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Archive for the ‘Low Tech’ Category

The weather has turned cold here in Seattle. Nothing like what most of the nation is experiencing, to be sure, but cold nonetheless. The leaves that haven’t fallen are withered and frostbitten on their stems, and the remnants of Autumn’s glory now lie in patches of brown detritus scattered across the gardens.

Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, WAOn clear, cold afternoons, when the sky is a robin’s egg blue and the sun has just melted the frost off the shaggy lawns, I hear the machinery of modern yard maintenance fire up. Mowers, blowers, strimmers, and edgers set up a whirring, sputtering rumble that blankets the neighborhood as homeowners take advantage of a rainless November day.

For myself, I prefer to use manual tools when possible. The lawnmower, the strimmer, these I keep and use, but on bright autumn days I reach instead for the rake, the broom, and the shovel to tend my garden. I spend so much of my day working nothing but my mind–analyzing systems, cross-checking code, diagramming solutions, navigating interoffice politics–that the thought of surrounding myself with machinery and noise is abhorrent.

Before I step outside, I bundle up with scarf and gloves and quilted overshirt, but soon, as I warm to my task, these layers drop away. It takes me longer to tidy my garden than it does my more mechanized neighbors–yesterday, after a couple hours’ work, I only cleared out the patio and lower section of the back garden–but it’s a quieter time, and that’s what I want.

Peace. Serenity. Take in a clean, cold lungful of air and let it out in a frosty breath.

Repeat.

k

Typewriter

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Stack of Books

You know I like books. I mean books, real books, those things made of paper and ink. A well-made book is a treasure, not to mention a marvel of low-level technology and, while I have an e-reader, read the occasional novel on my e-reader, and while I was one of the earliest adopters of the technology (I owned a first-generation REB1000, back in the ’90s), I do not like them.

I like books.

I like the heft, the feel, the fixity of the thing. I cannot turn it off. I cannot download it. I cannot erase it.

A book is a quiet, confident thing. It does not shout or wheedle. It rests, waits, and says, “Read me, or read me not; your choice.” It simply is.

I like reading from a physical book more than reading off my Kindle. When I read from a book I get more involved, I experience a greater immersion in the words and the story.

And I am not alone. Science, it turns out, is right there with me.

(more…)

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Ribbon vibrator. Platen roller. Type bar. Paper finger. Guide pointer.

Know what I’m talking about?

Smith-Corona. Remington. Underwood. Royal.

With me now?

I’m talking about typewriters. Manual typewriters. Old-fashioned, heavy, noisy, mechanical machines driven by the power of your fingers. Yes, those lovely old clackety-clack behemoths that used to be ubiquitous but now only exist as props in crime novels and on the “collectible” sections of eBay.

If you’re old (like me), you either love them or hate them. Otherwise, you may never have even seen one of these miracles of low-tech machinery, much less experienced the aching hands that come from a long session of literally “pounding the keyboard.”

I happen to love these old machines. As it turns out, so does Tom Hanks.

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Simple Living

One evening, when I was courting my wife-to-be, we were at my place when the phone rang. Since we were talking, I ignored the phone. “Aren’t you going to answer that?” Nope. If it was important, they’d call back (I didn’t have an answering machine). This was my relationship with technology in those days. Technology was my servant, not the reverse.

Well, sometime during the last three decades, that has changed, so I’m just now coming off a full week of an “internet fast.”

Overall, I am surprised at how easy it was. I stuck to my “going dark” guidelines so successfully that when I tried to go back online, I found that all my little electronic connectimoids needed to be charged up. The computer, the tablet, even the smartphone had gone almost entirely unused for a whole week.

What did I miss? What didn’t I miss?

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TFL Problem

I will not be employing a shabbos goy this week.

When I lived in Jerusalem, I learned about the shabbos goy. The shabbos goy is a non-Jew who will do tasks of work which are forbidden to Jews on the Sabbath. To keep everything on the up-and-up, the shabbos goy should be someone who would be on the premises anyway, such as a maintenance worker or babysitter. Thus, on the Sabbath, a shabbos goy can turn on the house’s lights or rekindle the fire (both of which are forbidden to Jews), and everyone benefits from the work that the shabbos goy did. No commandments were broken. Nothing to see here. Move along.

So, as I said, I will not be using a shabbos goy this week.

In a prevoius post, I mentioned that I was considering an “internet diet.”

Well, today it begins. Today I’ll be going dark.

I’ll be taking it One Day at a Time, but my goal is to go a full week without major technological contact.

What does that mean, specifically? Good idea. Let’s define terms…

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RAWWWR by NickiStock on deviantART

My brother is an old-school kinda guy.

  • He licks bones for a living. (Well, okay, he licks rocks to see if they’re bones; he’s an archaeologist.)
  • His living room is shelved floor-to-ceiling with vinyl LPs.
  • He hates Facebook and eschews all social media.
  • He has a clam-shell flip phone that he’s used for a decade or more.
  • He’d rather walk, head up, looking where he’s going than plod along, head down, letting his smartphone’s GPS tell him where he is.

My brother has a lot going for him.

And I think he’s on to something. (more…)

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Box o' Letters

If you were born before 1980, it’s likely you are writing in code.

That’s right. Cryptic code.

We have a young houseguest staying with us. She’s nineteen. I literally have t-shirts older than she. Needless to say, having her with us has been an education, on both sides.

The other day, she watched with fascination as I sat down with pen and paper and slowly, over the course of the day, wrote a letter, by hand.

The fact that my correspondent and I had never met didn’t seem to faze her–in this day of social media, it’s commonplace. Nor was the idea of sending a letter by snail mail particularly foreign; presumably she’s sent a bill payment or a birthday card in her lifetime. She was curious about the slowness of the process, that it took several sessions at the desk to complete a single letter, but that wasn’t the big issue.

No, what really puzzled her was something much more basic. (more…)

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