live in a city, you likely don’t have easy access to a fireplace. (Indeed, you may even live with a rickety steam heater, probably left over from the 19th century, that alternates between loud hissing and terrifying banging sounds.) But if you want to bask in the glow of some fireplace, even a digital one that doesn’t even emit warmth, try the app Fireplace. For a buck you can bring up a live, crackling wood fire, minus the heat but also minus the smoke and the irritating lengths it takes to put it out when you’re done. It’s like the competing Yulelog TV emissions around the holidays, only minus the cheesy/inexplicable song choices and tiny enough to fit in your hand. Hey, it’s something.
What's On Your Phone?
Occupation: Magician, filmmaker, skeptic
Out now: "Tim's Vermeer," a documentary about inventor Tim Jenison trying recreate a Johannes Vermeer painting, which Teller directed, with Penn Jillette as producer.
"I use Sleep machine. Sleep machine produces various kinds of white noise. You can create whatever exact sound you want, and use it bedside in hotels to mask the hotel noise. To amplify it, I always put it in the ice bucket or the trash can. That’s a great amplifier."