The digital age continues to compress the planet into smaller and smaller packets - so fast it's sometimes hard to recall how far away everything used to be.
For example, about 30 years ago my sister visited Hawaii for three weeks. While there, she made a very pricey call to the rest of us back home in Louisiana - once, and only once. It was an event so unique (complete with a two-second delay as our voices raced back and forth through a phone line anchored to the floor of the Pacific Ocean) that the memory of it continues to enjoy a permanent berth in my brain.
Who could have imagined that just 20 years later, not only would I be able to move to Hawaii, but I'd also have this thing called the internet, a breakthrough that made calls home so commonplace that my mum started to routinely hang up on me when "the game was coming on".
Of course, there's one big downside to being able to check in everywhere - how do you check out?
There's still one option: ear buds, the modern visual queue to the world not to bother us because we're up in our heads.
Still, when lost in our favourite song or podcast, it would be nice if there was some way for the real world to remind us it exists - more gently than, say, a bus trying to stretch out an amber light as we attempt to cross an intersection.
Fortunately, there's Interlude (free; iPhone, iPad) a simple app that works in the background as you listen to music or other audio. Either between each song or in pre-selected intervals, it tells you key information about your real-world environment, such as what time it is out there, how far your physical form has travelled in it and how long you've been avoiding it.
Interlude offers the equivalent of a short commercial break between songs to let you know the time of day, elapsed time and distance travelled in kilometres or miles. For podcasts or audio books, it can be programmed to break in every five, 10, 15 or 30 minutes.
Joggers can keep track of time and distance without fiddling with their pockets and risking a head-on collision. Mall walkers can window shop with a soundtrack without worrying that they'll miss the first half of the movie. Forgetful household bakers can enjoy the Beatles Anthology without burning their house down.
Interlude is a small app with limited functions, but it can still have a big impact. Perhaps one day, it will even be able to tell my mum when the game is on. But for now, it's clear she has no trouble keeping track of that herself.
Have some great personal finance apps that you want to share? Write to Curt Brandao at firstname.lastname@example.org