Wi-Fi in the Wilderness

An acquaintance of mine remarked the other day:

“That’s stupid to worry about Wi-fi signals in the middle of the wilderness. You’re out in nature, man. Enjoy it.”

To which I say:

“Nature can be an absolute behemoth, a beast that can destroy you in seconds, or take an eternity to draw it out. The wilderness is the perfect place to have a strong Wi-fi signal because you never know when you might need it.”

But I get his point. Of course I do. In this world, with all of these devices, it can be easy to get hooked in and want to stay hooked in. It reminds me of the story of the two girls who fell into a well. One of them remembered that she had her phone on her, so she fished it out, and…

They changed her Facebook status to: “I’ve fallen in a well. Please send help.”

Six hours later one of her friends finally decided the status update wasn’t a joke or a hoax and called 911 to get her some help. During the six hours after the status change both girls sat at the bottom of the well and waited to be rescued. I repeat, their friend called 911 six hours later. They had a phone down there with them. Uh.

But that’s how things are these days, in this screenage generation, where social media is king and everything else is a foreign concept. It makes perfect sense to be out in the wilderness looking for  four bars on your phone because you’re so used to having four bars on your phone whenever you go. What do you mean, Uber doesn’t have tent service in the wilderness? Well, maybe, if you pay a whole lot extra, including shocks for the Uber jeep.

We sit in a room surrounded by other people and sometimes an eternity can pass before a single word is said. It used to be a horrible thing to be with others and not talk, but now it’s the default setting, except when we turn our phones to those around us to show them the latest Grumpy Cat meme, or the funniest LaVar Ball tweet. It’s not about good old-fashioned physical interaction with others. It’s about how fast you can get out your point of view without uttering a single word.

When the Wi-fi is dead we feel like we are too. We feel like life is a hopeless rubbish bin because we can’t connect to the world outside, to the world we’ve gotten used to being wrapped around us like a cocoon. The connections we tend to make, though, are superficial at best, not like the ones the outside world often affords us. There’s a book called We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, and while I haven’t yet read it, I know the sentiment that the title espouses. “IRL” has become a simple acronym that encompasses everything about this generation, because it has become more and more rare.

Real life has become a caricature of itself, a reminder that life, this erstwhile life we call our own, must go on even when we aren’t plugged in, even when we aren’t sucking at the teat of the social media monster. We don’t know what we think until it explodes from us in 180 characters or fewer, and our thoughts aren’t validated until more than our immediate family re-tweets those very thoughts. Our lives are defined by the accounts we have, by the likes we collect, and by the photographs we share, not by what we actually do during our days, or by the people we share our IRL time with.

And I say “we” because I am just as much a part of this world as everyone else. I check my accounts more than I probably should. I would not have changed my Facebook status from the bottom of a well, but I can certainly understand why and how it happened the way it did. But I wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near a wilderness, Wi-fi signal or not.



Patient X

“Common knowledge proclaims the death of dreams, but we are still sleeping, waiting to awaken.” ~Theodicus

not-giant-enough-letter-xI have never been a fan of sharing my feelings with others, which is funny if you consider how long I’ve been blogging and doing precisely that. But this medium lends itself nicely to letting it out without fear, because I can relieve my stress and express myself using my favorite mode — writing.

I am Patient X. I am on the cusp of relevance and irrelevance at the same time. I am from the generation that is both full of itself and apart from itself at once, still struggling to define itself in the Era of the New, where more recent means better. I fight to maintain shouting distance with these new technologies, to keep up to date and utilize the next best thing.

But I will forever be behind because advancements stop for no one. My computer was obsolete before I even extricated it from the plastic. The phone I have in my pocket is two generations behind and I still don’t understand all of its features and functions. I know of drones, and Amazon Fire Stick, and cars that park themselves, but I couldn’t possibly tell you how to manipulate any of them. Which is okay, because even though I’m deep into this age of technology, I can still appreciate rudimentary constructs.

I am Patient X. There will never be another like me, like my generation, straddling the line between what has come before, what is here now, and what dreams may come true in the (very near) future. If I spent enough time delving into all this technology until I was overflowing with knowledge I still wouldn’t be caught up, so I just learn what I need to in order to get by, and I hope things don’t change too much more from now until I will stop needing all of it. If I will ever stop needing all of it.

It’s interesting to watch my children (aged 11 and 8) mastering what seems so complex to me, and laughing at my forays into figuring it all out. I take out a flash drive, something that used to be so en vogue not too long ago, and they look at me as if I’ve grown three heads. It’s all digital, they tell me. Transferring files is as easy as snapping your fingers anymore, and I just scratch my head. There are more than a few ways to do any one thing these days, and learning just one of those ways takes me a while. Mastering it takes me even longer, if it can be done at all.

I am Patient X. I will probably always love blogging, even after it too has become outmoded, replaced by whatever replaces Twitter, sent out to pasture to chew its own cud. I will probably always appreciate the smell of a book more than the words on a screen. I will probably always question if digital music is real or just a figment of our collective imagination. I will probably always want to figure things out for myself rather than simply Googling it.

The future is in convenience, tied to whatever can make things easier for us as a civilization, and in some ways that’s already true now. Taking time to do things carefully, in painstaking details, is a dinosaur, lost to the ravages of time. I already miss it, even though its ghost is still around.

Haunting me.


I Got A Pit Bull Now

640px-Pit_Bull_hoverboardI remember watching Back to the Future, Part II, when Marty goes to the future and sees some amazing things like a roadway in the sky, 3D advertisements, and the granddaddy of them all — a hoverboard. I clearly recall watching the movie with my mouth wide open thinking that in 2015 we were going to see some “serious shit.”

But then the years passed, as they always do, and somewhere in the passing the dream lost some of its luster. Y2K wasn’t nearly as dynamic as I thought it would be. The death of my 20s didn’t bring with it any fanfare. And now it’s 2015 and I don’t feel any different. Just older. Now as I rapidly approach 40 I look back at the film with a firm sense of nostalgia, a yearning for everything to be just as the director envisioned it 25 years ago. But it’s not.

What fascinated me the most was this idea that science and technology would have advanced at a feverish pace in the intervening years, that we would be able to fit a pizza into our pocket and then use a machine to rehydrate it, that we would be able to float off the ground on fast boards that moved at our command. But the best we’ve been able to do is a Keurig that only barely changes the way we drink coffee, and the return of 3D movies to theaters, which isn’t really an advancement after all.

back-to-the-future-e1381698242823The closest we’ve come to a “sky mall” are those ridiculously priced shops in the airport, and cars remain firmly planted on the ground. There’s no Max Headroom-like computer dispensing Pepsi at futuristic diners, and using your hands to play a video game is not like playing “a baby’s toy.” Sure, we have the Kinect system from XBox, but that was a short-lived sensation that has overstayed its welcome. It’s almost as if even though we have really great new ideas they just move at a more glacial pace than envisioned in the iconic film.

And that’s okay. If we even had Pit Bulls, what would I do with them anyway? What part of our society now hasn’t progressed at least somewhat since 1989? We are where we’re supposed to be technologically, even if we are leagues behind where some director thought we should be. Although abolishing all lawyers might be an efficient way to expediate trials and deliver verdicts, it would also eliminate fair trials. And changing the weather to suit our needs would feel good at first, but it would take the surprise out of the experience, the element of spontaneity to it all.

The future is now, and for better or for worse we don’t have ridiculous technologies like the ones from Back to the Future, Part II, but we also don’t have the cool aspects of them either. I am in the drawing to get some of those new sneakers with power laces, though, but I hope they’re out by October 21st or all hell will break loose. Because we all know that’s the only technology that is both cool and functional from the film. 2015 here we come, whatever that means.


Handy Man

mannywaveHandy man, I am not.

Today I found out just how unhandy (word?) I can be when it comes to trying to fix the proverbial “stuff.” I never learn, I guess. It all started when I was copying last weekend’s Eagles’ game to DVD and the recorder just died on me. One minute it was copying away like a good little machine, and the next it was flashing zeroes at me. After I picked my jaw up from the ground (it had never done anything even remotely like that before) I pressed the eject button. Nothing.

Thus began my cajoling. I tried my best to be the DVD Recorder Whisperer, begging and pleading with it to turn back on, to eject the disk, to just come through for me like it had about a million times before. But it turns out that the million-and-first recording time is the one that broke the Panasonic’s back, so to speak. It didn’t respond to my please, so I unplugged it and let it sit there overnight to think about what it had (or hadn’t) done. If I had a dunce cap I would have placed it on top of the machine, thinking that in the morning it would be embarrassed enough to work for me again.

It wasn’t. And it didn’t. Work, that is.

d5f67646_vbattach120598I plugged it back in the next morning, ready for the magic to begin. But there was no magic. Those endless zeroes began to haunt my days and nights until I decided to unplug the recorder again and perform a type of surgery to try and revive the patient. I read all the how-to websites, watched all of the videos, and got significantly prepped enough to get the screwdrivers out and open it up. To extricate the disk and to see if that wouldn’t fix the mechanism.

I was able to get the disk back but it won’t play, and the mechanism remained stuck.

So I did a bit more surgery, getting the first broken DVD recorder from upstairs, sliding it open, and doing a transplant of internal drives, sacrificing one machine so that another could live on. It hurt to start taking out parts, but it felt good to place them inside the other machine, making a new whole out of what had been torn asunder. I felt like a god, creating something new from the ruins of something that had no future. Then I plugged it back in and pressed the button.

Nothing. I am no handy man. Now both recorders are waiting at the curb for someone who knows what he’s doing to take them and give them a good home, with a screwdriver that can work a magic I wasn’t able to work. And I’ll miss them.


The Information

image00Is all this information an overload? Remember when all we had being input into us was from the boob tube, when the biggest disciplinary action by our parents was taking away our TV time? Now if you told your kids they can’t have TV time they might just laugh at you. There are so many other screen time options these days that to take all of them away would be nearly impossible. I’ll tell you this, though. My kids aren’t getting cell phones until they’re teenagers. At the earliest.

I’ll admit they both have iPads, but they’re wi-fi so they can’t connect everywhere, having to rely on educational apps instead of the glut of Netflix that would otherwise occupy their time. In fact, having the time limit on their screen time has proven a good tactic, because it makes them use their imaginations and enjoy each others’ company. My wife even said tonight that we are going to clean out the iPads of most of the non-educational apps so they can have the screens to learn and improve on their skills instead of just to watch Netflix and play Temple Run.

So is this wealth of  information at our fingertips a positive or a negative? For example, there was a time my wife asked me what the weather was. I was standing right at the window but instead of looking outside I pulled out my phone to check my weather app. That’s one of the issues with having so much at the ready, that we can sometimes overlook simple things. Will our nostalgia for this time period feature these obsolete tablets and phones because the future holds so much more in the way of information explosion?

I worry about that future if that’s the case.


Dear Journal: Technology

woman-staring-at-cell-phone-waiting“It turns girls on that I’m mysterious. I tell ’em I don’t want nothing serious. ‘Cause even on a slow day I can have a three-way chat with two woman at one time. I’m so much cooler online.” ~Brad Paisley

Do you think all this technology — all this social media — has made us more physically anti-social?

There are six of us sitting in a relatively small room but there is no conversation going on. Instead we are all nose-deep in our screens, wrapped up in the small lives and exorbitant lies of people tweeting, or Facebooking, or Instagramming, or pinning deep, insightful memes on their Pinterest walls. Or if it’s not that it’s texting other people who are in the same room.

But too many of us are afraid of public speaking. Or even going up to someone and introducing ourselves. Give us their names, though, and we will friend them, or follow their blog, or however else we can make a connection. JUST DON’T MAKE US TALK TO THEM IN PERSON. That’s just cruel and unusual punishment.

I mean, who dances in the clubs anymore? Who has real-life conversations with real people in restaurants instead of texting them because it’s more convenient? We don’t even have the somewhat social aspect of the internet cafe anymore because our phones have made them obsolete. The phones are smart, but by having them does that make us stupid?

And I’ll admit it — I like all this technology when it works like it’s supposed to, and when it’s in moderation. I find myself checking my phone even when it hasn’t vibrated yet, and I worry that someday I’ll need a 12-step group to wean myself from so much constant reliance on it. I worry that if I don’t have the latest version with the most recent updates I am falling behind the times and others are moving far past me. Technologically speaking.

Hi. My name is Sam. And I like to actually talk to people. Is there something wrong with that?


P.S. – Yes, I recognize the irony of saying that via a blog.

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