Can You Disconnect?

Can You Disconnect?There is a growing phenomenon of people who can’t seem to survive without their cell phones and/or Internet access. They have a compulsion to stay connected 24/7. When they go on vacation, they won’t leave without their technology  They actually develop anxiety when they’re electronically disconnected from the rest of the world. The thought of unplugging causes panic and a foreboding sense loss and confusion.Mobile devices are just tools, nothing more; they aren't essential to life and living. Click To Tweet

In a way, I understand this. In my work technology is an essential element, which without I could not accomplish much. For those rare times when I lose my Internet connection, I feel helpless because so much of what I do requires access to Cyberspace—such as composing this blog entry.

Yet, when I end my workday, I can make it without being online. Yes, the World Wide Web is a nice tool and a convenient resource, but it is just a tool, nothing more; it is not essential to life and living. I can survive without it.

On my recent trip, I chose not lug my laptop. As such, I went 90-plus hours without checking email. What a pleasant break! True, I did pay for it when I returned, with hundreds of messages clamoring for my attention and requiring a full day to wade through, but the respite from the information superhighway was wonderfully refreshing.

I did pack my cell phone, but that was primarily to call home. (By the way, my cell phone is just a phone—no Internet access, no text, nothing but voice). Even then, the cell phone was off much of the time—and didn’t work in the convention center anyway.

Frankly, despite my great affection for technology and constant use of it at work, I look forward to those times when I can totally set it aside and live life sans Internet and cell phone.

I can disconnect, can you?

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is a magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Check back each week for updated content, and look for his upcoming book, Woodpecker Wars.

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We Need an App For That: Five Ways Technology Skews My Thinking

Several years ago, a coworker and I would spend hours driving from one office to another. Though he wasn’t a soft-spoken guy, I often strained to hear him as we traveled down the road. This only happened in the car and nowhere else. On many occasions I had this crazy impulse to reach for the stereo to turn up his volume. A couple times, my hand actually moved in that direction. Alas, real life lacks a volume control.

Other times, when listening to people with heavy accents, I sometimes don’t catch all their words. What did he say? It sounded like “transliteration,” but that makes no sense. Maybe he said, “Get on the bus.” That would make sense, but it sure didn’t sound like that. If only I could turn on close captioning then I wouldn’t miss a thing.

At home, my wife and I often “discuss” what we’ve said to each other. I accuse her of not listening, and she claims I miscommunicated. “Let’s go back and play the audio recording,” she says in exasperation. Sometimes I wish we can because I’m sure I’ll be vindicated, and other times I’m glad we can’t because she’s probably right. Someone needs to design an app for that – or maybe not.

It’s not just audio, either. Once, after watching a handful of loose papers – ones once carefully organized – fly about the room in disarray, I longed for an undo button. Although I can hit “control Z” on my computer to correct a few errant keystrokes, there are no do-overs in life. The reality is I should have been more careful and not in such a rush. Thinking before acting is better than wishing for an undo.

Television also affects how I try to interact with reality. Often I see something happen in real life, but not paying attention, I wish to watch it again. I mentally reach for the TV remote to “go back” ten seconds or long for an instant replay to catch every element in slow-motion detail. But no matter how often I wish for this, it never happens.

While I may dream of an app to address these issues, the reality is I don’t need technology to solve my problems. What I need is to focus on life as it unfolds around me, to slow down, and to avoid distraction.

Life is a gift, and I don’t want to miss another moment of it.

Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect via social media.

Let’s Back Up

Many years ago, I worked as a tech writer. I knew the importance of making copies of my work, so I’d faithfully backup my files each Friday as I wrapped up the workweek.

One Friday was particularly hectic, and in a rush to begin my weekend, I postponed making my backup, planning to do it first thing Monday morning. That was my first mistake.

My second error is that I left my computer running. Over the weekend, a power spike corrupted the files. As a result, I lost forty hours of carefully crafted writing. I needed to revert to my backup from the prior week.

Although dismayed at my shortsightedness, I immediately began reconstructing my lost work. Fortunately, the second pass went much quicker, and I was able to recompose everything by midday Wednesday. As a bonus, the second version was better than the first.

Having experienced firsthand the importance of frequently backing up my work, I became fastidious in doing so. It’s a practice that continues to this day. Not only do I make backups on a network drive, but I also use an automatic off-site backup service. And for people who feel they can’t afford the $40 or so annual fee for such a service, they should at least sign up for a free Gmail account and email themselves a copy of important files each time they finish working.

But some people still don’t follow this advice. Periodically, I hear from aspiring writers who lost their entire book when their hard drive crashed. Ouch!

Please make sure I never hear your name mentioned in such a devastating story.

Wordsmith Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect on social media.

Smile…You’re Being Scanned

I recently renewed my passport, which required an updated photo. I went to my local Walgreens to take care of this and complete my renewal application as quickly as possible.

I placed my toes on the line, looked into the camera, and put on my best smile. The technician scowled

Read the rest of this post at its new location.

Top 10 Posts on From The Musings of Peter DeHaan for 2012

Here are the ten most popular posts on The Musings of Peter DeHaan for 2012. Some are quite recent while others are still being read now even though they were posted years ago. Thank you for reading my posts:

  1. Responding to Email
  2. Woodpecker Wars
  3. A Micro-Garden
  4. Healthcare Costs
  5. 3 Responses to the US Election
  6. Smile…You’re Being Scanned
  7. What If There Was No Mail?
  8. When Innovation Falls Short
  9. Google’s Chrome is Yet to Shine
  10. Do You Lie to Your Doctor?

Which one is your favorite?

When Innovation Falls Short

I recently bought a laptop and included a carrying case with my order. There would be two shipments, first the case and a week later, the laptop. I was given shipping dates for both.

The case arrived a day before it was promised, which impressed me. I like to say, “Under promise and over deliver.” They did that.

Two hours after the package arrived, I received an automated phone call from the shipper, telling me I would receive a delivery tomorrow and would need to be present to sign for it.

Their message came a day too late.

A week later the laptop was delivered. The day after it arrived, I received the same message from the shipper.

This time the phone call came two days late.

I applaud their intent, but laugh at their execution. I can appreciate there might be glitches in perfecting a new process, but those need to be resolved before rolling it out to customers.

This is one more reason why I don’t like receiving deliveries from this shipper.

I Get a Kick Out of Kickstarter

The website Kickstarter is a funding platform to help creative people finance their projects.

I’ve been wondering if Kickstarter might be a viable vehicle to help me self-publish a couple of books I’m pursuing. I’ve also experienced Kickstarter from the other side: providing financial support on two projects.

The first was for a friend, a most talented musician, who wants to take his recording career to the next level. He raised most of the funds himself and then turned to Kickstarter for the final ten grand. He got off to a great start and then donations reached a plateau, with things looking iffy as the 30-day funding window began to close. But a last minute surge put him over the top. He will soon leave for Nashville to record his next album.

More recently I jumped on board a project to help an author who is using Kickstarter as a litmus test to show there is interest for his upcoming book. His goal was more ambitious: 40k. He has a large following of readers and a great social media platform. He didn’t need 30 days to reach his goal; he didn’t even need one; it took about 3 hours. (Presently he is at five times his goal and still has 26 days remaining.)

Regardless if a project is funded quickly or takes a while is not the point. The point is Kickstarter is a viable way for people to support artistic projects they believe in and the creative people behind them who dare to dream big.

When these projects are complete, I will receive a CD and a book (plus some other rewards), along with the knowledge that I helped two creative people advance their careers. And that gives me a real kick.

What Day Is It?

This morning I sat down in my office and glanced at my “Atomic Clock” — the kind that displays the date, day, time, outdoor and indoor temperature, and even the phase of the moon.

Then I did a double take. For it told me that today was Wednesday, March 1 — not Wednesday, February 29. Apparently, my clock does not know that this is leap year and that today is leap day, which squeezes an extra date into the calendar.

I assume that once it does its daily synchronization with the satellite as it flies by, that order will be restored and it will correctly become Wednesday, February 29.

Until that time, I will be glancing at the display every couple of minutes to see if it has self-corrected.

Of course, I could manually adjust the date, but what fun would that be? I don’t want to fix it myself; I want to know that it will make the adjustment for me.

But until that happens, don’t ask me what the date is; I may tell you the wrong one.

Please Turn Off All Electronic Devices

I have owned and enjoyed an iPod Nano for many years. Though I don’t use it much for music, it is a regular source for listening to podcasts and lectures.

Almost from the start, however, I’ve encountered intermittent difficulty in turning it off. There are some tricks to accomplish this posted online, but they only work some of the time. When these workaround solutions don’t resolve this issue, I either just let the battery run down, forcing it to turn off, or dock it with my computer, thereby bypassing the problem.

Although this is mildly irritating, it’s not a big deal. At least not until recently.

In preparation for a trip, I loaded my iPod with hours of recordings. While waiting to board my plane and during the preflight process, I listened to it.

When the instruction came to turn off and stow all electronic devices, my iPod was unresponsive. And the tricks to make it cooperate didn’t work either.

What would a flight attendant do with a device that can’t be turned off? I didn’t want to find out, so I pretended that nothing was amiss and shoved it in my bag, feeling only a slight twinge of guilt for my non-compliance.

Tantilizingly Close

In the ongoing saga of running fiber optic cable to my home (for high-speed Internet, digital telephone, and video services) things moved one step closer to completion this week.

I watched with excitement as a third construction crew showed up in our neighborhood and then began running the fiber optic cable though my yard, from the distribution canister to my house.

Then I realized they were just taunting me. Although the cable is now run to my house, it is merely leaning against the outside wall of my abode — they did not install an interface box.

Apparently, another crew will need to do that. I don’t know when that will be or if that will mean they are ready to connect me — but I am certainly ready to be connected.

As the saying goes, “Good things take time.”