Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ghost in the machine

Okay, this is getting ridiculous. First, our universal remote died. Just quit working altogether. It's not even a year old. Then my beloved camera started going all wonky. Then my cell phone started randomly "rebooting" itself. Then my laptop decided to lock me out entirely. I've had to make three non-trivial repairs on the tractor in less than a week. The Honda has developed a wicked shimmy at highway speeds. Even the little pedometer that our health insurance company handed out stopped working! This has all been in the span of what, maybe three weeks total?

Now I'm pretty neutral when it comes to technology. Much of it, I could care less about. I don't have an iPod, or a Blackberry, or any number of other gadgets. My cell phone was provided by my employer, and I'd happily do without it. Even so, some technologies just make sense to me. Admittedly, my perspective is undergoing a radical change these days, but I do still have an inner geek.

The first time I used email, I thought, "Wow, this is awesome. I doubt it'll happen, but wouldn't it be cool if everyone had access to this?" The first time I used the world wide web (that phrase sounds so dated, eh?) it was on a text-based "browser" with awful formatting, but I thought, "Wow, this has such enormous potential. Wouldn't it be cool if this were a hundred times bigger?" Not long after that, I created my first web page.

We were early adopters with Tivo, and I find it hard to watch TV without it. The interesting thing about Tivo is that it did something counter-intuitive: It reduced the amount of TV we watch. On those occasions when we do want to zone out, we watch higher quality shows, sans advertising. I learn something useful almost every time I sit down to watch. There are virtually no network shows recorded for us, and channel surfing no longer exists. We went to the video store the other day for the first time in at least a year, and I think my TV watching is near an all-time low.

Even though TV watching is down, it's not gone completely. The universal remote is a nice little gadget. Instead of buttons to turn on and operate various devices (or a passel of separate remotes), this remote has a button for "Watch a DVD". Press it, and the TV comes on, the DVD player comes on, the tuner comes on and switches the input mode to DVD. Press "Watch a Video" and the DVD player goes off, the VCR comes on, the tuner switches to video input, and the TV stays on. (It's smart enough to remember what's on and what's off.) Buttons like "play", "pause", "rewind", etc. get remapped based on what you're doing.

When technology fails, we realize how reliant we are on it. I didn't realize how much I loved taking pictures until the camera was gone. I'd forgotten how many remotes we used to keep track of. I even missed the silly little pedometer counting my steps.

[A side note about the pedometer: The inusrance company's "wellness" initiative suggested a goal of averaging 10,000 steps per day by the end of six weeks. Without making any changes to my routine, I'm averaging 8,900 over two weeks, and I topped out at over 15,000 the first Saturday. If it wasn't for my desk job, I bet I'd average 12,000 without even trying.]

Low tech has a lot of appeal too. At least the garden won't have to be sent to New York for repairs, and it's hard for a book to suddenly become totally unusable. (Though, strangely, literature is the truest source of deus ex machina.)

The good news... We've got a brand new remote and a brand new camera body, both free of charge. A new pedometer is on the way. The Honda will have to wait for now. The laptop got a new keyboard. (I didn't even know you could do that!) The cell phone seems to be in a better mood most of the time, but frankly, if it dies I won't shed any tears. And I'm sure they'll have a new one in my hand moments later. And the tractor... well... The shards of metal have been surgically removed from it's innards by way of a magnet on the end of a long bendy stick, and everything that needed fixing has been taken care of. It's running better than can be expected for something more than a half century old. I hope the same can be said of me when the time comes.

Hopefully the string of broken things is over. If not, I'm gonna stop making jokes about those black helicopters down the road...


At 8/13/2006 4:46 PM, Blogger madcapmum said...

It certainly seems to go like that, in streaks. Curious. I wonder if it has something to do with morphic lines?

At 8/13/2006 9:25 PM, Blogger e4 said...

Morphic lines?

Can you point me in the direction of enlightenment?

At 8/13/2006 11:42 PM, Blogger madcapmum said...

Sorry about that. My husband and I throw that around in jest so much that I forget that it's not exactly mainstream. There's this rawther eccentric British scientist, Rupert Sheldrake, who puts a lot of time and thought into the phenomena of flock movement, pets who seem to know when their owners are coming home, people who seem to know immediately when someone has died or is about to call them on the phone, etc. He speculates that there are "morphic lines", sort of a sixth sense of communication that pulls things into synchronicity.

It's kind of a giggle, but on the other hand, it's not. There are a couple people in my life, not ones I'd choose, mind you, with whom I seem to have a bond of the sort he talks about. I hadn't heard from one in quite a long time (thankfully), but one night recently I had a very strong dream that this person was trying to break into my home, and lo and behold, the next day she called trying to persuade my husband that we really needed to get together. So, it seems as if somehow that intention was communicating itself to me. Rupert Sheldrake would say it was travelling through "morphic lines". Could be.

So, if gadgets form morphic bonds, I suppose that means they could all fritz out at once, huh?

Really though, I'd recommend reading him. I found it extremely interesting.


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