Over-Connected?

I recently listed a few pestilences of modern life in my diary.

(1) Corporate arrogance and technology in general… lack of customizability and options; the forced pace of progression (whether real or artificial). Products becoming obsolete long before they’ve actually broken down or outlived their usefulness. I can’t afford to keep updating or subscribing to everything. Things aren’t always matching up so that everything works together at the same time… like camera, different kinds of software, the hardware, scanner, printer… there’s always something that’s not able to use something else because it’s too old. Everything and everybody is supposed to be seamlessly connected, but it’s not working out that way. I’m starting to ask myself why I bother — I’d like to dump all of this stuff and just knit, tend my plants, watch a few DVDs and read paperbacks!

(2) Apps (and subscription software). Sometimes a project is interrupted (temporarily or permanently) because the way the app works changed in an update. It’s not progress to have goal posts constantly moved or options taken away.

(3) Keeping everything in the cloud. Huge security risk. And what happens when we lose connection?

(4) An increasing number of ads. It’s reached an impossible level. It doesn’t help when a website doesn’t let you zoom in on the text… their print is too small and my eyesight is not what it was.

(5) Increasing number of photos, podcasts and embedded videos. When an online news article is packed with them, you have to scroll cautiously to get past these obstacles to the next little dollop of text without losing your place… sometimes needing to scroll slightly back because something on the page changed and pushed all the text away. Some videos I’m able to watch, but a few aren’t captioned, or are captioned poorly. It’s frustrating when everyone’s saying how great a video is, but you don’t know what it’s about.

For poorly captioned videos, I’m thinking mostly of YouTube type captions — automatic? I’d rather have them than nothing, but they are hard to follow because, for instance, ‘Brexit’ becomes ‘breaks it’ or ‘breakfast’, and UKIP becomes ‘you kept’. I can barely remember what was said by the end, whereas I have a clearer grasp of content if I read an article or transcript. I don’t know if others find the same? Possibly too much of my concentration is taken up with decoding the captions — it’s as though there’s a filter between me and the information.

Earlier tonight I found the following two articles, both of which are food for thought. They reminded me of the grumbles listed above. Life doesn’t seem richer or smoother — instead it’s becoming more frustrating and not a little frightening.

The Perils of Globalization: An Interview with Gerry Mander

The New Luddites: Why Former Digital Prophets Are Turning Against Tech

Feeling the Storm

In Scotland yesterday it was unusually hot. The wind here is generally cool or cold on your skin, but for once it was like a tropical bath. Our bus stopped for a small group of people who took their time buying tickets. The sun burning through the windows became intense. Heatstroke started to seem like a real possibility, and when we finally got moving again, fresh air circulated through the bus and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. I didn’t think we could take many such hold-ups.

When we got to town, there were queues in shops where there are normally few people; tourists and locals ‘enjoying’ a day out. It’s odd when you think about it — shopping is the least fun thing to do when you’d rather sit in the shade with an ice lolly.

According to weather reports we were heading for thunderstorms, so it wasn’t surprising when the sky started lighting up that night. At 2 a.m. when everyone was in bed, the menace was profound… ancient forces were stalking the land. Like mice, we lay quiet in our lonely burrows, hoping to escape the attention of something much bigger than us.

Lamp switched off; curtains closed; all I could see was the repeated repulsing of outer darkness. A picture formed in my mind of houses huddled across the curve of the earth. Nothing dared go abroad while the storm stepped overhead with stately imperiousness. It was all very old and powerful, and I could imagine dinosaurs in the streets and in open fields, hoary heads swinging, on the hunt for prey.

In the midst of all this I started worrying about the sunflower.

It normally sits in the kitchen window but was crawling with aphids. I didn’t want the little horrors to spread to my chillis, so put the sunflower out for the night. Standing on the doorstep, I belatedly remembered the snails, and put the pot on the top shelf of a tall garden what-not which was standing beside the back door. Above my head, the sunflower stabbed the night with its loathsome burden of greenfly.

Now, in my darkened room, I had visions of this slender green rod attracting lightning. The aphids would burn up, which would be great… but, less happily, so would the sunflower. I could get up and move it to ground level, but told myself not to be so stupid. After all, the house is taller than the sunflower… if there’s any stray lightning around, it’s more likely to hit the roof.

Being all too aware of aforementioned ancient forces, you have no wish to stir out of bed. I didn’t want to be found on the doorstep the next morning as a small pile of ash covered in slime trails, so the sunflower would have to take its chances.

Lying in bed, not sleeping, you still worry.

The cats were indoors and in their beds, probably as glad about that as I was. Was everything unplugged? I reassured myself I was unlikely to be zapped and there was nothing I could do to make it less likely, while probably a lot I could do to make it more likely… then was disturbed by a memory. Something happened on a night like this years ago.

That other night, I lay awake with frequent flashes of lightning punctuating the darkness. The rain came down so hard it bounced off the tarmac. Suddenly there was a crash, causing me to leap up and run around to see if anything had blown up. It wasn’t till next day I found the aerial booster had stopped working, though the TV itself was fine! Ha.

I said there was a crash that night, but it’s not that simple. I’m profoundly deaf. I only know I started to my feet all of a sudden, and it wasn’t out of panic… it was because some internal alert had gone off abruptly, as yours would if there was a loud bang in your house.

Fortunately last night was uneventful. It rained, the sunflower fell off its perch and the aphids disappeared. There was thunder I couldn’t hear, which lacks all drama — yet I knew something big had passed.

O False!

False‘ is a recent word prompt, causing me to stare at a blank page for several minutes. It’s not that I’m without ideas; more that it strikes me as false to offer a word prompt that isn’t a noun.

‘Falseness’ is an easier to way to begin and makes a better blog title. “Falseness bedevils the modern world”, I could intone, or “Falseness is a fool’s flight from reality”… unfortunately, it’s not going to be that simple. Must I approach the topic differently because the subject is not ‘falseness’ but ‘false’? Does my grumbling even make sense? Doubtless it doesn’t matter, as I can approach it any way I want to and use whatever title I see fit. Nevertheless, it threw my mind into a non-productive spin.

Whatever… ‘false’.

The word usually means ‘untruthful’ or ‘fake’, possibly even ‘non-existent’. For instance, a false promise doesn’t imply you’ll get the opposite of what you were offered — it’s more likely that there’ll be no change at all. Sometimes the person making the promise really meant what they said but it fell through for some unforeseen reason — does that still make it ‘false’, or does it become something else such as ‘unfulfilled’? I don’t think it would be a false promise, as ‘false’ is a very negative, deliberate word.

False fruit
False friend
False teeth

Wait now… false teeth aren’t a negative thing. False teeth aren’t trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, pretending to be something they’re not. Instead, they very sensibly and usefully take the place of real teeth that didn’t want to stick around. False teeth are a good thing, which is a rare quality for anything that’s false.

More viscerally, false or shallow pockets (especially those ‘decorating’ an otherwise useful winter coat) are the most pointless, infuriating invention ever and should be stamped out of existence — by referendum if need be.

False grass… not good. False assumptions… somebody got confused and miscalculated. False bottom (in a suitcase) — a positive thing for the world, I suppose, unless you’re up to no good.

You could have a false bible — you open it and it turns out to be a box you can hide your false pearls in. That’s a good thing to have too. In general, if the false thing works for you and is protective of you, you will think it good — but whoever you were trying to dupe or deny will be less impressed.

Sometimes something creates a false impression, which can never be good, as it’s better if we all know where we stand. Even if you realize the case has been overstated, there are others who somehow don’t, and the disaffected will take full advantage of that confusion by claiming false outrage.

A truly false promise is obviously a bad thing because you thought you would get something that didn’t materialize. On the other hand, a false threat isn’t a good thing either, because you were being manipulated against your own interests.

These are very black and white subjects, but falseness can be a lot more subtle. Just about everything we think we know or see is false, in the sense that ‘truth is relative’. People can experience the same thing in completely different ways… it tastes good, it tastes awful, or something in-between. The picture is beautiful, ugly, nothing special or even quite nice. That person is wonderful, a walking disaster zone, or merely human. What you believe would seem false to another, but in your world there’s no question — Marmite is brilliant for you, always, though to someone else it’s anathema.

Is that fair, though? If you say, ‘Marmite is wonderful’ and for you that’s true while your best friend thinks it’s false, does that mean it IS actually false? Or is it like Schrõdinger’s cat where it’s both lovely and vile, and you won’t know which till you’ve opened the jar? It’s false to point to that theory, however, as there’s no sense of uncertainty — everybody who’s tried it has a clear opinion.

Perhaps this is a false premise to work on, as Marmite is in fact neutral. It’s not trying to be one thing or another… it’s just gloop to put on your toast. Statements such as ‘wonderful’ or ‘awful’ are all yours; your own truth and nothing to do with Marmite. It would doubtless post your opinion back to you with the words “I don’t own it.”

Now you’ve reached the end, I have to inform you… you’ve just been reading a false blog post. It’s not lying or trying to mislead you, but in some sense it resembles the false bible. You were perfectly well aware it wasn’t real, but when you opened it, hoping to find something valuable, it proved empty of any pearls of wisdom.

Coffee in the Rain

If we were having coffee, we would be a bit quiet — the heavy weather has been sending everybody to sleep. In some way I’ve regressed — it’s as though I’ve slipped and fallen into last autumn, even though it’s supposed to be summer. It keeps raining, day after day and week after week. There’s flooding again, and the drains in the centre of town overfilled and spilled in puddles. It’s dark, so my thoughts regressed to a cooler, quieter time. Just coffee and a dull room — and now you.

You weren’t here last year. My blog was quiet for a long time. Months and years of rain in this forgotten space.

There’s been more energy in our lives, lately. Perhaps it was the sun? I was busy sorting books, and our collection is manageable now… nearly!… but today, all of a sudden, I left them and walked away.

Sitting over there with your mug, I understood you were wondering about my reserve, so I told you my weekend started early because I was tired. You laughed and said everybody’s tired because of the atmospheric pressure. Well I’m glad it’s not just me. I was so busy, then suddenly… How about you? Did you do nothing? Perhaps you half-heartedly tried to run a meeting on Friday, only members were not-so secretly snoring?

This is why I plunged back to the end of last year, to a time when I was less motivated.

A few days ago I told people, “I hope it doesn’t rain from now all the way through autumn like last year,” thinking, “surely it won’t!” … but I have a terrible feeling it will. I will be getting stern reports about moss on the roof again. For goodness sake, it’s a wet country. Might be nice to have a moss garden up there, with fairy cottages, fern trees and toadstools.

How about you — do you like gardening, or miniatures, or both in combination? On Pinterest I follow pin-boards showing the fairy houses and cabins that people build in the great outdoors. I don’t have any such property in my possession — I just like to view them.

It’s a secret place of mine… in my head I have a log cabin of my own where no one can ever find me — not unless I want them to. In my forest, I disappear into the rain, moss and silence, so you would think this weather would suit me down to the ground.

Ha.

It does suit my boy cat, who loves sloshing around. The other night he bounded merrily in through the flap, dripping in mud — the creature from the black lagoon. It’s easy to imagine him preying on the squirrels around my imaginary cabin, so I don’t suppose I could hide from him even if I wanted to. I’d turn around and there he would be, grinning in through the window — “how about a wee nibble, hmm? Something nice and filling.”

I know you are still tired, and my blethering has put you to sleep, so it’s time for me to let you go. Come back for coffee again some time — maybe the rain will have stopped by then.

Anger and the Book Not Read

It can be a real problem, anger. It makes me angry just thinking how nice life could be if nobody got angry. Who decided we should get angry, and what’s the purpose of it?

You won’t get any answers to that here, because I hate being angry. My nice smooth life turns into one with rocks, clouds and anything else wet, dark or bumpy. I have unpleasant decisions to make and ruffled feelings to soothe. What is the real issue? Should I protest? Carry on breezily? Go silent?

I’m angry tonight, yet not furious. I’m not throwing things or firing off angry emails. I’m not stamping or slamming doors. On the floor beside my bed there’s a book on Mindfulness. I tried to read it a few weeks ago, and failed. Now here I am feeling angry about something, and I bet that book would have some tips. Like, perhaps, being responsible for my own emotions? Thinking of nothing else but the now, of my breath going in and out?

I couldn’t get far with the book, but keep thinking I could start again when feeling calmer. The same thing would probably happen, though — I’d get annoyed, start flipping rapidly through the pages, and finally shut the book and put it down. As always, there’s a core idea that’s sound, but we like to overdo things, take them to extremes and expect miracles to happen. It’s not good.

“It’s impossible to be furious when lying down,” I’ve been told. Well, I should sleep but don’t feel easy in my mind. The reason being there’s a large spider with one foot on the valance. If it was just any spider, I wouldn’t pay attention, but it’s *this* spider. It has a known track record. Twice already I found it lolling in bed with the Little Witness. I put it out on the landing last night, and tonight it was back. I carefully removed it with an old hardback copy of Still Glides The Stream by Flora Thompson, and when I turned round, it had glided off the book and was over by the bed again. I sense it’s waiting for me to turn the light out.

It’s not that I’m scared of spiders. I just don’t pick them up with bare hands, and get a little freaked if one is too intent on me or something I have. It’s worse when it’s in plain sight for ages then suddenly disappears. You wonder if it has disappeared further away… or much closer?

I considered dropping the Mindfulness book on it, then felt ashamed. Forever after, I’d be haunted by its ghost every time I tried to meditate. OK, I don’t think I’ll ever meditate, but the mere word ‘mindfulness’ would put me in mind of myself battering the wee soul to death with a shiny yellow book.

If I went to sleep now, I would worry about where it was, throwing my mind out to every corner of my bed to explore every crease and shadow, and my toes would itch. Much more effective than standard mindfulness at distracting me from my anger, but I think I’d rather be angry…

Excuse the Mess

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If we were having coffee, you would have a red cat on your knee and a notebook to write on, and we would be writing notes back and forth. Probably we would be fighting over the black cat pen — who had it last?? I thought you had your own pen!! Peeve.

There would be a fresh shower of rain streaming down the windows, as it’s pretty wet these days… windows to front and back, so you would see a quiet street out the front and a hedge at the back with a lot of big trees. The pigeons would sit in the trees and look at you. They are always there, and sometimes a grey squirrel too.

Presumably you would be writing something like, “Well, this is nice, isn’t it, but a bit puzzling. How did I come to be here?”

I would take the cat pen and reply, “I think it’s my fault. I decided to try this hashtag thing — weekendcoffeeshare — without having a clue how hashtags actually work. I thought it would bring bloggers to my page, not here to have coffee with me. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to meet you, but I do hope you will excuse the mess…”

And you would write, “Oh, the mess is fine. Just don’t do it again, that’s all! I am not quite sure how I’m going to get back now. Thingy will be wondering where I disappeared to.”

I would say, “I don’t know. If you know how to work hashtags, it might be the way home for you?”

And you would say, “Sorry, I don’t know a thing about hashtags. Never use them.”

There would be an awkward silence, then the red cat (Delilah) would stretch happily and dig her claws in, as she does love having someone new to torture sit on.

You would say, in a relenting tone of scribble, “Since I am here, I’ve often wondered what you really look like behind that eskimo bear,” and I would say, “Well, as you see… there’s no eskimo bear! It’s upstairs, just sleeping.”

“Oh,” you would say, and “I guess you don’t look like an eskimo bear.”

And I would say, “You don’t look how I imagined, either.”

“What, doesn’t my picture look like me?”

“Noooooo…. you look…. more real.”

“Thank you.”

After another silence, you would say, “Don’t you think that eskimo bear photo is a bit outdated? You’ve had it since you first began blogging in 2005 or whenever. Now it looks kind of soft and old.”

I would start having a panic attack at the thought of just how old the bear is, the camera it was photographed with and the blog, and you hastily say, “Don’t worry! It’s all good.”

“OK,” I’d say. “Let me just get my iPad. Where did you say you lived again? I’ll look up the train times. Where?? OK… PLANE times. Oh, and take the bear with you, just as a souvenir. I feel the need for a brand new profile picture…”

Marking Time

Apparently we should write lists to get through our gloomy spells.

Hoping to achieve:

(1) Better artwork and photography.
(2) Avoiding living forever and turning into a sort of desiccated bat. (I should put at least one that’s achievable).
(3) More friends, casual or otherwise.
(4) Better writing and blogging.
(5) In time, a greater measure of peace.:-)

Short-term goals.

(1) Get on with painting… will start again at the beginning as something wasn’t right.
(2) Rouse up new music for my collection. Will try anything except Pooh’s Top 40 and Duran Duran.
(3) Read more books… loads I bought for the Kindle and never got round to!

Long-term goal:

(1) Write a book? So many people are writing books, though. If I don’t, I’ll be the only person who hasn’t written one, which will be doing everyone a favour.

Things I’ve survived in life already:

(1) Loss.
(2) Irate hamsters, especially the Russian dwarf variety.
(3) Finding out I’m only average (that’s both depressing and a relief)
(4) Embarrassment (one of the worst indignities life throws at you).

What I love in life and what makes me happy:

(1) Family, friends (including iPad) and cats.
(2) Art and music.
(3) Comforting routine.
(4) Things beginning with C… comments, cadeaux, comedy, computers, cameras, chocolate, coffee, cream, cheese, coconuts, curry, chilli, cinnamon, cashew nuts, clematises, cherry blossom, colours, colouring books, creativity, comfortable slippers and conversation.
(5) Writing, diaries, blogging and haikus.
(6) Reading and books.
(7) Ideas and simple philosophies.
(8) Teddy bears and denim shirts (not necessarily together).
(9) Eggs, mushrooms, sausages and bacon at breakfast. (Not so keen at night).
(10) Roads of Rome, Northern Tale, Trolls vs Vikings and other iPad games.

What’s good about me:

(1) Curiosity and lots of casual research.
(2) Always improving writing skills and artwork.
(3) Trying to be fair even when people make me cross.
(4) Slowly cultivating a little healthy scepticism and caution!

What I’ve learned about myself from all of the above:

(1) There do seem to be a lot of Cs in my lists.
(2) I have no long-term goal!! Is that bad?
(3) No cake listed, but I don’t love it anyway. Especially not fruit cake.
(4) The things I love come together to make an acrostic. Is that to be my new goal in life? I’ve no wish to enter slanging matches with other Wikipedia editors, so can’t say I’m enthused.
(5) Simple living for me, please.

The Rolling iPad Gathers No Moss

My iPad's lock screen

My iPad’s lock screen

I was going upstairs with an armful of stuff when suddenly the bluetooth keyboard and the iPad rushed together down the stairs. I didn’t see the keyboard fall, and it landed off to the side near the letterbox, but as I watched in horror, the iPad cartwheeled merrily from step to step, gathering speed. When the smart cover flew open, the screen flared out briefly, then the iPad smacked against the cupboard at the foot of the stairs… and all went dark.

In the ominous pause, my mother came out of the sitting room and stared at the still figure lying at her feet, some distance from me at the top of the stairs. Giggling in an embarrassed way, I started down.

I’m sure the iPad’s life flashed before its eyes when it was falling, but what flashed before mine was the price of a new one. Fortunately there was no damage — both machines were intact and started working immediately. In fact the lock screen was waiting blandly for me as soon as I lifted the cover.

It’s an old iPad. Yesterday I was trying to update it to iOS 9.3 and it kept telling me it couldn’t verify because I wasn’t online. I found an article explaining that some older mobiles were shutting out their users after updating, so Apple has temporarily withheld the release from all elderly devices.

Ahhhh… OK.

That explains why the red flag suddenly winked out on my Settings icon a couple of days back. I thought that was odd — it was as though someone had been there… I almost felt the wind of his passing. The ‘please update’ nagging boxes kept appearing, though.

Well, it may be an old iPad that has had its share of ‘ups and downs’, but I’m not yet ready to pay the price of a brand new one, whatever way it gets ‘bricked’.

And after all
You’re my wonderwall

—–

Daily Post prompt: price.

The Little Witness

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He sits with his chin on the iPad tray, a game of Risk he will sometimes play; protests my paintings are never quite right, while rolling his eyes at the words I type.

Thoughts from my diary swim past his eyes, mistakes in my emails cause him to cry, and when I’m drafting posts for my blog, with a shake of his head he gustily sighs.

When trawling the ‘net I turn up odd sites on the evils of iCloud or nasty tick bites. He forbids me to believe all that I’ve read — opens eyes wide, says “no no no!” But when ignored so that all falls on my head, this little witness… no, he does not go. Sitting up close, he soothes my distress; says “yes, I forgive… now it’s time to rest.”

Drift to a land of shadowsaurs; they’re so big they eat mountains whole; roaring rivers burst their banks and all past your house tsunamis roll. When you rush to stare from the door, it’s deathly quiet — the land is no more. The moonlight is bright and so is the scene but it’s the single worst thing you’ve ever seen. You bound up the stairs, hurting your arm, but no one is left to raise the alarm. With a gasp you wake in the cold light that’s dawning to tell him bad dreams that seem like a warning.

“Listen,” he says, with a disdainful look, “You are far better off with a good fiction book. You should read about people in fantasy worlds as far from the stars as a cold snowball hurled. Dragons and unicorns suffer no ticks, while evil cloud nets are eventually bricked; real life then has no cause to intrude — the chatter of millions you completely exclude.”

Oh, you might think you’re well enough off; when you get in a twist he’s not there to scoff! But with all of your posts that I read every day, he’s a witness to my life and yours also…

Another Barrel of Songs

Bought four more 59p songs from iTunes. In no particular order:

Budapest — George Ezra
Good song… maybe a little croony, but the vocals are clear.

Home Again — Michael Kiwanuka
Didn’t put it on my original list, then wondered what the song in my head was! Had to scrabble through the likeliest of the 50-plus songs on iTunes to find it again, and it was near the end. Typical…

Bad Blood — Ryan Adams
Heard the Taylor Swift version last summer and liked it then. Being older and less into ‘boppy’, this one’s more my style.:-)

Wonderwall — Ryan Adams
EDIT: Nearly didn’t buy it, but it’s good. Perhaps a little ‘fey’ for me, and by that I mean barely hanging onto the world of the living.

I said earlier that Wonderwall is my favourite of the four, but I was wrong… More and more, it’s Home Again. Tune, voice, lyrics, soul — it stays in my mind for a reason.

EDIT 2: Or then again, I’m swinging back to Wonderwall. I don’t know why I seem to experience the songs differently every time I listen.

Wandered back in to iTunes and found another: Learn to Fly (Foo Fighters). I don’t fancy linking to the video (!) but I love that kind of song.

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