3

Electrification in the 21st Century

 

 

I may have shared this reference with you before. (I’m not sure how much of a reference it is since I can’t remember who wrote it). If you do remember it, you’ll agree with me that this is a much better place to use it. So please forget its previous location.

In the early 1920’s, Soviet Russia realized that in order to truly modernize the country, it would need electricity in more than the major cities. So they decided it was time to electrify the villages. Note to non-Russian Studies/History majors: Soviet Russia is what they called it before the leaders decided that “Soviet Union” was a much better name for them and the countries the Imperialists had overrun and they decided to keep.

Anyway, the officials were very proud of this program and would send representatives out to remind the people how much better off they were now than they had been under the Tsars. In one village, they approached an elderly lady and asked her how she liked the new lights. She was not happy. Before she had lights, she thought her home was clean. Now she could see into the corners and realized what a mess she had been living in and how much work she had to do the keep it clean.

So at best, electricity is a mixed blessing. I am writing this on Saturday morning as I sit here without any power. They left a message on the answering machine that it would be out from 10a – noon. I guess they chose a time that would be maximally inconvenient for all of us because GM has a facility on the power grid and they have more money than we do and are pretty much closed down on weekends.

You may recall that I’m not very technologically advanced. I’m sure it’s not an answering machine anymore. It’s on the land line. It’s certainly not advanced enough to be voice mail. It is a huge advancement over the ones we used to have with tape that ate half of the messages. Advanced in the sense of the 1990’s.

Luckily I got downstairs to hear the message at 9:57 because they did turn off the power at 10a sharp. And once the electricity was gone, so was the machine.

Of course, I can type this because my laptop has battery back-up. More productively, I could be spending my time reading or cleaning. Or getting the flower beds ready for winter. Or watching the clouds.

On the other hand, I can’t make the chocolate chips cookies that were on the agenda. Our router is electric, so I can’t access the Internet. I can’t email people. And I can’t call them because the names are on an email I can’t get to right now.

We’re on a well with an electric pump. That means no water in the house. Including the toilet. Probably the only time that I look back at the outhouse at my grandparents’ cottage with fondness is when we have no power.

The cell phones work. Until they need to be recharged. Same with the laptop, tablets, e-readers, and all the other toys. Obviously, the TV is not an option. We have an electric garage door opener. I have had no luck getting in the side door of the garage since we moved in years ago. Even if I could get in, I couldn’t get the car out.

We rarely lose our power here. It’s a good thing too. With the population density of our neighborhood, the power company usually slots our restoration somewhere between parking structures and cemeteries.

We lost our power last Saturday too. That one was unplanned. A major storm swept through the area on Thursday, and thousands of people were still waiting for their power. We were fine after the storm. Ours had no apparent cause. Except my husband had finally bought a new HDTV for football season.

It was in the evening, so it was getting dark. We used a bunch of candles. It was actually very nice and peaceful. As soon as the power came back the TV was on, my husband switching between multiple games. None of which were going the way he wanted.

It made me wonder – can the power be routed so the well works but the TV doesn’t?

7

Technology Strikes Back

Miss me? Talk to Edgar.

Edgar is my new Toshiba laptop (with Windows 8.1). Yes, I finally have one. And my dreams of being able to finish my email and work on my blog on the same day are, at this point, still dreams.

The issue was that my weird work schedule leads to a weird sleep schedule. I have to get up at 2:30a to be at work by 4a. Due to some unfortunate genetic material, I have always needed 8-9 hours of sleep/day. Except when I’m manic, but that has its own problems.

The only time I tried to stay up all night at college to finish a paper was a bit of disaster. I’m sure the paper was horrible. At least I did it on a typewriter so I was saved the embarrassment of rereading it. But the notes I took in Constitutional Law were worthless – I’d write a few words then put a citation number. Never finished a single thought.

Anyway – if you calculate backwards from 2:30a, you get to 6:30p. I’m sure there are some people who are more disciplined than I am (probably 90% of the world). But I am totally incapable of going to bed at 6:30p and staying in bed until 2:30a. For one thing, I’d miss ‘Bones’.

So my solution (all you scientific types who understand circadian rhythms should probably skip this paragraph) has been 2 naps that last 2-3 hours plus ‘bed’ which is 3-3.5 hours). So I sleep at 1p, 4:30p, and 11p. It actually works pretty well. Except for sharing the PC. Since I’m sleeping while he’s at work, we need to share. Which wasn’t really a problem when I was only using it for news and emails.

Finally my husband got tired of me complaining, and here we are. As everyone else in the world knows, the first thing you need to do is name it. I’m sure there is a logical reason for that, but I haven’t run across it yet. (Don’t tell me – I want to be surprised.)

They recommend something like ‘Cat’s Computer’. I did that with my Kindle. I cringe every time I download a book. I mean, seriously, for someone who has my vocabulary is that not the lamest excuse for a name?

So when my husband asked me what named I wanted to use (you don’t seriously think I set it up by myself do you?), I didn’t hesitate. I gave him the first name that came to mind: Edgar. As in Edgar Allan Poe. Not quite as weird as you may have thought.

Thought Break –

I was going to finish this post with a litany of various strange experiences Edgar and I have been having as a couple, but now I will just tell you what happened as I tried to write this.

I went to the Reader and chose New Post. Then Text. It’s my favorite format for typing. So I’m typing and things are going along fine. I got down to the paragraph that starts, “So when my husband…”, and I touched the wrong thing or got too close to the wrong thing or thought the wrong thing and it ate everything back to “Don’t tell me…”

I could hear it laughing. I have never met a piece of hardware that was this touchy. It took me a day to get used to the touchpad, but I’m still learning why the time keeps popping up. And why sometimes the down arrow moves the screen. And why sometimes the ‘mouse button’ and the side arrow move the screen. And why sometimes nothing at all will move the screen.

And most annoyingly, sometimes it will react when I get close to a key and sometimes I can double-click twice and not get a response.

So I thought I would show it who’s boss. I would type in Word and transfer it into WordPress. That way, I wouldn’t lose anything.

Anything except Word that is. I couldn’t find it in any of the usual places – Control Panel, system files, HELP!!! Luckily my teenage son walked in at the moment and immediately found it under Apps (of course). I knew there was a good reason for kids.

So here I am in Word 2013, discovering that – surprise! – Edgar is here too. Moving text without my permission, deleting things.

There is much, much more to tell you at a later date, but I’m going to post this now before the whole thing disappears. Assuming I can get it over to WordPress.

I hadn’t thought about it before – I wonder if the problems are related to naming it after Edgar Allan Poe?

5

Happy as a Trog

TROGLODYTE

1:  a member of any of various peoples (as in antiquity) who lived or were reputed to live chiefly in caves

2:  a person characterized by reclusive habits or outmoded or reactionary attitudes

The other night when I was watching “Person of Interest” on TV, the woman who is the brawn of the operation (I love that! I also love that they are finally letting Jim Caviezel smile – he looks so much better) says that she has found “some sort of Bible.” To which the intellectual says something along the lines of “Yes, that’s the Gutenberg Bible.”  They did not elaborate on what the Gutenberg Bible was. I wondered if they thought everyone knew or if they just moved on since it was not important to the plot.

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit like a Gutenberg press in a Movable Type world. Ironically, while moveable type is the current standard in web design according to their press release, its roots are older than Gutenberg. It was developed in China by Bi Sheng in the mid-11th century. Gutenberg introduced metal moveable type to Europe in the mid-15th century. Note: the problem with trying to be an intellectual smart-aleck is that either people won’t get the reference or they will be able to show you why it was a stupid analogy to start with.

I am typing this on a desktop PC. I may be the last college-educated person in the country without a laptop. I saw an advertisement on TV for a product that promises to be a laptop when you need it to be and a tablet when you want it to be. I have no idea what that means. That should probably bother me.

I guess I have a stupid phone. Is that what they call a non-smart phone? I can make calls on it. I can even text if I don’t mind hitting the key two or three times to get the different letters. I’ve always hated telephones. I don’t know how to make small-talk.

They probably shouldn’t allow me to have a cell phone in the first place. I’m not allowed to use it at work, and I never remember to turn it on any other time. Most people know this and don’t bother calling me on it. There are two people who insist on calling me on it. They always wonder why it takes me days to get back to them.

We still have a low-definition TV (much to my husband’s dismay). He tells me the sound is also bad on it. I’m not sure. I can tell what the people are saying – most of the time. As soon as I find something on television really worth watching, I’ll worry about getting something better to watch it on.

We don’t have a Blu-Ray anything. We haven’t watched 90 percent of the regular DVD’s we have, so why bother? And the headsets are just creepy to me – people walk around looking like they’re talking to themselves. And then wonder why they’re being ignored when they do ask someone a question.

Even my Kindle is pretty low-tech. I have a regular screen, and only use it to read books. I have a keyboard, but no use for it. I love that I can take it to work and not worry about it getting dog-eared in my locker. I also love that I don’t have to remember to bring a new book when I’m close to finishing the old one.

A couple of people have asked me to go on Twitter. I don’t get Twitter. For every witty bon mot, there seems to be glut of “just saw jen. can’t believe what’s she’s wearing.” Then you have to go to Instagram (or whatever) to actually see it. Of course, it would probably make more sense if I had a smart phone and saw the tweets real-time.

I belong to two LinkedIn networks, one Google circle, and Facebook. I am guessing my old MySpace account is still floating around somewhere too. All of those people probably think that I have moved to Tibersk (or wherever you have to be these days to be unconnected). I think I’m just too anti-social for social media.

Now that I think about it, the Troglodytes might be insulted that I am comparing myself to them. After all, permanent shelter and fire were cutting edge in their day.