Tag Archives: habits

Confessions of a technology addict

1386838922151614I was voting in the Locus Awards (annual sci fi/fantasy award poll held by Locus Magazine, which is open to anyone who wants to vote), and was completing the survey portion at the end, when I got to the question, “Do you own a computer? If so, how many?” and I paused for only a moment. See, I personally own three right now: my 7-year-old Mac Pro tower (gigantic thing that was way more powerful than I needed when I bought it because I wanted to be happy with it for years), my Macbook Pro laptop (also known as Hello, Sweetie!), and a 6-year old Windows 7 ultrabook (aka Macbook Air knock-off) for those few old programs I have that I can’t find equivalents of for Mac. Those are my personal computers.

Then there is my iPad Air 2, which I use for several laptop functions, particularly at work, because it is better at them than the clunky old Dell laptops that my employer provided (though we are finally, finally starting to get upgrades this year!). It is clearly a computing device, and a lot more powerful than many computers I’ve owned in the past. And I’m always pointing out that iPhones and high-end smartphones in general are actually pocket computers that obviate a phone, not merely phones themselves…

And then there’s another way to look at it. I’m married, and we’re living in a community property state, so technically my computers also belong to Michael, but more importantly for this survey, his belong to me and… well, I have no clue how many he owns. I mean, he has his older Macbook Air that he carries back and forth to work, and then there is his much nicer Macbook Pro that he uses for more serious portable computing, and then there are, if I just peek at his desk, four PC towers and mini-towers, and I see at least one laptop, and counting how many things are plugged into his giant KVM switch (that allows all of his desk computers to share his monitors, keyboard, and mouse)…. well, if I’m counting those right, there is at least one more computer in that desk somewhere that I can’t see. Plus the Mac Mini in another room that we use as a media server, and I know there are at least two laptops in his pile of “machines I could make usable if someone we know has a complete computer failure and needs something now” pile…

You can see why I have no clue how many computers he owns. So I asked him, “Honey, how many computers do you own?” To which he frowned, looked at me a little bit sheepishly, and said, “I have no idea. Why?”

I decided since he can vote in the Locus Awards himself, that I could just answer 3 for me, and not worry about the rest. Particularly since I could see that a subsequent question asked whether we owned any of the following: smartphone, tablet, iPod, e-book reading device. So I could count some of my other computing devices there.

Thank goodness they didn’t ask how many of those!

I only own the one iPad, myself. But since I have never gotten around to re-selling my old iPhone when I upgraded to the new one, I technically have more than one of those. And then there are iPods other than my phone: one for the car, one that I use as a watch, one that plugs onto my alarm clock and helps wake me up each morning, and I think four spares for the car (because we’ve had more than one stolen from the car over the years). The spares are squirreled away on my desk, so it would take me a bit to find them.

And my husband is worse, because he has more than one iPad he uses regularly (one lives more or less permanently in his bicycle bag. It’s an older one that he salvaged form a junk bin at work where it had a shattered screen and a slightly bent body; he straightened the body, installed a new screen, and may have done some other repairs to it to make it fully functional again).

So I should clarify, for people that don’t know, that one of the reasons we are over-supplied in this technology department is because he works for a computer recycler/refurbisher, and he frequently acquires dead or damaged computers, iPods, et cetera, and cobbles together working devices by scavenging parts out of them. And, truth be told, he did that sort of thing before he started working at this place, he just has a slightly more ready supply of the damaged tech to choose from.

But none of that explains my headphone collection. Because I have a bunch of those. Way more than I could reasonably use. I mean, I can only use one pair at a time, right? Well, it’s just easier to have one pair of wireless headphones that I wear for riding the bus to work, walking home, and so forth, and a wired pair kept with my desktop computer. And a wired pair with a good boom microphone for my laptop… and then there were those gorgeous purple headphones I originally bought for the laptop, but their microphone has degraded a bit, and they’re no longer really good for conference calls to work on my work-from-home days, or skype calls with friends; so I had to get the newer pair mentioned previously, but the sound quality for listening is still awesome, and they’re gorgeous purple, so I can’t throw them out!

And there’s a pair of wired headphones that live in my personal backpack so I have a set of noise cancelling headphones at conventions and such in case I need them. And a backup set of wireless headphones (or four or five, if I’m honest and look in that place on the desk where I keep them) for those moments (which happen with every pair of wireless headphones eventually), when you turn them on and prepare for your commute and you hear that dreaded crackle in one side… or no sound at all from one side. And there’s at least one backup set of headphones in my office bag, in case the wireless ones die while I’m out and about. And another set of wired noise-cancelling headphones that stay at the office so I can deploy them when co-workers (such as certain meetings that happen regularly in the conference room nearest my desk) get too loud and distracting for me to work. And, of course, a backup pair in my “computer things we regularly take to conventions” bag…

See, my headphone addiction is much, much worse than my iPod problem!

And then there are word processing programs! When I counted recently, I had nine or ten on my iPhone, a similar number on my iPad (but they aren’t all the same, because a couple of them are iPad-only, and some that are on the iPhone aren’t on the iPad for one reason or another), and there are way, way, way more on my laptop… Because some of them are better for some kinds of writing than others, and most of them can read each others’ files, anyway, so why not?

And let’s not talk about how many are installed on the desktop computer that aren’t on the laptop, nor why my Windows machine that I almost never use because it’s a backup, really, but it has more than one…

…and there is at least one licensed copy of a word processor that I prefer on my husband’s Macbook Air that I purchased and put on there so I could use his laptop if mine wasn’t available.

At least not all of my addictions are entirely digital. Most of the dictionaries I own are the old-fashioned printed on paper type…


Starting your day right

A few weeks ago I found myself trying to explain to a good friend precisely why it is I forget to eat breakfast on weekends, and more specifically, why “You just need to get into the habit” isn’t helpful to hear. While I agree that it’s never too late to learn knew things, it’s important to recognize that when one has failed for decades to undo a bad habit, it is going to take more than a pep talk to change it.

Which isn’t to say that I’m not still trying. It’s not the only habit I fight with. When I was in my 30s, for instance, was when I first realized that I was no longer capable of staying up to all hours a few nights every week and still put in a full, productive work week. I had to get out of the habit of staying up really late and sleeping in on weekends. And as I started doing a better job of getting up on weekends only a little later than weekdays, I found Mondays no longer felt like such a drudge and disaster.

It’s not easy. I’m not a morning person, and that isn’t just a preference. If given a chance, my natural body clock switches to almost a nocturnal schedule. Some of us are wired that way. So pursuing a career involving a more or less traditional office job is a constant fight.

After my late hubby went through his first round of chemotherapy, he had a very hard time sleeping more than a couple of hours at a time. One of the things we tried was melatonin, which is a natural hormone involved in regulating the sleep cycle. Melatonin tablets are very useful for people who work rotating shifts, or otherwise can’t sleep at the same time each day. It didn’t really help Ray.

Since I’d done a lot of research on it before Ray tried it, it occurred to me that I could use it when my sleep schedule got out of whack. Since it’s the same hormone that causes drowsiness naturally, taking the tablets don’t “dope you up” like other kinds of sleeping pills. Though research indicates we can’t build up much of a tolerance for it (it’s a hormone, after all), there is some concern that over-using might cause your body to produce less of it naturally. The upshot is that it’s advised only to use it the first night or two when you need to change your schedule.

So I tried it one Sunday evening, taking it about an hour before I needed to be asleep to get ready for work, and I laid down with a book. I conked out about a half hour later, and as the cliché says, slept like a baby.

I woke up the next morning about a half hour before my alarm went off, feeling better that I ever remembered having felt on a Monday morning. And the weird thing was, without taking any more pills, I reliably started getting drowsy for the next three or four days right about the time I’d taken the pill on Sunday. My personal natural cycle of not feeling drowsy until well after midnight did start to assert itself after a number of days, but for most of the week, it was great.

So, I decided that I should make it a regular thing to take one tablet every Sunday. And it works great.

When I remember to do it.

The problem is, if I don’t pay close attention to the time on a Sunday evening, it’s easy to miss the time. If you take it later, that defeats the purpose, because you’re setting the sleep cycle wrong.

I first tried it 18 years ago. I go through phases where I get good at remembering to do it, week after week, and it’s easy to get up and get into work on time without doing a lot of rushing, or feeling discombobulated at the beginning of the week.

But then I’ll miss a Sunday. And then I miss another, and pretty soon months have gone by without me remembering.

No amount of setting computer reminders or giving myself pep talks will work. Because no matter how determined I may be when I set the reminder to go do it as soon as the reminder happens, if by chance I’m in the middle of writing something that I’ve been trying to finish for a long time, or working on some other thing, I’ll think, “Yes, I’ll do that in just a minute…” and the next thing I know, it’s 45 minutes later.

But man, when I do remember, those Mondays are awesome!