Computers, Social Networking & Other Systemic Linkage

Ah, the tools of linking up!  Gotta have ’em, but they’re killin’ me!  As soon as you begin to understand how to use them, they are obsolete.  You must constantly upgrade, configure, re-configure, conjugate, castigate, connect, disconnect, re-connect, then separate, sort, re-sort, and re-merge everything in your personal world of data, information, family, friends and business contacts just in time to start all over again.

You must be methodical: in fact you might need to be a genius.  If you store something in the wrong document group, batch, file or other category, you won’t be able to find it again until somebody (who speaks in a dialect that is difficult to understand) calls you about an identity theft issue.

Further, you have to track and cross-reference it all with your PC, laptop, Smartphone, Bluetooth, Blueberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Dingleberry, GPS, ATM, USB, MP3, Book, Nook, Hook, Crook, Cranny, iPod, iPad, iSwanny, and various other integrated gadgets, widgets, wookies, cookies, and monitoring setups.

You also have to program and track down frequently the eleven thousand, two-hundred-twenty remote control devices and that allow you access to everything from your office, your car, and your house (and all of the appliances in it).

The other night I was trying to change channels on the television, and the microwave oven all of a sudden thought the pork roast Brenda was defrosting was a bag of popcorn!  Both garage doors opened, and the burglar alarm went off (not that anybody in this neighborhood gives a damn–it happens all the time around here).

Some office complexes have entry key pads to restrict access to certain areas and rooms.  A friend of mine was showing me around where he worked.  At each juncture of the tour, he had to stop; do a retina scan, a thumbprint scan, and punch in a seventeen character and number code (case sensitive) before he could use any of that bulging wad of keys that was tearing holes in his pocket.  I knew right then if they’d put one of those “security” mechanisms on the bathroom door, I was done for.

Don’t forget the passwords.  They seem easy enough when you set them, but after a while, and with hundreds of them to remember, you can get confused and find yourself locked out of your personal mail, pictures of your children, your important business files, your own bank account, and in certain sure to be serious situations, the bathroom.

Keeping up with them requires a complex system of system interfaces, and you have to remember where they are stored.  Are they in my cell phone?  My notebook?  Even if you remember where you’ve stored your password library, access may be denied if you don’t remember the passwords to your “library” cards!

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a man when I heard what sounded like a cell phone ringing.  He kept talking and the phone kept ringing.

“Is that your phone?” I asked.

“Don’t know.  Might be.” (feeling in his pocket,)

“Yep, it’s mine.” (phone kept ringing)

“Gonna answer it?”

“Can’t.  Forgot my password.  S’okay.  If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.”

“But how will you get the message?”

“Can’t.  Forgot my password.”

It could be all of these issues that theoretical physicists are referring to when they speak of the “information paradox”.

When I was a kid, my family of five had one telephone between us, and it was anchored by a wire to the wall in the living room.  It always just sat there, and it never occurred to any of us to take it with us when we went to the store, or anywhere else for that matter.

There was no such thing as an answering machine.  If someone called and nobody answered, they’d just call back later if they thought about it.  If it was really important, they would try to reach someone by calling a different (location) number.  I sure that on no occasion did I ever hear my father say:

“Hmmmm!  Can’t seem to find my phone!”

But a day doesn’t get by now without hearing somebody say that.  When you hear those words, you cannot help but reach for yours: the empathy with that kind of tragedy is overwhelming.

Some of you remember when the important issues were whether or not you would be listed in the white pages of the telephone directory, and if so, how you wanted the listing to read.  If you had the prospects of selling some service or thing, you might consider a corresponding ad in the yellow pages.  You didn’t dial one and the area code; you simply dialed “O” and told the nice lady that always answered who you wanted to talk to.

If someone else needed a copy of what you were writing or typing, carbon paper was used.  File cabinets usually kept things sorted by dates and alphabetical listings so even an idiot could eventually find when and how he paid last month’s phone bill (which was seldom more than the price of what two cheeseburgers cost today).

Additionally, you might keep a personal directory of friends and family by the telephone.  When Brenda & I got married, we also married our phone lists.  The ceremony consisted of putting them in a little red address book.  It must’ve taken minutes to do.

Over the years, some people move or change phone numbers, and occasionally you’d make new friends.  We would upgrade now and then with a new address and phone book.  The collection has been a variety of colors, but we still call it the “red” book.

It’s a backup system similar to having a current issue of TVGuide.  Some people like to keep a copy of that around in case the cable or power is out.  If it is, you can’t turn the tv on to see the directory that tells what’s playing on what channel!  So, if the computer is down, I can always go to the red book, except these days not everything I might need is currently in it.

Folks didn’t always have computers to keep track of important information like how to get in touch with a good mechanic, someone to take your place at a committee meeting next week, the guy that painted the house next door, or the plumber who did such a fine job of unclogging the toilet last year.  Back then, somebody had to actually write some phone numbers down on actual paper.

In the old days, the more methodical, analytical (anal-lytical), and deliberative folks took the initiative to keep folders for holding business cards, rolodex files, and a stack of esoteric organizational directories for schools, clubs and trade groups they associated with, or hoped to sell something to.

Most folks would just write numbers on whatever was handy at the time: if we lost it, we’d just look the number up in the phone book.  Back then, it was a common practice to put important phone numbers (all three or four of them) on a matchbook cover, a paper napkin or an index card–any piece of paper would suffice.

All you had to do was remember which pocket they were in, and take them out of the pocket before washing your clothes.  If you forgot, it was no big deal–most numbers were in the book anyway.

Well, the old computer on my desk at home was developing a death-rattle: every day, it got worse.  In time it began to sound more and more like a combination of a coffee grinder, a trash compacter, and a lawnmower with carburetor problems.  Some mornings I’d crank it up and then go take a shower and shave while it loaded my personal settings.

Once it was up and running, it would sit right down again and take a nap.  Now and then it would wake up and run slowly.  I say run, but “running” is a poor description: “walking slowly while stopping frequently to take in the view” would be more like it.  Sometimes it took days to answer an email.  I have a calendar on the wall by my desk that runs faster.

The computer was old.  I’m not sure it would do both upper and lower cases with all 26 letters of the alphabet, and sometimes the key for number 7 didn’t work.  Besides mechanical issues, it had the worst attitude I’ve ever seen in a contraption.  If I didn’t know better, I might think it always had a hangover.

My frustration with that thing was not unique.  If any of my sons came by and wanted to use the computer, they would quickly think of something else to do.  Fooling with that klankety-klank, blankety-blank desktop monstrosity had long ago ceased to be any pleasure at all.

Brenda quit using it about three years ago except when she had to, but whenever she did, it always caused a commotion.  If she was in the room with that computer, the language coming forth would sound like a tent-revival was going on in there, and demons were being cast out.  Demons never left.  They all made permanent homes in the hard-drive.

Realizing a serious exorcism would be needed, I finally made my way to the apple store.  Apples!  They are very proud of the merchandise there.  I reckon the price of fruit is up, I don’t know since I don’t really follow the commodities market.

For a little more than the price of my first motor-scooter and my first three cars combined, I left there that day carrying a thing about the size of the composition notebook like the one I was supposed to take notes in back at Park Hills Elementary School.  But inside that new thing was access to more information than was stored back in every school I’ve ever attended!  I just didn’t know how to get to it.

An appointment was made to have a brain surgeon transfer the memory of the old tower to the new laptop.  It would be a Frankenstein project for sure.  No doubt, they’d have to crank that thing up on the roof and wait for a thunderstorm.

The process was completed, and I went home.  I had now gone from a computer I couldn’t use to one I didn’t know how to use, but at least it wasn’t made out of old bicycle parts.  I’ve signed up for classes which will take about three years to complete.

In the meantime, I have to deal with re-attaching myself to my contacts.   My old data files are all mixed in with my photographs right now as is my budget, my music and some of my address book.  I think they are together in the part of the computer called “the blender”.

This new laptop lets me know my files and documents are there, but it won’t actually let me see them.  You and I may be on “Linkedin” or “Facebook” together, but right now I can’t always find how to get to that information.  A thing like that could lead to me calling an electrician out to unclog the commode again.

When I changed computers, my website was out there but it couldn’t talk to me all the time.  I had to get in touch with the help desk and talk with people who serve my host (or host my serve, I don’t know which).  It must be like a monastic order of some kind, because whenever I would ask a question, they always took a vow of silence.  A charitable position for me to take is that perhaps they just didn’t understand my questions.

Connecting to my own blog got goofy, and I had to tweak it and use buffing compound on it.  I have four email addresses, and all of a sudden they got mad and quit talking to each other.  Passwords had to be changed to God knows what, and under the circumstances, God might not approve of some of them.

Those of you in need of affection need to be aware that your sweetheart may not care to see you flailing arms, cussing at inanimate objects, and slinging things across the room.  Be assured that such behaviors have very poor if any aphrodisiac qualities in them at all.  There may be times when the complete loss of self control could have romantic benefit, but not when you are yelling at a wastepaper basket.

My wife seeks a more pleasant kind of music than hearing me condemn the souls of technical support persons on the phone into the depths of an everlasting burning lake of fire.  She, being more practical than I am, would want to save truly earned and just deserts of that final place of torment for the wicked, nasty, evil hard-drive of our old computer.  After I calmed down, I agreed with her.

Brenda and I decided that if we weren’t going to use the old computer, nobody else should, either.  I dismantled it and removed the hard drive.  My wife wanted the pleasure of running it over in the driveway with her car which opened up a whole circus of things to do to it, and I did them all.

I took a sledge hammer to that old hard drive to make it hardly drivable.  Then I boiled it in vinegar for several hours.  After it cooled down and soaked a day or so, I took it outside, and whopped on it s’more with the hammer.  I drilled a few holes in it, and poured gasoline on it. The lit match helped it make a nice “whoof” sound.  When the fire died down, I cooled it down with a mixture of drain cleaner and Tabasco sauce.  Then I boiled it again.

Later, I wedged it open with a chisel and removed some vital organs, and some that perhaps weren’t so vital.  I played around with a couple of magnets that I thought would be neat on the refrigerator, but I ended up breaking them.  I set it on fire one more time before putting it in a final soak.

Right now it is marinating in a blend of seasonings: sea salt and brake fluid.  I’ll probably hammer on it and burn it a few more times before I put that drive back out in the driveway.  We’ll run over it with everything we own that has wheels before we bury it somewhere.  There will be no dispensations, and there will be no graveside benefit of clergy.

13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by RBA on March 4, 2011 at 11:48 am

    (From e-mail) Well, iSwanny.


  2. Posted by DAC on March 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    (From e-mail) Enjoyed the blog.


  3. Ha ha.
    It does sound like all this is driving you crazy. It would drive me crazy as well.

    I hate the new phones where you need passwords and Google accounts just to use them. I am not up with the times for all this stuff yet.

    I do miss my Apple desktop though. I sold it so I could buy a laptop. Couldn’t afford the Apple laptop 😦


  4. Posted by BB on March 4, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    It was indeed satisfying to run over the blankety-blank thing with my car. I did not need a password to do that.


  5. […] vents that resonate a similar tone. Hearing the battles-cries of smart people like Swiss Miss and my dad help make my journey through the digital ecosystem a little more […]


  6. Nice read. I started to reply to this post here, but it ended up being too epic. So I blogged about it instead. Read here –


  7. I’m not very tech savy……..may I re-phrase that……..I’m not tech savy at all. When I call someone for help they hang up on me because they can’t understand my Southern draaaaaaawl. It’s OK because I don’t understand what they are trying to tell me anyway. I would ditch the computer and go back to writing letters instead of emails; but nobody under 30 could read them because cursive is now obsolete. Cursing, however, is not.


  8. Posted by Robin on March 5, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Oh, boy, did that resonate! My personal laptop is on the fritz. Kate and Brett get back from Santa Fe tonight. Hopefully, he can salvage some stuff (budgets, address books, pictures) and download to a flash drive. Folks tell me a good desktop is pretty cheap now, because people want to carry not only their phones, but also their computers everywhere they go. Does anybody know if Grandmother Dollie really believed men landed on the moon?


  9. Posted by Wayne Casasanta on March 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Van, you are too modest about your technical skills. I saw you riding in a “Geek Squad” car the other day, or was it a pizza delivery vehicle? I get them confused.


  10. Posted by TAMIKA QUICK on March 18, 2011 at 1:17 am

    Hello Mr. Brown,

    Thanks for referring me to your wordpress today at the dealership, it’s great food for thought! The article above hit a nerve for me as well. I’m tired of remembering hundreds of passwords, carrying a laptop 2 cell phones(work and personal) not to mention numerous other gadgets. It’s time to revert back to the simple way of living. Hey I hope our internet connection works better during our next service visit. LOL


  11. Posted by Pam Terry on September 27, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Well, Van, you have managed to read my thoughts and put them all down on paper in a way that made me laugh! Your “red” book parallels my “green” book, although the current “green” book has Spongebob Squarepants on the front of it without event a hint of the color “green”. And I will be forever grateful for your detailed instructions of how to destroy my hard-drive because that is precisely the reason I haven’t gotten a new computer — until now I did not know what I would do with the old one because I was afraid of somebody getting a-hold of something on there. You’re the smartest person I know.


  12. Posted by Marlene Humberd on January 13, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    LOL ,Van ! Boy , can I relate to this one! Tech savy ? NOT . Truthfully , at this point in my life I don’t care if I learn much more about it either.We have always had “The Blue Book ” at our house, and also made one for our son. He had poo -pooed the idea until he had his phone stolen, and our home phone number was the only one he actually knew. I must keep in mind the method of destroying hard drive … what great fun !!!Sounds like that would be a good day to forget my hormone cream…more madness to the method ! ; )


  13. Thanks for leaving this link for me. Indeed…my Blackberry, many days, turns into a raspberry. Every time I THINK I have reached a degree of competency with this stuff, an update, new piece of technology comes along and kicks my ass. I find myself screaming, “NO…NO…NO!! IT HAS TO STOP”, as though I’m being water boarded. HilARIOUS STUFF…GOOD WRITING. I appreciate the share!


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