Life outside iLife

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Life without an iPhone is surprisingly liberating. After the initial shock and horror of finding it swirling around in the washing machine, I am slowly adjusting to life without instantaneous emails, constant news, social networking notifications or Angry Bird updates telling me some eagle has landed.

All those ‘essential to survive’ Apps like GPS, shopping, a compass, conversion utilities, a TV Guide, Rightmove and breaking news, I have  managed to survive without quite well.

Texts are short and to the point on the old Sony Ericcson I have temporarily reinstated.  There are no frills, one alarm setting, a basic three line calendar and a choice of about four ringtones, but it works.

I must admit I do miss the camera and it’s been a pain not having contact numbers or email addresses at hand but I have SURVIVED, contrary to what I thought in the first 48 hours.

The iPhone doctor has saved all my data and I should be back in iLife soon but a teeny bit of me is not that rushed to collect the new iPhone and initiate that umbilical connection to Apple,  iTunes and the Apps Store once more.

My attention span seems to have improved also. I watched a  friend over coffee today, left and right manically thumbing a screen for updates and a Twitter feed, whilst I digested a very interesting news article in Times 12 Roman typeface on paper at a pleasant pace rather than try to assess the RSS feed summary on a three-inch screen.

I will of course be shortly downloading and updating all the Apps I’ve missed over recent weeks but it has been almost like a holiday away from iLife, and it has made me realise the slavish attention those little machines crave, with us manacled at the wrist to them. I’m still going to keep my Sony Ericsson and give it the odd charge up. It deserves it.

Kahlil Gibran

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Teenage dughter in bits this evening. Boyfriend of six months finished with her and she is devastated.

Have been trying to comfort her all evening and Kahlil Gibran sprang to mind.

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you.
Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep,
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.

It’s been a very traumatic few months for this household and she clung to this first love very tightly. Her pain is raw and yet, that pain of love, lost and won, does not necessarily diminish with age.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more

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Whilst on a late night online mission I realised it’s over a month since I’ve written anything here.  It’s was another ‘headfuck’ few weeks and I have not been very proud of my actions and the way I have treated people so  time-out to get ‘normal me’ back and after a bout of bad karma catching up, (finding iphone in washing machine was one moment) things seem to be improving.

I am working hard on a new venture and this has inadvertantly led to good conversations with my brother in Germany with whom I didnt communicate with very much before. There is a website to finish anda  few woodwork furniture projects on the go which I am looking forward to seeing  finished very shortly and ready for sale.

I’ve also finally managed to finish furnishing bedrooms at new house  and teenage daughter now has a semi-normal looking bedroom (until of course she manages to fill it again with clothes, junk and shoes, which should not take her any more than a week to achieve, I’m actually betting on it being less than 7 days).

It’s also been a time to reflect on what needed prioritising after a summer that seemed to slip away. One of the more monumental (or possibly insane) decisions was to quit my job but I am finally getting my head together again and focusing on the future and new beginnings once more…

My, How You Have Grown

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Yesterday the worldwide web celebrated its 20th birthday. It seems impossible to recall life without instant access to news, apps, sports results, You Tube, Dictionary.com and Facebook. To ‘google it’ did not exist in 1991. My two teenagers  have grown with it  and thinking back  it was interesting to analyse how their online development over the years reflects the simultaneous evolution of social networking and virtual reality alongside this first www generation.

I know some people argue that virtual worlds may be bad for our children but I  have always found them  to be both a positive and interesting contribution to the learning and development processes of my children.

They both started out on Club Penguin. Now for the uninitiated, this is a Disney owned universe where all are penguins. You complete tasks and chores and undertake missions to protect the realm from a baddie polar bear who wreaks havoc on a regular basis. The good you do is rewarded in Club Penguin currency which allows you to upgrade your igloo into a spectacular ‘ice crib’ or to purchase clothing,  pets (puffles), furniture and generally progress in the kingdoms pecking order. I was a penguin myself for a while (being signed up by son one rainy day) and acquired a few pet Puffles whilst I waddled my way around. Sadly, my puffles expired in a case of SPN (Serious Puffle Neglect) when I forgot to log in for a few months.

It is a well run world and Disney focus very much on maintaining a safe environment where virtual bullying or inappropriate messaging and language is not tolerated, where penguins may be suspended temporarily or even banished off the island forever. It has its own newspaper, the Penguin News, and last weeks headlines were about the forthcoming summer festival and the impending visit of Rock Hopper and his pirate ship that visits every few months, bringing new and exciting items and games to the island. There are regular surfing championships and fishing expeditions and I highly recommend it.
Son still goes through phases of secretly visiting Club Penguin and undertaking missions but would now never admit to doing so as it would be social suicide.

Around the age of ten, they both moved onto Bebo, which is,  in essence, a sanitised pre-teen version of Facebook, allowing them to interact in person with friends and classmates. It is a stepping stone network where Dora the Explorer sits comfortably alongside MTV video’s and Yahoo Games and it is a pretty safe environment as a gateway to adult social networks.

 
Around the age of twelve, My Space took over from Bebo, as their emerging interest in music took hold.  They used this site the way former generations listened to older siblings or parents record collections, checking out the ’60’s, ’70’s, 80’s and ’90’s and building their knowledge base of different musical genres to help them develop their own  tastes. They and their friends shared information on new acts or up and coming artists they liked, much the same way as previous generations bought and learnt about new music from magazines like Smash Hits and NME, but as this network is predominantly music orientated they were searching for a more developed online tool to interact with friends and peers and so to Facebook around the age of thirteen/fourteen.

They are now fully functional Facebookers. They log in daily to make plans, chat with their classmates and friends, organise events, gossip and sort out teen arguments. Facebook and their mobile phones organise their lives with their peers. When there is a teenage crisis with one, all know about it within the hour and messages of support, love and lifelong friendship, with multiple smiley faces and other weird symbols added, get posted to the one in need. Their teenage love stories get charted as their status constantly updates from ‘In A Relationship’ to ‘Single’ and back again, running on loop. They ostracise virtually those who misbehave within the peer group. They insult, argue, debate, fight, make up, and hug one another virtually before meeting in town later for the cinema as both worlds morph.

There is one golden rule as a parent. DO NOT send a Friend Request to your teenagers on FacebooK. They will not accept and it is WRONG. Very wrong. This is their diary, inside their head, their innermost secrets stored on a virtual cloud.  Having ‘accidentally’ (well, they were still logged in so..) seen their FB profiles and  wall info a few times, trust me you are also better off not knowing. Meanwhile, I am off to see if I can find my Club Penguin log in details, Rock Hopper’s ship is due in port.

The Bognor cable Ball and associated items

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I decided to have an I.T. clear-out. For the past number of years, there’s a cardboard box that has floated around, moving from house to house with us, with spare usb leads, digital camera leads and old mobile chargers being duly dumped into it at regular intervals, so I emptied it out onto the floor and untangled enough cabling to run a printer from Hove to Bognor.
I discovered chargers for Nokia mobiles circa 2003/04 that are now probably somewhere in Nigeria having a whole new life. Manuals for fax machines that have long been smelted down plastically and morphed into new existence in China, a ‘less than 1Mega Pixel’ digital camera – I repeat one whole Mega Pixel. Manuals for a printer that went to Hove dump in 2006 and a copy of Norton Internet Security 2003 were among the items I put in the ‘no longer of use’ pile.
Then came the hardware itself and felt a wave of nostalgia hit me as I dusted off my first ever laptop, purchased for over £500 second-hand in 1999. A state-of-the-art Gateway Solo, with a manufacturers date of 1997. Almost 15 years old, born a year after the internet was born as we know it. Prehistoric in terms of Windows XP, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, ipads and iphones. It had a little modem card that downloaded at about 1mb per half hour. I think Gateway are now extinct also as a brand. But, it still works. It does take about a half a day to load and is a huge square lump of a thing. Teen son and daughter just shook their heads in disbelief at its weight, general ugliness and the fact that it had a swappable external 3.5″ floppy and (extremely high tech for its time) CD drive.
It’s raw computing power was a blinding 133 MHz processor and 2.1 GB hard drive. (In comparison a smartphone today would have approx 800 Mhz processor minimum and 32GB drive). As son and daughters generation work in TeraBytes I don’t think they could even grasp 133 MegaHertz as a value. Try ‘Angry Birds’ on that one.
Then out came the external Iomega Zip Drive. The kids viewed it in a way people peer at fossils in the Natural History Museum and had no idea that prior to the era of ‘cloud computing’, this was the preferred choice of mobile mass storage by geeks.
Another old lump of an Advent laptop followed by a Toshiba Satelitte model that had fallen victim to a large glass of hot Irish toddy and thus died instantaneously circa 1993 (the combination of boiling water, sugar, whiskey and lemon was not one that even Toshiba ,known for their ruggedness and build quality, could survive). There then followed the various chargers for all of these, each weighing the same as a respectable set of bar-bells.
I don’t want to recycle these old laptops as I feel they are a part of my life and their creaking hard drives and dusty forgotten folders hold letters, emails, photo’s and memories in their original state, so they are all back in the box again, no doubt to be joined in time by the laptop on which I have typed this upon.
On the plus side I did find a badly needed scart lead and a Tom Tom sat nav charger lead that had mysteriously ended up in the Bognor cable ball.

New Technical Skills

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They say you learn something new everyday in life. Recently I learned how to change the bearings and wheels on a waveboard. For the uninitiated, this is like a skateboard but it has two wheels and the back and front sections move independently – also known as a street-surfer and not to be confused with a longboard.

Now as a 40 ahmmmm something woman, the learning of such has not been a priority in my life so far but teen son had whittled the wheels on his down to bare metal so we ordered some online.

Ever trying to empower him for adulthood and letting him enjoy the rudimentary male desire to use a wrench and hammer, I left the package on the table for him to open after school and went off to the shop, forgetting to leave a reminder note to not rip the packaging apart as fitting instructions might come in handy.

Cue return from shop, two 13 year old boys (friend recruited as per normal male activity when doing mechanics) scratching heads, full toolbox on kitchen floor, old wheels removed (so therefore cannot work off original fitting), lots of nuts, bolts, screws, twisted bits of metal plus two new wheels and a hammer suspiciously lying adjacent to one another. No sign of packaging or instructions!

Cue two hours later and I learnt how skateboard bearings within wheels work. The main reason it took two hours was that they had hammered in the bearings in the wrong order, but of course without instructions as to which nut/bearing/bolt went in which order, success was a case of combined elimination and various attempts with an allen key to achieve no spare nuts left over on the table with wheels that spun.

I did have to walk away from the hammer and repair zone at one point to take deep controlled breaths in the garden whilst chanting ‘relax, relax, you can do this, its only a bloody skateboard’…

Yesterday, whilst skating with it, I asked him how the new wheels were and his reply, ‘Yeah good Mum but I’m not sure about doing stunts, as you put them on, and I’m a bit worried they might fall off, did you tighten them.”

I wouldn’t bank on it..

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The ongoing credit crunch was the topic of discussion at dinner the other day. I was curious to see how the younger generation view it, so I asked both teen daughter and teen son what their solutions to it would be. At the outset they both agreed that it was impacting on their lives. Reduced pocket money means having to opt for the smaller size popcorn at the cinema, (which apparently is a painful cutback for son) and a reduction in retail therapy and shopping trips was definitely causing problems for daughter, even though her wardrobe (or should I say bedroom floor) does not reflect such.

There were some very creative answers ranging from getting rid of the concept of banks altogether, which many of us might well agree with. Son asked why do we need them at all and why do they charge us to use our own money, leading to a potted history of Shylock and medieval money-lenders turning into what we now consider as a necessary service in society. Bartering was suggested, but ruled out quickly when I described the impracticalities involved in keeping cows in Hove to exchange on market day in George Street. Daughter didnt like this bartering idea as it might involve washing other peoples cars, or, God forbid, her having to offer something in exchange for mobile phone credit.

There was the suggestion to ‘just print more money. I explained that this had already been done but had just been given a complicated, made-up name by the Bank of England, called ‘quantitative easing’. This lead to the question of ‘if all this money has been printed, where is it?’. (Good question I thought, I wish I knew!) but rather than go into the complex and murky world of currency market movements, I summed it up by saying that it was all given to the banks, to which they both replied, “That’s SO unfair, Why didn’t they just give everyone a little bit of it?” “I know”, I said. No argument there really.

Daughter then came up with what I think is an ingenous solution. Her suggestion being, that on a set day, January 1st next for example, everyone’s bank overdraft and credit card limit is re-set to zero with a new set spending limit available. All countries that wish to participate do so, with the cost of such funded by an ‘international bail-out pot’ funded by banks profits and international governments. Her theory being that then people would start spending again, (consumer confidence is the adult term isnt it?), people would have more money each month as they would not be paying off their credit card bills and could start saving again, thus leading to banks getting these savings, to circulate into the economy helping small businesses and industry. I must say, I still can’t find any major fault with it, except how to make the banks fund it. We just need to give it a complicated made up name and tell Mr Cameron & Co that they can take the credit for coming up with such a global and creative solution.

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