Sorry, you're breaking up!
The joys and vexations of being a semi Luddite.
I’m filing for divorce from the digital world.
If not for this old Lenovo laptop, I’d be AWOL on my Substack here. I opened my HP a week ago and a message to the tune of, Because of changes in your security settings, your password is no longer valid. Of course I never changed the blessed security settings. Under the message, it said I could change my password by signing in. To what? Well, just click here. Ah, sign into Microsoft. I’ve been through this. When I bought the computer, Bernd on the KLATV team in Frankfurt helped me get it set up and we bypassed the part where Microsoft makes you clock in at Borg Central every time you use your computer. That’s how I’ve been doing it for three years and now creepy Microsoft seems to be saying, “You had a good run but now your digital freedom days are over, serf!”
In any case, I don’t think I ever set up a Microsoft account so I’m clueless on how to get back into my computer. Bernd spent an hour online with me on Wednesday night but we had no success. So here I am with this old Lenovo, learning some of the quirks of Linux and pressing the button under the missing ‘e’ key double hard. As for the ‘2’ key, if I get my fingernail just right I can get it to work, but it’s easier to just type out, ‘TWO’. But if I need to do ‘shift 2’ for the ‘@’ mark, it’s best to use my ballpoint pen than make continuous attempts with the pond-muck-stained fingernails to get it to work. This is a hassle but I’m not complaining about this gifted notebook computer. I got it from Big Joe, along with some other computer stuff in various states of functionality. The microphone didn’t work but the 1-terabyte back-up hard drive did and if I’d used it instead of toss it in a corner all those files on the HP would be accessible right now. That includes all my passwords, names/addresses, quotable quotes, ideas for future posts, hairbrained schemes and of course, photos. All the pics for the next meme post are on there! Oh, and this too: the psuedonyms I use to protect the innocent here in the Bitterroot and elsewhere. Sorry friend, if I didn’t give you a bold, cool, rememberable name like Sloan Youngblood, you’ll either have to remind me or settle for a new name! (‘Bernd’ in Frankfurt wants a name change. He was kind enough to remind me of his given pseudonym but says it makes him sounds like he was born in ‘69. I can’t blame him. Who would want to be that old?!)
Nevertheless, though I may have lost so many files, I’m starting to feel the same freedom and release I felt when my iphone crapped out over a year ago. 3,000 photos and videos gone! Myriad passwords and sure-bet money making Shumway-schemes scattered into the ether! Big whoop. I’m much better off without the smart phone.
A quick litany of my digital woes:
The cellular signal that comes to my phone here is so weak I have to run around the house to find a spot to make a call, on a good day. Sometimes the reception is only one-way and I engage in a monologue that goes something like, “Hi Sloan. I can’t hear you but I’ll assume you can hear me. That ‘66 Harley chopper with the naked roller-derby lady on the gas tank you’re offering me for $4,000 on the layaway plan, payable in stump removal work on your property and foot massages for your wife Kitty is really generous but isn’t going to work out. I hope you’ll understand. Bye.”
It took me three weeks to finally upload a video of a memorial celebration I’d videotaped and edited for a friend. Email woes; iphone to PC uploading problems; Cross-platform software sharing problems; speeds not synched between cameras; copyright infringements on tinny-sounding songs that happened to be part of the ceremony; outdated software; slow processing speed; files too large; multiple-step verifications; etc. All for one video sent out to a few friends of the widow.
Sending money to Japan plagued with all kinds of problems, not the least of which is the help desk in East Musaffarabad, where they all refer to a pre-written script for their answers to your questions.
Phone trouble with my little flip phone. Is this punishment for being on the $12 a month plan? Numbers I can’t block; payments that don’t go through; a screen that indicates 1 text message in the inbox, but nothing’s there and neither Cynthia with all the tats or Kyle the fix-it guy upstairs in the Blodgett Canyon view workroom can figure it out.
lastly, my middle finger is tired of pressing hard and slow, sometimes two or three times, to get the ‘e’ key to work. Try standing or spinning around in your desk chair every time you have to use the ‘e’. Right away I guessed that the ‘e’ is the most frequently used letter in English texts, and wikipedia confirms this. 13% of the time you’re flipping yourself the bird, pressing that ‘e’ key.
Trying to decide on a new computer. Do I break the bank and get an Apple, or continue dealing with Microborg? Bernd recommends the Apple but Big Joe says there are Apple notebook computers banned in some countries because of the barrage of EMFs they emit. Incidentally, big Joe has no qualms about wifi and blue tooth emissions. He bathes in that stuff in his computer-controlled smart house, while Bernd and Lukas don’t even have wifi in their homes-all LAN cable connections for them. Right now I can’t switch to LAN because this Lenovo only connects to the web with wifi.
OK. There’s more, but suffice to say, I dream of having no cell or smart phone and no computer, just like those images of happy life with grass, lions and sheep in those Jehova’s Witness pamphlets. I know that I’m going to have to keep dealing with this stuff constantly when I get Bitterroot Beacon Radio up and running, even if I have an assistant or a tech team, but I do dream of just tossing a rake in summer, running a plow in winter, taking the odd hike with Finn and carrying a book around in my free time and saying goodbye to all digital.
Hollingsworth called me a Luddite last week, or more precisely he implied that adopting the Luddite designation is sort of my shtick, which doesn’t amount to much if I make the other party do the digital stuff for me. I was borrowing his dog Finn again for a hike (my default date here in the Bitterroot, what with wife 5,000 miles away) and I asked him something about the trail I was off to. After spending a few seconds speculating on how far up the falls were and what came after the bridge, he whipped out the phone and said, “Why don’t we just check it?” and then, with a faint chuckle he said, “Oh, that’s right, you’re doing the no-phone Luddite thing, aren’t you?” He’s right; you can’t get away from technology so I can’t pretend I’m off grid or anything. But not consulting a smart phone at least kind of forced me into a human encounter, (even though he consulted his,) and we should aim to regain some of our humanity.
I dropped the ball with my own kids, not putting up enough of a fight when it was time for that sacred jr.-high or high school rite of passage- the first smart phone. Doting grandma bought the phones and mama was on board, because, “all of their friends have one!” … “Say hello to your new fondle sticks, kids! Kiss your brains goodbye.”
So I became Mr. Phone Cop and had to try and regulate usage. It didn’t work much with my older boy; he’d watch you tube videos of gamers playing games until the late hours, sometimes falling asleep with his eyes open and the video still running, I’d come downstairs well after midnight and find him sprawled on the sofa staring blankly into space like a dead man, with bloodshot eyes, while from the iPhone in his hand older-teen voices laughed and made running commentary on the Street Fighter 6 or Tekken 8 games being played.
The twins got away from all that and regained some of their humanity on the Montana, 2020 trip. I’m hoping to create a bit of a back-to-nature redux with the two sons who are ostensibly coming over here this winter. You have to provide options; all Andy and I did in summer, ‘22 was clean ponds and I’m afraid that, partly because I neglected fun and diversions, he may choose university in Japan like his more academic twin brother, Will.
Step 1 in all this is two youth clubs I’m setting up.
Sunday hiking club (as a part of Screen-Free Sunday)
cards and chess club
The hiking club will also feature dog walks, snowshoeing, XC skiing, maybe an occasional downhill skiing outing, and other outdoor stuff.
The cards club will feature hearts, spades, euchre, canasta, and if I’m lucky, bridge. As for non-card games: chess, go, shogi, and the occasional board games where thinking is involved, like my favorite, Pictionary.
Right, Shumway, like you’ll ever get kids away from their computers and phones!
It’s worth a try. Plus, I already have a club. Stan Delaney’s kids love to come on hikes with me and my regular date Finn!
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footnote- speaking of hikes, I may as well put up a few pics of my last two.
A month ago I wanted to take Stan’s kids on a short hike up Big Creek. I missed the turn off and we went all the way to the Glen Lakes trailhead, ten miles up the mountain and way high in elevation!
Today I didn’t want to miss the Big Creek turn so I stopped a Subaru coming down the hill and asked the two Missoulian women if they knew where the trailhead was.
“We didn’t go to Big Creek. We just got down from the Glen Lakes hike.”
-How was it?
-Fantastic! Really beautiful today.
See, these are the types of real, human encounters you get to have if you don’t let Siri or Alexa guide your every move! If I had been carrying a dumb phone I would have let it guide me right to the trailhead lot, and wouldn’t have talked with anyone. I said, “Great! So you don’t know where the turnoff to Big Creek is?”
-No, but we have a guidebook.
They pulled out a hiking book. A book! Fellow Luddites! I took a snapshot of the page with Big Creek directions with my little Canon (whoops, digital) and thanked them. Then I noticed the driver had a hat that said, MIT.
-Did you go to MIT?
-No, but my kiddo is going there.
-Oh, great. I have cousin that worked at MIT for a number of years.
“Oh really?” said the granola-ish blonde Missoulean.
-Yeah, Mercer Island Towing in Seattle.
I always love telling that one. But blondy didn’t really laugh, just gave me a little courtesy smile. Maybe, based on how I looked that day, and driving around in Stan’s Bitterroot-Valley-typical F150, her big-city Missoula mind actually thought I was drawing some equivalency between her egghead son and my grease-monkey cousin, and I was darn proud of it!
The Brunette riding shotgun smiled and gave me a thumbs up. They drove off and the Brunette said to the Blonde, “Valley humor I guess.”
Speaking of humor: after-hike cow shot. Gary Larsen is right. Cows are funny.
Took a hike with a co-worker Perry last week. He brought his two dogs. It was crystal clear and chilly- a good day for a St. Mary’s Peak ascent. But at the fire lookout up top it was blowing like a typhoon, and freezing!