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Defining you life by a computer doesn’t compute

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POSTED March 1, 2009 4:37 a.m.
Do you really need a phone that has an application that turns it into a level to hang a photo?

It isn’t exactly a “what-is-the-meaning-of-life” type question but your answer does give you an insight into how you view the world.

Yes, the iPhone is a remarkable device but on the scale of inventions it doesn’t even rate much higher than a “one.” It is simply a new fangled take on previous inventions such as the telephone and its kissing cousin the cell phone as well as a myriad of other things in its applications such as a level. By the way, the cost of a real little plastic level is less than the level application that is sold for the iPhone and is 10 times more useful. I dare you to put your $250 iPhone on wet cement.

My take on things may have a bit to do with my age as I’m closing in on 53. I like to think, however, that it has more to do with a desire not to define my entire existence by an electronic device.

I gave my home computer last November to my granddaughter. She needed one. Besides, I figured that my decision to add two Dalmatians to the household could only be justified if I cut down expenses elsewhere. I can feed the two dogs each month for what it cost me to get Broadband access. If I scaled down to dial-up I’d have to put in a home phone. It never made sense to me to have both a land-based home phone and a cell phone. I like Verizon but I don’t like them that much to send them $28 or so a month for something I no longer have a use for when I’ve got their cell service.

About a month ago I got to thinking maybe I should get another computer. The condition I got myself to agree with when I bought the house last February was to keep all expenses in check. If I added a “want” I had to give up something in its place. I really could afford the monthly Internet service and buying a computer wouldn’t break me. I wasn’t going to spend more than $800 for everything I needed. Besides, it would help “stimulate” the economy. Now there’s a new classic cop out for making a quick spending decision.

I then started thinking about what I needed a computer for in the first place. I’m doing fine, thank you, keeping track of my bills. I don’t need to pay on line at the last minute. I don’t like owing money so much that I normally pay their bills within a day or so of receiving them. It’s why I’m almost a month ahead on my mortgage payments.

There’s always blogging. But if I want to strike up a spirited conversation about politics, trends or whatever there are plenty of neighbors who don’t mind chatting face-to-face. Different views mean a lot more when they come attached to someone you’ve actually met.

As for social networking, if I want the opportunity to have a few chance encounters with strangers I can just take the Dalmatians - Cruella and DeVil - for a walk. There’s something about Dalmatians that get people to stop and talk but with two Dalmatians pulling me around town I get all sorts of inquiries about the dogs.

If I want to know the weather, I can step into the yard. This is the San Joaquin Valley for crying out loud, not the Midwest.

As for exploring new subjects, I’m still a big fan of books for the simple reason publishers are held to real standards such as liability and plagiarism laws to create a vessel of words, thoughts, and ideas that they stand behind. Having a Wikipedia is nice, but it is to quicksand what a printed encyclopedia is to solid earth. What’s offered in an encyclopedia is bedrock while Wikipedia shifts with the whims of whoever wants to redefine the world.

If I wanted a device that could get me spam at home in addition to what I get at the office, I would have had my mail delivered at my street address instead of at a postal box. You’d be amazed at how much junk mail I don’t get.

As for e-mailing folks that I know, I admit my written letters are getting about as rare as a common sense decision out of Washington, D.C., but that is why I have a cell phone plan that I can call virtually anywhere without worrying about additional cost.

This brings us to the only viable reason that I could come up with to buy another home computer which is to kill time.  I have what might be called weird work hours making doing a lot of things a bit problematic. Then again, nothing is stopping me from hitting the library for a book or two to read at my leisure, puttering around more in the yard or simply re-arranging my day and bicycle in the countryside.

Funny, I started out with all of the reasons I needed a home computer but now I have nothing but reasons why I don’t need one.
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