Tag Archives: technology

Grant me serenity… nope, time for your 4th reboot


Technology, the bastion of science and engineering, brain children of visionaries that see options for taking away the burden of the menial from busy modern working people… I don’t think it’s working. We have wonderful things in the world these days. Pieces of electronics that allow us to talk to people on the other side of the planet face to face. We have magnificent gleaming, sleek equipment that perform complicated mathematical calculations in nano seconds. We have incredible gizmos that can see into the human body and identify problems before they become catastrophic. We have space-going vehicles that travel to other planets and even to the ends of our galaxy and beyond.

It’s amazing to me. Maybe I’m showing my age. I can remember a conversation that I had with my father over a decade ago now. We were talking about a prequel of a science fiction franchise and wondering how they would address the issue of technology since we had at that time many of the things from the original version of said series. How would they have technology that was ahead of what we already had but still having room to grow for the original (which was at that time filmed over 30 years prior).

So, with all the advances of modern technological miracles, tasks that once would have taken great effort and time are now completed in the blink of an eye… and, why in the name of all that is holy am I consistently plagued by technology that takes up way too much of my day? Things that should take an instant with the marvels of our electronics now take even longer than I could have managed manually and menially because of glitches, freezes, and generally unpleasant gremlins in the works.

What is especially perplexing to me is the sheer number of updates that seem to be pushed out through the wires and wireless signals of the internet and networks to effectively shut down all productivity while various changes are made in operating systems and other software. The timing is a bit baffling as well. It always seems to happen when the process will cause the most amount of bottleneck, slowdown, chaos possible. I can understand when security concerns or “backdoor” issues present that there must be a correction for the safety and security of our data and privacy, but seriously why can’t this be scheduled for a time when I don’t need to actually be performing a function on the machine.

windowsupdateremindercountdownOne of the most baffling situations is my work computer. We have an IT department that will push out updates to all the different systems and software on our machines through the network. So, I totally get that it depends on my machine connecting to the network. However, I’m not entirely sure why, for instance, my entire week was plagued by the update-reboot two step. I might even be less irritable if it would tell me that the reboot thing needed to happen as soon as I got logged into the system. Just a little “Hey, don’t get too deep into anything because we’re gonna be asking you to reboot about 17 times in the next hour.” But nooooo, it waits. It waits until I’ve opened multiple applications and projects and am hip deep in spreadsheets and reports that took their sweet time to open, let me tell you. Then, it says “Reboot in 57 minutes…” Really?!? 57? Not an hour? Or possibly any round number? The point is, it’s not like I’m going to get anything accomplished in that 57 minutes. Truthfully, it will probably take me that long to save and close all the crappola I have open. So, I manage to get it all buttoned up and if the timer has not run out, I click the “Reboot Now” button. Go get coffee.

And now, hopefully, the machine has finished its preparations and is now ready to be productive with me. However, I failed to take into account the passive-aggressive nature of the beast. Apparently completing all the updates and downloads and everything that is needed in one happy session and reboot is just not part of the programming. Once again, the hateful system waits and lets me get complacent enough to open projects and start into my work before… “Rebooting 57 minutes…” It won’t do it immediately, just waits for me to be in the middle of things. “Oh look! She’s opened all her @#$%. She’s really getting in the groove. Tell her to reboot now.” Yes, I know there is usually a feature to postpone the cycle, but honestly, you can only postpone it for so long and it annoyingly will continue to pop up and remind you. It’s often just better to just get it over with.

chickenclickyesApparently the gremlins that live in the computer network also like to play this game when there is a meeting, teleconference, WebEx, or presentation to be done. On these occasions, it seems that you cannot even delay the situation until the end of said meeting or presentation. “Rebooting NOW!” because we know that there are a bunch of people waiting for you to share a PowerPoint display or explain with visuals why targets are off and reports are screwy.

There are days when I take it all as a sign that perhaps I was supposed to take the day off. Wouldn’t that be nice? “Hey there. Sorry. I know that you need me to get that project completed by close of business today, but the computer has told me that I have to take the day off so it can reboot 173 times. How does tomorrow work for you?”

There are days when I question whether the convenience of our modern technology truly outweighs the frustration and delays that occur while they are babied and maintained. While a part of me knows that with extremely rare exception the technology we use do not have sentience or personality, it is difficult to resist believing that there is something in there just messing with me. It is at those moments that I find going to get a cup of coffee is a better choice than chucking the machine out a convenient window.

Technology deity…
Grant me the patience to deal with random errors,
The strength of will to wait for ridiculous boot time (and multiple reboots),
And the wisdom not to take a hammer to the piece of equipment that would take too much of my finances to replace.

The unfathomable idea of the “selfie”…

I hate pictures of myself. Honestly since the very first one taken (to my knowledge) that was dubbed by the entire family as “The Frog,” I have been quite aware that photogenic would never by an adjective included in the inventory of my personal traits. Without fail, I will be the one caught in mid-sneeze, awkward position, yawning, with a peculiar-looking bulge, or any of a variety of unflattering positions when a shutter (analog or digital) opens and shuts.

Therefore, I developed a habit that some find completely frustrating and annoying. If I actually notice a camera (or phone) pointed in my general direction with purpose, I would immediately adopt a facial expression much like that Milo Bloom, Bill the Cat, or any of the myriad of other characters in that cartoon strip when presented with something rather disgusting. With my features screwed up in a deliberate approximation of Quasi Modo on a bad day, I would face the lens. When the pictures came out looking horrid, no problem… I meant it to look that way.  It wasn’t a happenstance of poorly organized genetic material and my own natural unattractiveness. I had made an effort to look that bad.


And this is what has made me feel completely at sea about the phenomenon of the “selfie.” First of all… who does that? That word. Selfie. Really? Adding an “-ie” to the end of the world making it cute? Smaller? More acceptable that you are totally taking a picture of yourself… by yourself… with your own arm… um… I’ll come back to this…

Granted, it is a modern phenomenon because we now have technology where you can actually hold the device away from your body and snap a picture so very quickly. Imagine trying this with some of the original cameras. Aside from needing the strength of Sampson, you would also have to take off the lens cap and hold the thing perfectly still for … how long? Just not feasible. And yet… they existed. These selfies of another era. Painters even did it. Some of our favorite memes have been created using the self-portrait of Joseph Ducreux, apparently in the guise of a mockingbird (seriously, how is this the guise of a bird?).


He wasn’t the only one, either. Many of the old masters used their own likenesses to paint images, get facial anatomy correct, couldn’t get anyone else to sit for them, pure vanity… who knows? But they did it. The first cameras not only required to person taking the photo to be at the camera itself to remove the covering lens cap, but also hold up the flash powder tray. Occasionally, it even required more than one person to accomplish a fine portrait, but the equipment did improve, become mechanized, and photographers became untethered (which may not be a word) from the camera itself. The first photographers, once they had figured out a device to do so managed to take their own portraits with the aid of remote buttons on cords. Eventually, the cameras came with timers, some analog with clockwork and then evolving to digital. The timers would allow the photographer to come around to the front of the lens and take their position before snap, the shutter opened and shut.

So, what is the point? Well… the self-portrait isn’t new. It is just called by a different name because it seems that we cannot leave language in the descriptive without giving it a nickname. Selfie instead of self-portrait. Well… in truth, not many of these could be considered a portrait. It is rather denigrating to the idea of portraiture.

There are, in my opinion, good reasons for taking a selfie. These reasons include proving you were somewhere, showing off a new hairdo, glasses, etc; or taking a remembrance photo of yourself with others when there are no convenient passersby to assist with capturing the moment. Also, in this day in age and with cameras and phones being light and easily slipped into a pocket, no one really wants to hand over their very portable technology to strangers. It just follows that with the absence of extra people to take the shot and technology capable of allowing self-portrait, selfies are the result.

And now we come to the parts to astound and confound my logic… There are people who absolutely seem to have made selfies a new career. They take pictures of themselves ever moment of every day. They take pictures of themselves in a variety of activities and in a variety of costumes. They take pictures using full length mirrors. They take pictures using something called a selfie-stick. They film video tutorials about how to take the “perfect selfie.” Like Narcissus, they appear to be enamored of their own visage to the extent that it is their primary activity of daily living. This is where I tend to veer off from the trends. I see no sense in this, other than pure and unadulterated ego. Granted there are some absolutely breath-taking individuals out there in the world, but they appear to much less advantage (in my opinion) when they also share this stance. While I do not believe in false modesty, vanity and superficial self-adoration is a huge turn-off. Why do people actually feel the need to take and share so many selfies? Is it desire for attention? Is it that they like their own appearance and want to look at it? Is it that they feel that the aesthetics of their own face is a benefit to the well-being of others…?

I don’t know. I know that I have never felt this to be the case for me. As I said, I am one of the least photogenic people on the planet. The “good” pictures of me can pretty much fit into a letter-sized envelope and wouldn’t take more than standard postage to mail. Other acceptable pictures of me are made so by the addition of other individuals who are not only dear to me but usually more pleasing to the eye.


That being said, a further obstacle to my joining the ranks of the selfie­-stickers and self-portraiture aficionados… I suck at selfies. I do. It’s true. I’ve never mastered the proper angle or the face contortions that approximate a supermodel (or more likely Mike Myers in the Sprockets skit on SNL). Truth be told, the cat is much better at it than I am (seriously, the cat that lives here has managed to take photos of himself on my phone and they look much better than anything I’ve attempted). There is no part of me that relishes having multiple pictures of my own face on my own phone or available to the public. I recognize that there are “different strokes for different folks.” So, I suppose if that is your thing, then by all means, pucker up and tilt that head at just the right angle… but I must say, I still find it all completely unfathomable.


Telecommuting: The Good, The Bad… The Yoga Pants

In the modern marketplace, technology has allowed for a less traditional approach to workspace. Thanks to internet speeds, mobile technology, webmeeting applications, and virtual conference areas, we are no longer bound by boardrooms and cubicles. Telecommuting is the perk… and yes, the curse… of the modern professional.

For those who have known me the whole of my professional life, it comes as no surprise that I have seen the opportunities and trials of non-traditional workspace. In days gone by, I actually field tested some of the earliest incarnations of smart phone technology at remote access sites for internet providers and mobile communication services. I am an unashamed and unabashed geek. At the time, I was totally excited by the prospect of being untethered to office walls and windowless workspaces to access servers from wherever I could catch a decent signal. It felt like Star Trek, and I couldn’t be more pleased to be part of that away team.

As my career path shifted, I entered my current field and as an emergency service worker, my office was mobile. It was often my vehicle. The ethical considerations of confidentiality and security for privileged health information were forever in the forefront of my mind. The technology was improving, but I still spent a good deal of my efforts and time safeguarding actual paperwork and worrying about what I would do if the worst should occur, and I happened to be in an accident that would leave my work unguarded. Other downside of my previous roles involved the definition of “business hours.” Being on call, sometimes 24 hours per day and without recognition of holidays or paid time off led to a little something I call “boundary blurring.” Yes, my job was my life. Part of it was just the nature of the beast. Pagers that went off at all hours and employers that called me whether I was scheduled for a shift or not were just part and parcel of the gig. Crisis intervention, intensive inpatient residential, and critical incident work do not know a 9 to 5 schedule. Besides that, another part of problem was my own work ethic and difficulty establishing a personal life boundary as well as hesitancy in being assertive with bosses that tended to lack respect for life outside the office and the need for personal time.

Sadly, this resulted in what usually happens when the work-life balance is ignored. I became completely crispy. I developed burnout and compassion fatigue accompanied by some not terribly healthy relationship neglect issues. It actually got so bad that for a time, I considered leaving my chosen career all together. This is a common risk for people in the helping professions and for those who work in the first responder fields. However, it has also become a risk for anyone who has a telecommute position.

When I took a position with my current employer, one of the “perks” of the job (according to my colleagues and supervisor) was being able to work from home anywhere from a couple of days per week to full time telecommuting. For many of my coworkers, this was a blessing and a treat. They saved gas, and did not have to brave traffic and weather to sit in a somewhat colorless office space 40 or more hours per week. I was the holdout. I staunchly refused to use my opportunity to WAH (work at home). They thought I was nuts, but I knew myself better. I needed the physical, geographic boundary between office and home. I knew the dangers of the workplace invading my home space. I didn’t trust myself to impose the psychological barrier if the physical wasn’t there as a reminder. So, I continued to leave my office at the office, and my home was free from the work influence and accoutrements of the office life.

Over time, I started feeling braver about my ability to separate myself from the job at the end of the workday. That, and some health issues that presented themselves, resulted in a choice to take advantage of my opportunity to WAH on occasion. I was not telecommuting full time, and I would be found frequently on the couch with my laptop and one or more phones to take clinical reviews, conference calls, and trainings. It wasn’t particularly professional, nor was it very healthy from an entirely orthopedic standpoint. My back and neck would ache after trying to work in that configuration for a day. The additional downside was that my old boundary issues started creeping back into my approach. It was too easy to sign onto my laptop early and get in some work before traditional business hours, or worse, the end of day would come and go and I would always find “just one more thing” that I could do.

That is the danger of telecommuting. You don’t worry about drive times and do not have coworkers leaving for the day to prompt you to pack up your own kit and go home. Being at home already, telecommuters often find themselves working longer hours than traditional office workers. It is just too easy to keep going in the comfort of your own abode. So… I put myself back on office duty. I tend to be a bit of a workaholic as it is. I might work over at the office, but with the prompts of others packing up to go home and saying their farewells, it was a cue for me to wrap things up for the day and head home myself.

I took a promotion with my company (oh, and believe me, I struggled with that decision). The promotion came with a different office and some new staff to manage. We had our own space and everyone worked from that location. There was camaraderie. The work we was and still is meaningful (most of the time), and our group had a good fit with each other. As a manager, I was required to be in the office where my staff were based the majority of the time. There were, as usual with any new program, a lot of long hours, but having the geographic boundary between work and home was good to keep some level of balance. But things change…

The work we did gained a good deal of attention, and the decision was made to expand the program. With that expansion, there came transition. My staff became full time telecommuters. That’s right. They all went home to work. Again, with the program expansion, there were some long hours put in by myself and my colleagues. I found myself in a darkened office alone until 7:00PM or later many nights. As you might imagine, this was not well received by my family. Aside from the actual lack of time, there were some concerns for my safety being alone at the office after dark. Eventually, I allowed myself to be convinced of the folly of staying at an empty office, and I packed up my cubicle and brought my workspace home.

As it happens, it hasn’t been so bad. In fact, it has been much better and more positive than I had originally experienced or feared. However, the more positive experience has been due to some very conscious decisions on my part.

The first was my home office. While I am by no means the champion of housecleaning, I am pretty obsessive about my workspace. I have been teased by coworkers that I decorate my office with a slide rule, but it is true that my office tends to be a good deal neater and uncluttered than the other parts of my life (yes, take that however you may). Most of my day is filled to the brim with multitasking and a lot of technology. So, my workspace tends to be as organized as I can make it, but I keep some comforts and personal mementos around just to soften what could possibly lead to a depersonalized and cold atmosphere. Instead of working from the couch, which previously led to the boundary deterioration as well as a need for chiropractic services; I set up my home office in the spare bedroom that we had been using as a makeshift library (mainly because we have a book addiction). With the help of my spouse, I set up the network and laid out the design much as I had my cubicle at the office. The benefit of this arrangement is that it is organized, neat, and has appropriate space for locking away information for compliance and ethical consideration. Unlike the old cubicle, this space is warmer in style and more personal to me, and the chair is definitely more comfortable. Lastly, at the end of the workday, I can shut the door on it. That is a very important part of the telecommuting culture. It is absolutely necessary to have a space that I can physically leave (even if it is just departing the room and walk downstairs).

Another decision that I made was to change my schedule. Prior to moving my office home, I chose to run and work out at the end of the work day on the way home from the office. It was a good transition and helped me rid my body of some of the physical components of work related stress. Another reason was that the gym was on the way home and too far from the office to make it convenient to go at any other point during the day. The problem that arose was late in the day meetings that interfered with my usual workout time and time zone differentials for some of my staff who may have end-of-the-day questions. However, it became apparent that with my gym being about 5 minutes from my house, I could actually take my lunch to go to the gym. It was miraculous. Suddenly, I could have my run, workout, come home and shower, and I could be back at work in the time most people take for lunch. It broke up the day. It got me off my derrière. It made me a better employee and (though you’d have to ask my team) a better supervisor.

So, what is the downside? Well, there is the whole fashion issue. I’ve fallen into the habit of wearing workout gear the majority of the time. Yes, you guessed it. I am the queen of yoga pants. Now, I have not yet fallen to the depths of wearing them in public (except to the gym), but I have to maintain a very strict watch that I don’t start slipping. I do get up every day and put on different clothing than I slept in, and I consider that a good sign. Another possible danger: I am an introvert. Without the necessity for getting out of the house to go to the office, it is entirely possible that I would never leave. Between working from home and the prevalence of businesses that will deliver food, I could potentially become a hermit. However, my gym time has come in handy for getting me out of the house every day and regular social activity and off site work functions provide enough opportunity to make sure I do get out now and then.

Do I still tend to be a workaholic and sacrifice personal time to the job? Of course, but the truth is that I would likely do that even if I still had an office space outside my home. I try to be mindful of time and boundaries, though, and for the health and wellbeing of all my friends and family, I promise not to wear my yoga pants out anywhere but the gym.

SERIES: Email Diseases: How they affect your life and how you can avoid them (Issue 1: Reply All Syndrome)

In my professional life as an administrative assistant, I see a lot of email.  And I mean a lot of email.  Tons.  I’ve seen all manner of badly written email.  SHOUTY CAPITAL LETTERS.  the perpetual lowercase user.  The Forgetter of Punctuation.  Let’s not forget individuals who do not care how a word should be used grammatically, or how it should be spelled; if it looks good, or perhaps is one of those words favored by that particular individual, even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with the context of what they are writing, they will use it.

Today, I shall touch upon something that, if I am being truthful, annoys the crap out of me.  Something I am certain you, fellow email user, have either encountered or have (GASP!) been guilty of.  Frankly, as email users, we are all guilty of this from time-to-time, but the ramifications…well…the ramifications could be at least embarrassing, at worst, damaging, and always annoying.

The REPLY ALL Syndrome

So there you are.  You’re buckled down.  You’re focused.  You’re organized and getting stuff done.  You are feeling productive and your day is moving along very nicely.  You receive an email which has been sent to…for the sake of this argument…over two hundred recipients.  You do your due diligence, open the email, read the information contained therein, and think hm…looks like they forgot to include the date on which this event they’re telling us all about is going to happen.  (I’m making stuff up, just stay with me for a bit.)  Just as you are considering your reply, another email pops through with the same subject.  You think hm…looks like someone got to it before I did; let’s see what they say.  You open the new email, observe that the responder has come to the same conclusion that you did (the event date is missing) and further, has taken the liberty of responding not only to the original sender of the email, but also to everyone on the original distribution list.

This secondary individual in this example (we’ll call him The Responder) has a disease.  It is called The Reply All Syndrome, or RAS, for short.  It’s contagious.  And it spreads like wildfire.

In the blink of an eye, two more emails hit your in-box in response to the original email notifying you about the event.  Rapid fire REPLY ALL.  And quickly, three more.  Each email saying essentially the same thing, “What is the date of the event?”  Now, not only has your day been interrupted once (the original email) but before you could say “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” your day has been interrupted seven more times.  And it’s only just beginning.  Pretty soon, you get one brilliant responder who decides that it’s up to him to respond to everyone to ask everyone to please discontinue Replying to All.  It is at that point where you, who were so productive and focused earlier, are now totally distracted to the point of considering slamming your head into the nearest hard surface, wall, whatever.  Full-on Face Plant on your desk out of sheer frustration.

We’ve all been there, ladies and gentlemen.  And unfortunately, we’ve all been guilty of it, too.  However, there is a difference between accidentally hitting the Reply All button and doing it on purpose.  Let me give you a hint: If everyone on the original email absolutely must receive information which is vital to their continued existence or to the subject matter at hand, then yes, by all means, select Reply All.  If your response is based on a feeling – for example, you feel you should let everyone know that the date of an event was missed – please, for the sake of all that is good and organized and free-flowing in this world, respond only to the original sender!

You could respond to the original sender with something like Hey – you may have already gotten this several times, and I apologize if my email is just one of many, but I wonder if you realize you neglected to include the date of the event?  If you would please let us know when said event is to occur, I sure would appreciate it.

OK – maybe not exactly like that.  But wouldn’t you much rather receive an email response such as the example above, even if you have already gotten several, than over a hundred Reply All responses?

There is a cure for this disease.  It is called Conscientious Attention to Detail or CAD, for short.  CAD is not something that comes naturally for humans.  It is something to which we need to aspire.  We are born with a natural immunity, if you will, to CAD.  CAD must be actively practiced, on a minute-by-minute, day-by-day basis.  It must become habit to become an effective cure for Reply All Syndrome.  Unfortunately, in today’s society of instant gratification, CAD is rare.  Texting, truncating words to fit within a certain character limitation, or simply a gradual (and sometimes not-so-gradual) slide away from proper usage of language is prevalent.  Therefore we must be diligent!  We must be attentive!  We must constantly consider how our actions (or non-actions) are going to affect others!  But again I say, this instant gratification society is also a “Me” society.  How many of you have said, “Well, it (whatever it is) doesn’t affect me so therefore why should I bother?”

I think I have just made my case.

SWISH! Score one for Tangent.

CROSS POSTED: …Off on a Tangent

Attack of the Vapers: What does that Mean?!?

Vape the Rainbow

So, I’ve been silent for a while, I know. Truth is, things are moving so fast (in the world of vaping and in the rest of my life), I’ve just been dizzily clinging to the safety straps and waiting to see what shakes out.

They do say that the sign of a cultural phenomenon is when a trend develops its own language. As many non-vaping friends have remarked, listening to a bunch of vapers talking can be as incomprehensible as trying to eavesdrop on an alien invasion force. Aside from the technological jargon that is associated with vaping activities, vaping vocabulary has expanded to include a variety of terms to describe the behaviors, supplies, and people participating in the change. The following is a truncated list of terms, a vaping glossary if you will, to assist the non-vaper or neophyte vaper understand the conversation of their vaping friends. So, without further ado…

Vapev. The action of inhaling vaporized nicotine suspension medium from an electronic cigarette or other electronic nicotine delivery system. v.t. vaping; n. vaper

510 threaded connector – Electronic nicotine delivery devices usually have two basic sections: A battery or power supply and a vessel of some sort that holds the liquid suspension providing the vapor/flavor/nicotine inhaled. For most of these, the vessel is connected to the battery with one of two connectors which involve threads that allow the vessel to screw onto the battery. The 510 threaded connector is one type of these. It allows for a post to screw down into a couch type gizmo… and, nevermind. Point is, this is the skinny one with the threads on the inside of the battery and the outside of the vessel connection.

Atomizer (aka tank) – This is one type of vessel that holds the suspension medium discussed above. Believe me, it gets confusing trying to figure out what is meant, and I am pretty sure that people use the names interchangeably with no real differentiation, but here is what I was able to glean from those more in tune with the technological aspects. The atomizer draws juice from the wick and heats it to a vapor. The wicks are generally suspended in the liquid which is held in some sort of container (glass, plastic, acrylic, metal). It works very much like an oil lamp would, provided you have ever seen an oil lamp in action.

· RBA (Rebuildable atomizer) – While some atomizers/tanks are disposable, most vapers eventually move to the rebuildable variety. The initial cost of the RBA can be slightly more… or more than slightly more than the disposable variety, but the cost in the long run is less. Instead of buying new tanks to replace an old burned-out one, only the coil need be replaced. There are pre-made coils for some models, but the tinkers and adventurous vapers build their own.

· RDA (Rebuildable dripping atomizer) aka Dripper – Yet another type of tank. They are constructed so that the suspension medium is added by dripping directly onto the wicking material. Drippers are usually rebuildable to allow the vaper to adjust the coils to allow for more resistance (remember physics and electricity) and thus more heat, and that produces more vapor. Also, due to the temperature difference, the taste of the vapor in a dripper is often very different than that in an atomizer tank.

· Hybrid tank – These are a type of atomizer that works somewhat like a dripper in that the coils are rebuildable and often produce higher temperatures and more vapor, but instead of requiring the vaper to drip liquid a few drops at a time, they have a tank that will automatically drip onto the wick rather than draw constantly (like the oil lamp type).

Beauty ring – Nope, not some type of body modification. This goes with those 510 connector doo-hickies (technical term) or post conversions for other connectors (see below). You’ve heard of innies and outies? Well, this is when the innies and outies are somehow mismatched. While, the vessel and battery actually will attach to each other, it sometimes produces what appears to be a very unstable and not-so-very esthetically pleasing construction of a skinny post screwed into a skinny connector. The beauty ring covers that up to make a smooth transition from the power supply to the tank, thus saving those of us with a touch of the obsessive compulsive from a full meltdown.

Cartomizer – This is another of those vessels I mentioned earlier. While the atomizer is more like an oil lamp, the cartomizer is … not. I really don’t have much of a metaphor for this one. This one uses wicking material (polyfil) that is soaked with the suspension medium and surrounds the coil to keep it wet and producing vapor like laying a wet blanket on a stove eye. Ok, that didn’t sound good, but you get the idea. The main point is that there is no free liquid medium. It is all soaked into the wicking material that is wrapped around the metal coil.

Cleartomizer – This is possibly the most confusing term to me. It means… a tank, frequently see-through so that you can see the level of juice that is currently in it so you know when to refill. Well, the confusion for me is that some people call the ones that are metal (meaning you can’t see through it unless you are Superman) the same thing. Seems a little counterintuitive to me. So, how about let’s go with cleartomizer being the see-through variety.

Clone – No, this is not some science fiction character or science experiment. In this case, a clone is a replicated version of some particular equipment design, frequently referring to tanks or mods (see below). The replication often addresses flaws in the authentic design and is more often than not a good deal less expensive. However, readers beware, clones are not always better than the original. Some are produced with less attention to quality control and may not function as well. Less scrupulous vendors may also try to sell the knock-offs as originals/authentic. So, just be careful and try to stick with reputable vendors.

Cloud chasing – The activity of trying to produce the largest amount of vapor on the exhale. This has been turned into a proverbial art form. People will build coils and rigs for the sole purpose of producing the biggest clouds. There are YouTube channels devoted to this.

Daily vape – This is the go-to flavor that any vaper will tell you is what they are generally using all the time. The flavors tend to be the one that the vaper does not tire of readily and are not generally the more expensive juices.

Drip tip – A removable mouthpiece which allows access to the wick in a dripper tank, but is also prevalent on various cleartomizers or liquid tanks used to allow people to express their individual identities and styles. Drip tips can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. There are some quite beautiful versions in blown glass, and there are tips that are designed for the long opera cigarette holder or pipe stem effect.

Dry hit – When all of the e-juice has evaporated from wick or polyfil, the draw is a hot, burned cotton or chemical taste that is unpleasant to most vapers. This is called a dry hit. It is accompanied by the dry hit face that generally looks like someone tried to feed the vaper a spoon full of ipecac combined with ear wax.

E-cigarette, e-cig – While most would say that these terms apply to all of the non-combustible nicotine dispensing systems, most vapers use these terms to refer to the devices that look like traditional cigarettes.

E-juice – see juice

E-liquid – see juice

Ego threaded connector – So, remember the first definition about the connectors (the 510)? This is another one. It gets the name from one of the most common type of starter batteries, the Ego. The threads for this one are on the outside of the battery and the inside of the tank so that the tank screws down over the battery connector to create a smooth connection.

Hookah pen – This is a term used to describe the electronic nicotine vaporizers that look like an ink pen and have a drip tip making them resemble the tips on a hookah; can also be called an e-hookah.

Juice – This is the liquid suspension medium that is heated to produce the vapor inhaled by vapers much like traditional combustible cigarette smoke, but with no combustible toxicants or resulting ash from burned product. The suspension is usually a combination of propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerine (VG), flavor, diluting ingredient, and nicotine.

· Dripping juice – These are juices that are meant for drippers. Often they taste better dripped than tanked. They may also be expensive, and dripping makes them last longer. Sometimes, these juices are thicker or have flavor ingredients (such as cinnamon) that might gum up or degrade a regular liquid tank.

· Tankable juice – These juices are more diluted and wick easily without gumming up or degrading a holding tank. The flavors are generally the ones that people prefer as a regular or daily vape.

· PEG – Polyethylene glycol. Suspension medium that was used in most first generation electronic cigarettes. It has a number of uses in the chemical and medical world, one of which is as a laxative. While not terribly deadly, it does occasionally aggravate certain respiratory sensitivities.

· PG – Propylene glycol. Another suspension medium and one of the most frequently used for current e-juices. It is also commonly used in a number of chemical and medical applications, but it (like the PEG) aggravates certain respiratory conditions.

· VG – Vegetable glycerin. It is a carbohydrate derived from plant oils. That’s pretty much it. It is viscous (thick) and is used as a suspension medium like PG or PEG. People who are sensitive to the other chemicals generally are able to use higher VG e-juice with fewer problems. VG is thicker than the other chemicals and many vendors prefer to use PG or a blend of the two. Often vendors will indicate that higher VG liquids are ok for dripping, but not tanking. However, there are tankable high-VG juices available on the market.

Kanthal – A type of wire from which coils can be constructed. Most of your run-of-the-mill vaping types are not going to care one way or another about this word. However, the coil-building tinkers and cloud chasers are always looking for a good price on Kanthal.

Mod – This is not a fashion craze denoting the hipness inherently displayed by the young, privileged mid-20th century. Well… yeah, I know it actually is, but in this case it isn’t. The term mod, in this case refers to a power supply device. Specifically, these are something that has been modified to use battery(s) to transfer power to the coil of the vaporizing device. Mods can be simply a case with battery and switch, but they also can get much more complex.

· Mechanical mod – There is some sort of switch and the body of the mod makes the connection to transfer the electrical current to the coils of the tank/atomizer.

· Semi mechanical mod – This one involves wires and such to create the circuit.

· Hybrid mod – The atomizer is built into the power supply, all-in-one gizmo.

· Regulated Vs. Unregulated – So, this one was hard for me to wrap my brain around… mostly because when I was asking, people have a very hard time defining the terms without using the actual terms. However, this is what I finally was able to gather: The regulated vs. unregulated situation is somewhat like an electronic funnel. Unregulated devices dump power from the battery to the coil of the atomizer with no real way of knowing how much is feeding into it. The regulated ones have electronics acting as a funnel or gatekeeper that keeps the amount of power consistent at a known amount.

· Variable voltage and Variable wattage – I am so not going into this. Leave it as there are devices that are regulated and allow you to use the electronics to actually adjust the amount of power that is transferred from the battery to the coils of the atomizer. Why on earth would someone do this? Um… well, this goes back to the amount of vapor and the flavor. More power = more heat = more vapor/different flavor.

· Sub-ohm – Again with the trip down memory lane to the physics class. This basically is a term that you will hear from the tinkers and cloud chasers. It involves building coils that have lower resistance that will allow more electricity to flow, resulting in more heat, and thus, more vapor. That’s all I gots to say ‘bout that.

· Protected vs. Unprotected battery – This is the equivalent of the battery version of a ground fault protector or fuse. A protected battery has a saving throw against shorts. So, why in the heck would anyone have an unprotected one? Apparently, unprotected batteries are cheaper, and protected batteries of a given size may not be available. The consensus seems to be that protected is always the better option, though not absolutely required.

Nic’d out – Becoming lightheaded, nauseous, or developing a headache from too much vaping and getting too much nicotine in the system. It’s a slang term of the vaping community. While the term itself implies having too much nicotine in the system, the feeling can occur with zero nicotine juices. Often, the phenomenon is much like what would happen if you hyperventilate into a paper bag. Point being? Take it easy and take good full breaths of non-vapor in between puffs folks.

Tank – Any vessel for containing suspension medium and vapor to be inhaled by the individual using an electronic nicotine delivery device. See atomizer, cartomizer, cleartomizer.

Vape pen – Another name for the electronic nicotine delivery devices that do not look like a traditional cigarette.

Vape tongue – The phenomenon that occurs after repeated vaping or trial of multiple juices resulting in a numbing or inability to differentiate tastes. The effect dissipates readily with hydration and abstaining from vaping for a while.

Voob – I really almost hate to include this and the following term, mainly because they are just silly. However, I feel that no glossary (even a truncated one) would be complete without a few of the strange slang and bizarre practice terms that have been coined in the process. This one, voob, is the “selling with sex” part of any new trend. And now, I’m just procrastinating. This particular practice is for a female vaper to place between their breasts a vape mod and thereby holding said device vape hands-free. Ta-dah. Look ma! No hands! Um… yeah. Obviously, this requires a certain amount of exhibitionism, appropriate foundation garments, and certain anatomical features not always gifted in the appropriate amount to achieve said goal. So, there!

Voop – And… enter the potty humor and proof that there is an adolescent inside the mind of most adults. It was bound to happen (heh heh, bound). Vooping is the act of vaping on the crapper. Yep. That’s it. People sit, @#$%, and vape. Now, I need to go wash my hands. Pass the mental floss, please.

And that, my friends is the basic vocabulary of the vape, though by no means comprehensive. It seems every time I think I have my brain wrapped around all the ins and outs of vaping, someone will throw out a term I’ve never heard before. Every day brings changes, improvements, and adventures in the world of vaping. With those changes, the language expands to accommodate the new. So, now that you know (and knowing is half the battle, right?)… Happy vaping, y’all!

Holster It: A coming of age tale


So, those who know me in the real world outside the “interwebs,” have heard my tales of woe as my own decrepitude and mortality was shamelessly flaunted before my very eyes in my quest for convenience. I shall share with you my pain, but this is not only a revelation… it is also a cautionary tale for the astute professional.

I do not know about the rest of you out there, but despite my best efforts to resist, I have become completely attached to the evils of technology. By this I mean, of course, the mobile phone. Yes, sad as it is, I seem to have forgotten what it was like in the days when you left home or office and people would just have to wait until you came back to speak with you on the phone. Other elements of my life have been impacted, however, in addition to just the communication-from-anywhere-at-anytime phenomenon. I no longer wear a watch. I rely upon my clever little mobile device to provide that information and be correctly matched to time zone (since the time is received from the closest tower). It is a right handy trick, especially for those of us who might be in multiple time zones on any given day. It truly was a bit of a challenge to keep appointments and meetings straight when merely relying on the timepiece secured to the wrist. Not to mention, there was always the issue of returning to your home time zone only to forget to set your watch back… ah yes, much like the Daylight Savings Time, there was always the risk of missing a meeting or showing up ridiculously early upon return from a different zone. But I digress…

Unlike many of my technologically savvy and technology-adoring friends, I firmly resist getting the latest and greatest every time something new comes out. I am not criticizing the impulse to get the newest shiny on the market and try out the latest updates. I am just not one to be always on the cutting edge. I will leave that to my dear ones who are always happy to provide me with unsolicited reviews of “Look What It DOES?!?” and “Oh my, they will need to fix that bug on the next firmware upgrade…” It helps me avoid any of the less successful technological advancements. However, as logical and appropriate as that sounds, I’m totally lying. I anthropomorphize my equipment. It’s true. My fear of change and resistance to same stems in many ways from my feeling deep down that my poor gadget will feel abandoned and cast aside for the younger model.

Regardless, the time came after four blissful years with my iPhone, that my formerly reliable equipment was no longer so reliable. It just no longer worked. It would reboot at random, never get a good signal, and froze up regularly. Sadly, the day came when I could no longer give the excuse of “It works just fine for me.” I had to bite the bullet and get a new phone.

I will not go into the details of that painful drama. With shaking hands and sweaty palms, I discussed and made arrangements with my telecommunications provider to get a new phone. Those of you out there that relish the excitement of new tech in your life cannot possibly understand my anxiety and stress over what must seem to most a very simple, though costly, transaction. However, by the end of the day, the deed was done. A new phone was mine. Herein lays the unexpected snag…

I have for many, many… I shan’t say how many years carried my mobile device in a holster. This is a pouch that attaches to a belt or waistband and into which you can put your phone. I found that it was also handy for carrying the most frequently used of my wallet denizens, driver’s license, ATM card, insurance card, etc. As you might expect, the holster was in about the same condition as the old phone. Sure enough, it disintegrated shortly after the new phone came into use (possibly died of grief, who knows).

Now, these days, it seems most people have their phones surgically attached to their hands. Seriously, this is merely from observation that no one seems to be able to put the darn things down. I have noticed that some folks pocket phones or maybe have them in voluminous purses, but primarily, the devices appear to be constantly in use or held in the hand. How do these people go to the bathroom?!?

I am not of the ilk to have phone in hand at all times, and not all of my fashion choices have pockets. I ceased carrying purses long ago as I had a tendency to leave them wherever I hung them over a chair or happened to set them down. Needless to say, I have been reliant on my handy holster for many years. When my old one disintegrated, therefore, I had absolutely no suspicion that this was the serious loss that it became. I figured, “I’ll just buy a new one.” Oh hell no… Did you know that there are about a metric blue-billion different colored, designed, bedazzled, blingged-out Otterboxes on the market? Did you?!? There are. I walked into the first store, and the young man working there became completely baffled when I asked for a holster. With his head on one side like an inquisitive dog, he proceeded to show me the varying array of rubberized phone condoms that I could choose. “No, I want a holster.” I was told that they had nothing like that, but wouldn’t I like a nice fuchsia Hello Kitty Otterbox? I managed to escape minus Hello Kitty, rhinestones, or glitter. I continued my search in a variety of office supply and technology gizmo stores. With every stop along the way, my spirit became more and more dejected. The lowest point of the day was when a store employee shortly out of his infancy and looking no more than 12 years of age informed me that he didn’t believe anyone made holsters anymore, because no one of the current technology age used them anymore. He hadn’t seen one in “ages,” and wouldn’t I like a nice Otterbox?

Now feeling even more like a relic of a bygone age, I was close to tears as I approached the last bastion of hope. I dared not meet the eyes of the staff who were likely young enough to be my offspring. However, I recollected myself enough to notice that a nice gentleman (who looked to be at least past puberty) holding the door open for me. I meekly asked if they carried holsters… AND they DID! I was giddy and in tears as I purchased my lovely leather holster and found that it fit my new phone with space for cards. It seems that despite my advanced age, I must not be entirely alone in my quest for an efficient carrying method for my phone.

Why, you may ask, is this particular article in The New Cheese? Isn’t TNC supposed to be about professional stuff? Yes indeed it is. Here is why. It is not only to free up my dexterity that I prefer to use a holster instead of a colorful rubber phone condom.

It has become common practice to keep your mobile phone permanently in your hand. People sit in social circumstances with their devices constantly before their eyes, consulting them approximately every one or two minutes. Sadly, this is the status of our society today. We spend every moment incapable of being separated from the electronics.

Most professionals holding positions of responsibility in any organization will have one or more electronic devices connecting them with the plethora of information sources on the internet, their staff, and their customers. Today, the instantaneous access to any individual has created the expectation that all employees, managers, and leaders have their phones on at all times. Phones remain in hands or on conference tables immediately visible to anyone present. However, many individuals in the modern workplace believe this expectation gives them license to have their mobile devices permanently attached to their hands in all environments and situations.

True professionalism involves basic civility and manners. What do mobile phones have to do with this? In interviews, meetings, business discussions, and trainings, people deserve the attention of their target audience. Distractions such as incoming phone calls, text messages, and social media notifications detract from the interaction and give the impression of disinterest, immaturity, lack of focus, and unprofessional conduct.

Be a professional. Presenters, trainers, and potential employers or employees deserve your respect and full attention. Holster the phone, iPad, or personal assistant device unless using it specifically to take notes or perform a function related to the discussion at hand. Use the silent mode. Turn off ring tones and notifications for the duration of the meeting, interview, or training. Use the “airplane” mode to suspend all potential signals until after the meeting. In the event of forgetting to silence your phone and receiving a call or message, remedy the situation by switching on silent mode and in one on one or meeting situations, apologize concisely and move on. People lived without instantaneous access for many years. You can always check messages, texts, and Facebook at a more appropriate time when you are not infringing upon the valuable time of others.

So, the moral of the story? The appearance of the professional is not enhanced by a constant barrage of incoming electronic communications on a rubber encrusted mobile device permanently ensconced in your hand. To all those currently holding or hoping to hold a professional position in some organization, with regards to your mobile phones, literally or figuratively, do yourself a favor. Present yourself in a mature and professional way… Holster It!

Antisocial Media? Human Contact in a Technological World

Stone Soup by Jan Eliot

Once again, my train of thought has been derailed. I promise to try getting back on track for next week. I had an idea for my post this week, but other events led me to reconsider that in favor of a little commentary on something that we all spend a large portion of our energy doing. I am talking about technology assisted socialization.

This is texting, emailing, mobile phone communication, and social media. These days, one or more of these methods make up the majority of our communication with our social group. I actually spent a large portion of my time in the past five years examining the phenomenon, and if any of you are having trouble sleeping, I’ll let you read the 200+ pages of my dissertation about it. However, I suspect that you would be more inclined to read something a little less dry.

So, as I said, about five years ago, I was out with a group of friends at one of our regular haunts for a night of social interaction and liquid refreshment. I was actually discussing with one of my companions the dilemma I was having. This dilemma was what topic I should choose for the focus of my doctoral dissertation. As she and I continued to discuss the problem talking about different interests and perplexing situations in the current events,  we both noticed silence from the others at our table punctuated by the occasional bark of laughter or “Check this one out.” We turned to observe our fellow occupants of the table to see one and all of them on some form of electronic device (phone, tablet, laptop) and each of them was busily typing and clicking. What?!? As we watched, we suddenly realized they were texting and sending things to each other. Was this what socializing with friends had become? They were not only in the same room, but actually at the same table completely absorbed in their devices! And thus, a dissertation was born. I won’t go into all the magnitude of research, testing, and analysis that was done. However, what I did find was that there are benefits and detriments to the electronic tethers we have fashioned for ourselves, and there are significant differences in the personalities of people who choose to socialize via their devices rather than through direct contact with their fellow humans. It was fascinating to me, and there were some considerable applications for my chosen field of psychology that came of this scientific exploration. I won’t bore my readers with the details. Instead I am going to type a bit on the subject of benefits and limitations of electronic socialization.

The miracle of technology has provided the ability to connect and communicate despite the impediment of geographic distance. Additionally, all the communication can take place in “real time” without the lengthy time delays of some of the other methods in history. The internet and mobile technology have provided an instant gratification scenario for social interaction at a distance. This has provided families separated by miles, continents, and oceans the ability to remain connected and share in the lives of their loved ones. The convenience of texts and mobile phones means that the forgotten item from the grocery list sent with your significant other need not be a problem. Crowds or loud environments need not be an obstacle to conversation. Compromised immune systems are no longer a source of complete isolation from human interaction. In short, social interaction is no longer limited to physical proximity or time-delayed methods.

The down side… Social interaction is no longer limited to physical proximity or time-delayed methods. Yep. I repeated myself, because one of the benefits of our modern technology has also provided some interesting detriments. The instantaneous conveyance of information across distances no longer provides the opportunity for thought and consideration put into responses. We don’t sit with writing implements considering all the best ways to put our thoughts and emotions into the prose on the page. In responding to correspondence, we no longer have the enforced delay of writing and mailing providing excellent opportunity to rethink what we just said and possibly take it back before sending it through the hands of postal workers to the person at the other end. Now, unfortunately, all that happens with the blink of an eye, blinding speed of fingers on keys, processing speeds of voice recognition software, and our knee-jerk reaction now wends its way towards the recipient with one click of the “Send” button. No take-backsies. There are delete buttons and even some ways that you can retrieve emails, but they don’t always have success in preventing a misstated comment from reaching the target.

Taking the immediacy into account, it is astounding the things that people are quite willing to say or do via electronic media that they might hesitate or even refrain from were they to find their communication companion in their physical presence. The relative anonymity of the internet has the dubious ability of making people extraordinarily unguarded in the things that they say to each other. Being unable to observe the consequences of what is said, people feel free to “flame,” berate, disparage, vilify, slander/libel, and humiliate the target. While it may seem silly or childish to be impacted by words appearing on an electronic screen, words can be powerful, sometimes more powerful that we expect or realize. Words have swayed populations of individuals who, though not inherently bad, were persuaded to follow leaders who advocated horrific deeds. On a singular level, the “cyber-bullying” of one young girl that took the form of a fictional relationship created to humiliate her resulted in her suicide. The impact of “friending” and “de-friending” has also been examined due to recent events receiving media attention, including a murder perpetrated by a teen on her parents who had removed her from their Facebook friends list.

Conversely, only about 20% of communication is conveyed by the words we use. That means that the rest of the 80% comes through body language, facial expression, vocal tone, and eye contact. The majority of our electronic communication and social interaction lacks the capability of translating these elements. I know. We have webcams and face time and teleconferencing software that lets you look at the people you are talking to, but it still misses some of the important nuances that are observable while sharing the same space with the person to whom you are speaking.

There have been any number of new social rules that have spawned from the misconstrued messages of the unwary. This “netiquette” as it is termed has provided some guidelines and methods of trying to add back into the text only format a bit of the nuances of in vivo communication. So, we know that all caps is yelling or putting particular influence on a word. For venues that allow it, there is also font changes that can lend mood or tone to the prose presented. There are also collections of letters that abbreviate phrases to take sting out of something that could be considered harsh. BUT… even with all the emoticons and acronyms the “interwebs” have to offer, in the end, all emotional content of a text-based communication is entirely in the head of the recipient. People forget that when they read something that someone has put into words that the tone and intent comes from the reader, not always the intended impact or emotional content of the writer.

Another adverse side effect of technology assisted socialization is how it has changed face to face social interaction. Once upon a time, I read a science fiction novel that was set on a planet where all the inhabitants wore masks. To not wear a mask was the equivalent of going naked in public. The upshot to this cultural evolution was that society at large had lost the ability to read facial expression or even to guard their own expressions. For outsiders, lying was incredibly easy, because no one had the ability to read microexpressions or sense dissembling. This seems to be part of the problem with our modern obsession with technological social interaction. People have lost their powers of observation. They fail to see discomfort, offense, interest, and pain. They also fail to measure and moderate their own physical (facial and body language) responses. In short, people appear to have forgotten how to be civil and have lost any sense of good manners. For all the “netiquette” that has been designed, we seem to have lost the etiquette of good manners.

From all of this, you may get the impression that I am anti-technology. That is not accurate. I truly believe that the advances we have made in technology have been and will be incredible for communication, keeping in touch with family and friends, commerce and business, and for the medical and therapy fields. The opportunities are enormous for geographically or physically isolated individuals to receive services previously unavailable. Thoughts and ideas shared across a wider expanse of people and geography has the benefit of spreading understanding and letting individuals separated by continents walk in the virtual shoes of their fellow human. Aside from that, it is just more convenient and downright fun to be able to text, talk, Facebook, etc. from wherever you happen to be and whatever you happen to be doing. I love feeling that I am sharing experiences with my loved ones who are many miles away. So, I would be the last person to toss the baby out with the bathwater. I do like my tech. You are reading my ‘blog, of course. As with anything, moderation appears to be the key.

So, all that said… things to remember:

  • Moderate your electronic socialization with actual face to face socialization when possible.
  • Try to take a break from your phone and/or computer for a couple of waking hours during every 24 hour cycle (they don’t necessarily have to be sequential hours).
  • Try an “off the grid” day or even a weekend, where you do not use any technology.
  • When engaging in face to face socialization, pay attention to the people, not the gadgets.
  • Remember that what you type has power and potentially greater longevity than the words spoken aloud (minus recording equipment).
  • Remember that anything you put out there on the internet has the potential of reaching an audience you never intended and may be out there for review for a long, long… long time.
  • The emotion you read into a text, post, email, etc. may not be what the writer intended.
  • Before responding to any electronic communication, take a moment to engage in some thought and consider how what you choose to put into words might be interpreted and whether the emotional response from any reader would be precisely what you were hoping to gain.

The internet and other electronic methods of engagement are tools for  social interaction. Remember that. Be wary of allowing these tools to become the primary interaction partners in your life instead of the humans who are your fellow inhabitants of the planet. And now we return you to your regularly scheduled texting, instant messaging, posting, and tweeting.

Stone Soup is a comic by Jan Eliot. For more http://www.gocomics.com/stonesoup/

Hi-jacked In to technology

Life Before Computers

This is the way the world ends and the machines take over.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I need a complete intervention and detoxification from the technology of our society. However, I fear the damage is already done and irreversible. Not that I have gone completely Borg or anything. I’m still pretty old school, enough to the point that I still have a wall calendar and a desk planner. It hurts me a little, tiny bit to kill trees for these small reminders of being mere mortal and human, but there it is. In many other ways, I have become so completely integrated with the electronics in my life that I fail to notice how dependent I have become.

This blatantly terrifies me, by the way. It isn’t that I believe we are destined to become jacked into a virtual reality meant to absorb our neural energy for the powering of our electronic overlords, society beholden to and at the mercy of Skynet, a collective of cyborg beings assimilating other species to enhance our own, helplessly clinical and isolated from normal human experience by extreme fear of contagion or violence, or a cowering mass of biological beings unable to be trusted with their own safety and must have robotic overlords adhering to the three laws (Extra points for any of you who caught all the references). I’m not quite sold on the apocalyptic futures painted in science fiction (though I have to admit that Phillip K. Dicks actually spooks me a bit). I’m just completely appalled that my brain has gone soft and squishy in my dependence on the tools we have been provided to make life easier and more efficient, resulting in my brain’s inability to remember or think for itself, it seems.

Once upon a time (in truth, it doesn’t seem all that long ago), I think I had a pretty phenomenal recall ability, especially when it came to numbers; but in general, I could remember almost anything I saw, and definitely anything I heard. I have been known to freak people out, be called a “walking phone book”, encouraged to apply for a spot on Jeopardy, be considered an encyclopedia of worthless facts, and to never forget special days (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.). I never had to write something down. I never forgot appointments. It came in pretty handy. I always knew any phone digits I needed to call, and I was a whiz at games like Simon where long patterns had to be recalled. It was useful in school, too, but the older I got, the less rote memorization was required and critical thinking was allegedly encouraged (I have my doubts on that, but THAT would be a topic for another day). The point is, I never developed the skills or mnemonic techniques to serve as backup or trigger recall.

Now, I haven’t a clue what day of the week, time of the day, what I’ve eaten, IF I’ve eaten, or what my name is on any given day. It is a pathetic travesty of the once impressive memory that resided somewhere (so neurobiologists suspect) within my temporal lobes and hippocampus. If I do not have my collection of electronic babysitters around me to tell me what time it is, when I have an appointment, and social media to remind me it is someone’s birthday, I’m libel to just run around perpetually clueless and miss anything and everything of importance.

I heard someone say that all of these labor saving and efficiency improving devices free up our brain from the tedium of every day existence so that we can ponder the more significant philosophical and deeper meanings of our purpose and development of human kind upon the planet. Um… BAH!!! Who knew that Angry Birds and Candy Crush were such lofty concepts. I’ve got any number of silicon chipped helpers dancing around trying to tell me everything from my next appointment to my next bathroom break and my mind is still chasing itself in circles, unable to properly focus on anything of importance. I refer to this as “the shiny squirrels that dance in my office to distract me.” The other occupation of my mind is usually frantic, scrambling panic that I have forgotten something important and assuming that my electronic guardians have maliciously mislaid the appointment slip, event reminder, or outlook calendar item.

Today was the classic example. The schedule was completely packed, and by this, I mean truly packed to the point I think I scheduled a bathroom break sometime tonight before bed… and that was as soon as I could squeeze it in (see what I did there?). Somewhere between meeting number three and conference call number eight, I looked at the calendar to see the fast approach of February on the horizon. My poor temporal lobes that sadly believe they still hold some sway in my life triggered the anxiety reflex that indicated there was something important I’d forgotten. This time, I was pretty certain it was a medical appointment . “Quick, look at your electronic pacifier to see when that appointment is!!!” And obeying the original overlords of my neuroticism, I checked my “smart phone” calendar. In a side note, apparently the phones are getting smarter and conversely I appear to be losing intellect daily. So, checking my appendage, I find that there are no appointments on the calendar for the next month. My natural distrust of the machines reared its head, and I began to panic, assuming the phone had eaten the appointment and I hadn’t the first clue when the appointment might be. I found an old, lint-encrusted appointment card from last year with the office number, and shamefully called the number, ready to throw myself on the mercy of the receptionist who would probably know what an idiot I had been.

The extraordinarily kind lady on the other end of the line did not ridicule me for being clueless. She verified my identity as per federal law, and politely informed me that contrary to my mistaken assumptions, my appointment was not until the following month. She really was very sweet as she slowly and clearly gave me the date and time. Thankfully, due to the nature of this particular doctor’s office, they are used to people having cognitive lapses (chemo brain) and take it all in stride. Bless all beneficent forces that allowed the exchange to be telephonic so that my mortification and blushing shame were invisible to my conversational companion. After hanging up, I went back to my technological tether, and sure enough, there was the appointment, all safe and sound. It was my brain that failed on this occasion, not the technology.

Perhaps, it isn’t so far-fetched that we, as humans, become completely dependent on the faster processing, greater logic, and tighter precision of the mechanical and technological tools of our society. Perhaps we are not so good on our own. However, to avoid the inevitable atrophy of my brain, I will endeavor to keep my mental faculties sharp and clear by exposure to knowledge and practice of intellectual exercise. To that end, I should go find one of those websites that claims to exercise the brain using games (instead of using the brain on the normal activities of life to keep it sharp). So glad that my adherence to electronics is freeing up my mind for the more important facets of life! Ironic that the electronics that free us from the mundane cognitive functions have fostered the dependency further to technology to sharpen the wits that we should be exercising on deeper thoughts, complex theories, higher functions, and personal principles. Thank heavens for the humor that allows us to laugh at our foibles and appreciate the ridiculousness of using technology based stimuli to undo the intellectual lassitude encouraged by same.