Ash Wednesday
Tree Skeletons

My Luddite Tendencies

I didn't used to be a non-fan of new technology.  In fact, in the right places, I was a great fan.  When I was a statistician, doing lots of calculations with paper and calculator, I jumped at the chance to use the department's new PC (this was 22 years ago).  Just put all the new numbers in, program it, and Voila!  We had 36 months of projections for 12 lines of business to calculate every month.  Using the PC cut our time down over 50%, and was a whole lot more interesting!

Even then, however, I wasn't necessarily a fan of new technology for its own sake.  I was irritated when I found out that a certain Vivaldi record that I wanted to get for my husband could not be gotten on record anymore - and, that to get that music for him for Christmas, I'd also have to buy a CD player (18 years ago, just 2 months before my oldest was born).  However, I love the CD player now, except for certain CD's that don't play when it's rainy or humid. 

DVD players also irritate when they pixilate, but the saving grace of DVD's is the commentary on making the movie.  For instance, the imagery in the final scene of North by Northwest?  That was Hitchcock's.  The screenwriter said he would love to have come up with that, but he didn't.  I'm always interested in how things were created.

The unfixable nature of modern electronics is part of their irritation for me.   I know how to take a VCR tape apart and fix it (I learned how to do that on my father's reel-to-reel tapes, and just extended that to cassettes and VCR tapes), but when a DVD or CD stops working, you're just out $16.  I also appreciate VCRs - you can tape things and fast forward over commercials. 

Modern electronics also multiply, and multiply the time they take up.  I love the digital camera, but I'm just building up a large number of uncategorized photos on the computer.  I haven't gotten to putting my seven year old's baby pictures in an album so the idea that I'll keep up with the ones happily stored on the computer is maybe a tad bit unrealistic.  Besides, it's an older computer (no CD burner or USB port) so backing up these photos is going to be difficult.  Do they even fit on a diskette?

Part of my current irritation is that everything has been breaking this year.  The 11 year old refrigerator?  Replaced last summer.  The old one had more room for milk (I have three children who don't drink soda.  I'll buy as much milk as anyone wants to drink!).  The 17 year old washer?  Gone last month.  The new one, irritatingly, doesn't agitate when the door is open.  Probably a safety feature, but who sticks their arm in a moving washer?  The 12 year old van?  We kept that for the teenagers to drive in the area, but it wasn't reliable for trips anymore.  I'll admit, the new van is nice, but I don't care for power windows or doors.  You can't get vans without those anymore, though - at least not the kind I wanted with good protective features such as side airbags and headrests for the back seats.  I am all in favor of safety technology.

The things that are breaking keep getting smaller and smaller - the toaster oven, the bathroom fan (worked once it was cleaned), the garage door opener (new part), and the bathroom toilet (new part is ordered).  The VCR remote is going, and not all of the functions can be done on the VCR itself (bad design).  All this "time-saving" technology is costing a lot of time this year.

And then there are the things I refuse to get because I know they'll take time that I don't want to spend.  I refuse to get a cell phone - my purse is heavy enough as it is!  We refer to it as my "ball and chain."  And my husband is known at work, even to the top level of the company, as the only one who doesn't take cell phone calls in his car.  He tells them that it's because his wife made him promise, for safety reasons, not to talk and drive.  He omits the part where I said that if he does, then cell phone goes for a circular downwards swim.  Of course, then we'd have to fix the toilet (oh, we already do). 

Even with his cell phone, he happily turns it off at 5 pm.  I have no desire to talk on the cell phone in the grocery store, or while walking down the street on a beautiful spring day, or at church (Once a lady's cell phone went off in the row ahead of us at church.  She didn't turn it off, and it went off again about five minutes later)(And, have you ever been in the stall next to someone using a cell phone in a public restroom? TMI).  It occasionally would be useful at the store, but there's almost never anything that I need to know that much.  Not enough to add it to my ball and chain or my monthly bills.

I-pods.  If they'd been around twenty years ago when I had more time, I'd have gotten one.  But, right now I don't have the time to get the music into them or organize it.  Besides, over half of our music is on cassette tapes which don't transfer to I-pods.  And, even if I had one, I'd either use it through the stereo or the car stereo.  I doubt I'd ever use it with the headphones much - same problem as with the cell phone.  I like to pay attention to where I am.  Besides, those little headphone buds that you stick in your ears - don't they get dirty?  One more thing to clean. 

My final Luddite reaction is to the cover of this month's AAA magazine.  They show a cruise ship sailing through a beautiful sea on a gorgeous day, and a couple sitting on deck watching the 270 foot TV.  Why go on a cruise, if all you're going to do is watch TV?  "While cruisers soak up rays by the pool, they can also keep in tune with CNN. At midnight, guests can curl up on a lounge chair and watch a movie like Lord of the Rings at this Seaside Theatre. The 270-square-foot screen accompanies a 70,000 watt sound system, so orcs in that movie sound like they are about to jump into the whirlpool right in front of you," the article says.  I'm maybe swayed by my own prejudice - I don't follow the news while I'm on vacation (except for the month after 9/11).  Don't you go on a cruise to get away from everything? - rather than watching CNN on the deck.  You've got the entire ocean around you to watch!  (By the way, the TV in our living room?  It's the size usually recommended for bedrooms.  Larger would make some movies more enjoyable, but would get in the way of the windows.  No furniture goes in front of windows; it would interrupt the view)

The ship also provides laptops:  "Other technology is improving on Carnival’s cruise fleet as well. The Liberty is the second ship to feature bow-to-stern wireless access. Guests can rent laptops on all Carnival ships, so you can work in your stateroom instead of next to the other workaholic in the Internet cafe."  If I spent thousands of dollars to take a cruise, I'd make sure I was caught up on my work ahead of time.  On the other hand, I can understand laptops - they just replace pencil and paper, just with more weight.  I don't need to add that to my ball and chain either. 

One of our favorite places to go to is the Mad Hatter Cafe in Durham.  Nicely decorated, good food, good for people watching, and across from Duke's East Campus so the view out the window is pretty.  It's also filled with people (I'm assuming mostly Duke students and faculty), plugged into their I-pods, on their computers, occasionally taking calls on their cell phones.  They seem very apart from where they are.


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