Sunday, April 6, 2014

A musing rant on the vagaries of modern life

This morning I managed to sleep in till 7am, which is very late for me. After feeding the cats I started coffee, and settled in for the Twitter #coffeechat. This got me thinking about the nature of community these days. Which led me to prosthetics for the brain, and generally how people cope with the modern world.

But first a word from our sponsor! I was reading back through one of my old posts using the "You might also like" feature at the bottom of every post. And how about that? For once I was ahead of the world. Recently we've been reading about those anti-vax idiots, but I was on about them almost two years ago, read about it here. Along with difficulties in using revolving doors and other complicated modern world technology.

So there I was, sipping coffee and chatting with people all over North America using a small hand held device. Possible earlier, but difficult. Now it's very easy, although it took me a minute to get started with it on my laptop (faster typing) than on the iPad. Of course, it isn't the same as sitting in a coffee shop, actually talking to these people. But then we'd have to be together in the same place at the same time. While I know a few #coffeechat regulars here in Calgary, it wouldn't be quite the same.

Once upon a while ago, some blog buddies and I had a running set of commentary about one of us (not me, obviously) being pregnant, and who the god-parents were. Lots of fun, though two of us don't blog anymore. The other recently announced she is moving to Australia. This will do great things for her blog-fodder, and I'm looking forward to reading it. But until recently someone moving to Australia (I've always wanted to go) was essentially moving to another planet. You lost touch, unless you were faithful letter writers. Now I suspect my blog/twitter/facebook relationship won't change in any noticeable way. This is an amazing thing.

One of the mentions during coffee chat was one person setting a reminder to take part. At first I thought there was a way of setting a reminder within Twitter itself, but no, they had set an alert on their phone to remind them. I didn't ask which calendar/list/reminder program they used. It's such a personal choice, in that what works for one person perfectly won't work for anyone else at all. I haven't found one yet that I really like. One promising app only runs on the new iOS, and I'm not willing to go there on my loved but obsolete iPhone 4.

Memory used to be important. I remember one of my grade school teachers talking about memorization. I had the attitude that why remember when you can look it up in books? Her point was that books weren't always available. Then she went on and quoted a long chunk of Treasure Island. In older novels one often reads one of the characters quoting a chunk of text from the classics in support of whatever he or she was saying, and this wasn't thought the least unusual. I can't remember an example in real life, but your milage may vary.

Now of course, I can look up almost any book I want, from almost anywhere, though I might have to squint to read it. So is memory important anymore? There's times I've used a list to remember to buy 3 or 4 items at Coop. Is this a sign of oncoming dementia? A sign I'm easily distracted? Or, as my teacher would have it, a sign of poor moral character? Or is a sign of the degeneracy of our times, where there is so much going on that no human can keep up with everything they are interested in without aid?

We think nothing of someone using a cane, or crutches, or a wheelchair as a physical prosthetic. Sometimes it's temporary, sometimes permanent. More recently limb prosthetics are being integrated with computers, and amazing things are happening. To some extent such people could be considered cyborgs, though when it's your neighbor or coworker, the connotations of the word cyborg are entirely different.

So if prosthetics for a limb are ok, what about prosthetics for your brain? A pencil and paper could be considered an early brain prosthetic, but the iPhone or iPad are the ultimate, at least this week. Who knows what's coming next? Where is the line between it being a handy useful aid when necessary, and an indispensable tool for day to day life?

Back when we had to remember everything for ourselves, we remembered two kinds of things. The important things, and the things that somehow settled into our memory without us making an effort, mainly because of some association. Birthdays are something that could be either. I could never forget my brother's birthday. It falls on a major holiday, and he shares it with a cousin, though several years apart. One of my buddies was born April 1, couldn't forget that. One of my childhood buddies was born same day, same year as me, but I've long since lost touch with her. Darn this habit of women changing their names upon marriage! She could be living 10 doors down and I'd never know it.

Birthdays are important to many people. It's sometimes a way of celebrating that you've survived another year, and sometimes an excused for a party with friends. But think back a few years, I'm talking 100 or so. Lots of people didn't survive childhood. Many women didn't survive childbirth. By the standards that much of humanity has lived by, I'm ancient, yet today I'm considered middle aged. So when you don't get many birthdays, and there are uncountable numbers of things that could kill you before your next one, I guess they'd be more special.

So now when social apps remind you of birthdays, and people send greetings to one another based on that, how meaningful is it? Does it matter that 500 people you barely know say "Happy Birthday" to you on social media? Are they really thinking of you in particular? For all I know, there is some clever app that composes and sends birthday greetings to your contacts for you. To me it's just clutter. Now, my birthday is not common knowledge, so if someone says happy birthday to me, on the correct day, then they go to the trouble of remembering, and that means something.

Which reminds me, speaking of clutter, I've been meaning to clean off my desk. One of my writing buddies had posted some  very nice pics of her writing room. So awesome to have a room of your own to write in. It used to be that if I was writing, I'd be at my desk. Now, with my laptop I could be anywhere. So some photos. This is what I'm looking at right now. It looks a bit odd because there's so much light that the iPad camera is all confused. For those that haven't been here, I'm looking south onto a big green space. Well, if the snow ever finishes going away, it will be green.

Here's the before of the desk. I was working on the timeline, and the novel at the same time. Several times I was working on the laptop keyboard, while looking at the desktop screen. This is not a productive activity. The clutter isn't productive either.

Here's a tidy desktop again. There were several dust bunnies caught in the act amidst the clutter. Pop quiz! Count the electronic devices in this photo. First one with the correct answer gets a cookie! Or maybe a bottle of wine, if we can work out delivery difficulties. (For purposes of this contest, a pair of socks would be counted as two items. This is important.)

When I do write at the desk, which sometimes happens, this is the view, reminding me of active times. I'm not so well organized to have a proper medal display. I made the paperweight with the bit of yellow in it. Behind me are some plants, a coffee table covered in books, a couple chairs, and a north facing bay window. The view from the window now is snow. There are still several feet in the back yard. This does not make back yard reno planning any easier. There will be before (you will have to prepare yourselves) and after photos. Maybe during.

What the heck, here's a before shot, complete with snow. Actually, now that I think of it, the snow is a mercy considering what is under it. The left hand window is the window I'd be looking out of if I turned around while writing at the desktop.

So the good news today is that I ran again. 35 minutes at whatever pace my legs wanted. Probably not  quite 5 K. For the first 2 K or so, they actually felt springy and happy. I could feel my quads working for the rest, but even at the end they weren't complaining like yesterday. After a good stretch and stuff, they still felt pretty good, though it's usually the next day that tells the tale.

In the mixed news department, there is a thin vertical blue line on our old plasma. Old, as in purchased Boxing Day 2002. (That is 4119 days, or 3 years, 11 months, 11 days.) It just showed up recently. We've been looking at LED sets for a while, but have trouble with the idea of replacing something that is still working. Technically, it's still working, I suppose, but it's more than a little distracting. So now I have to move TV research into high gear.

Right now the only firm criteria is that it be no more than 48 inches wide, unless I want to make holes in the wall and move some speakers. Which I don't want to do. What LED TV do you have, and where did you get it? Was that an experience you'd do again?

In the bad news department, the weekend is almost over. How do they go by so quickly?

So in recap, for the comments:

  • How do you feel about memory these days?
  • Scroll up to the clean desk picture, count how many electronic devices you see, and comment.
  • Tell me (please and thank you) about your LED TV buying experience. Visions? Costco? Another retailer? TV brand? Blue Ray DVD player brand?
  • How was your weekend? Did it go by quickly?


  1. Memory is fading fast - I had two things I HAD to do today - take with me when I left the house - forgot both of them :(

    I don't know how many electrical devices - but the desk looks fabulous and the room is so cozy. No way you can turn the desk around so you're looking out that window? Of course, if it were me, I'd just park myself in one of the chairs and call it done.

    Plasma - close to 8 years ago (yikes - hope I just didn't jinx myself) - Radio Shack (goes by some other name now). LOVE IT!! They came and set it up for us, helped with the programming, walked us through the remotes! Of course, that was small town SK - not sure in the big cities if you'd get that kind of customer service.

    I really am going to petition the powers that be to extend weekends to 3 days (like I was promised back in high school when everyone thought computers were going to make 4 day work weeks the norm)!!

    FYI - post from yesterday - The Husband has moved beyond 'whipping' his wine - now has a vacuum pump and has just ordered a filter system that will work with it - says he'd never go back to the 'whip' as his pump degasses the wine much better. You can check out his 'lab' when you're down this way!! I just drink the wine :)

  2. Great blog post. Keith...but there's too much I want to say in response. Here's the short version:

    6 or 7 devices (if I count the keyboard and mouse as one each and assume that blue item is something electronic). Do I win? Desk clean up job is impressive and I love your sitting room. Very cozy. And apparently, you've done as much shopping at Ikea as we have - I recognize the Ektorp chairs. We're got 3 chairs and 2 sofas and have worked our way through a couple of sets of covers and they're still going strong - though a little worse for wear because of the cat traffic. We also have the same pine unit (next to your desk). Great minds think alike apparently. Glad the run felt good. Warm spring weather will make ALL the different, I'm sure. Yes - heartfelt birthday wishes from people who remember my birthday unprompted would be nice - but I'm completely okay with whatever I get. My 52nd birthday was grey and dreary (in terms of both the weather and my mood) so the Facebook messages and comments were much appreciated!

    Oops, time to get back to work. Good luck with running and writing this week!

    1. I counted the mouse and keyboard as separate items. That blue item is indeed something electronic. It's the cable modem. I suppose I haven't been entirely fair since the lid wasn't open to reveal something that comes in a left and right. They were counted separately too. But no, even accounting for them, you are still way short. Because you at least tried, you get a La Havre bakery treat on me.

      We've got a ton of IKEA stuff. Those white covers are beginning to show a bit of wear and that wear is mainly named Celina.

  3. Shoot. Just realized I only answered one of your questions. Can't help with the TV. We don't have one these days. Well, we HAVE one but it's a plain old TV we picked up at the Superstore for $200 6 or 7 years ago and it's not hooked up to anything except a DVD player.

    Memory - I don't really have one anymore, which may be because I'm older, menopausal or too dependent on my devices. Or maybe it's just that I don't care that much anymore. I used to be very good at remembering what was on my to do list, and could tell you what happened in meetings almost verbatim but my random access memory doesn't hang on to much anymore. I'm hoping that will change now that I'm sleeping more soundly again. (Did you know there's a link between long memory and sleeping well?) I was never very good at memorizing anything except "times tables" anyway. Names have always been a particular challenge. Weekend went by quickly but not as bad as some. I'm with Janet. They should all be at least three days. Okay, now I'm going back to work!

  4. I’m totally late to the party (sick today) but I count 9 or 10 devices: lamp, calculator, iPad, mouse, keyboard, monitor, remote contol on monitor, blue box thingy, silver box thingy and is that a USB stick beside your monitor? Hey, you are left-handed because your mouse is on the left!? I use the calendar reminders ALL the time. Techy me says: I just double click "calendar" on my mac or iPhone, name the event, enter the address so maps can navigate me there, give it a start and end time and set a default reminder for 2 hours before every event. Non techy me says: I can't get the "you might also like" thing to work on my blog and anything TV-related is solely my hubby's territory so I'm no help there. Great news about the running !!!

    1. Closer! I buy coffee next time. The rounded silver box thingie on the computer base is the thing that counts as two, left and right. I'm a bit puzzled by monitor remote control, though. Not a USB stick. In fact, looking at the photo I'm not sure what it is, I think it's a little pouch that attaches to a shoe for keys.
      Not left handed, but mostly ambidextrous. I taught myself to mouse left-handed because for a while I had a job that involved checking spreadsheets against paperwork, and it was handy to put check marks on paper with one hand, and click or move the mouse with the other.
      Hints, look at the orange box thingie more closely. There is something in plain sight that most people don't think is an electronic device. Other than the left and right, there are two of something. If people ask nice, I'll put up a hi res version of the photo.


Looking forward to reading your comment!

Some other posts you might enjoy.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...