Posts Tagged ‘needs’

Materialism Trio

1 March 2011

Dear J-

I’m thinking of all the gadgets I could consolidate with a smartphone that actually does everything I need it to — camera, writing, music, and phone — and I’m beginning to think that I’m a fool for not moving faster for one. This is an easy thing, after all. If you find a need, fill it and the several thousand devices I do end up carrying around fill specific needs very well but not a generalist role, and the prices have come down to reasonable levels — the penalty for a prepaid service plan smartphone is acceptable now that Virgin Mobile has the Optimus V out as an alternative to the Intercept. All i need to do now is verify that Android has a Bluetooth HID stack present and my writing needs will be met.

There’s some things that are very wrong with the bike too — I don’t believe that throwing the chain as often as it does is acceptable, but a roller guide will have to wait for a new bottom bracket and crankset, as once again, I’ve never had a bike with components that fall apart quite so easily (the rear derallieur and cassette are also shot but one thing at a time, and the audible eccentric clunk from the bottom bracket comes first). At this point I’m contemplating the upgrade to something with hub gears and no suspension, so frustrated am I with the current mess for everything south of the pedals. It’s almost cheaper to start over again and hope for better luck with a more rugged bike now that I’m embracing my old slow guy philosophy (it’s commuting, not racing, and I’m not competing with everyone who beats me up the hill).

Gas is fast approaching four dollars a gallon around here, which would put my daily commute savings at roughly $1.50 (figure around 20 MPG in the city, seven miles round-trip to the vanpool spot — if you want to count overall cost we’re getting low-20s on gas in the van but that’s a hundred miles a day, five gallons per day is $20 split four or five ways depending on how full we are for the day). It’s really not much when you consider how much more effort it is to ride, but if I was in it for the money alone I’m doing a really poor job at making it. It’s not bad, though, and would pay for a thousand-dollar bike (not that I’m looking) over two solid years assuming no further costs. Then again it’s not about the money, right?

Mike

Advertisement

Battle Money

19 January 2010

Dear J-

Every so often I go through and clean out the camera that usually sits in the bottom of my purse satchel. I’ve been carrying it around for at least three years now and I’ve managed to take only a handful of pictures with it, really; the same thing happened with the Olympus 35RC I carried around in my old backpack; I managed to run maybe one or two rolls of film through before I got sidetracked into a video game habit. I tend to overcollect; there are games on the shelf that haven’t been collected, just as there are cameras and lenses which haven’t imaged scenes for years now (I’m looking at you, Nikkor-NC 35/1.4).

I suppose I feel a need to prepare for the unexpected, no matter how unlikely. I spent the last couple of weeks mulling over various portable photographic options, convinced that I had enough room to throw together a flat-topped SLR, like a Pen or GF1 hasn’t got my name on it in the eventual future. Throughout elementary school I saved bandage tins (when they came in tins) and armed with a basic knowledge and my usual pack-rat habits, would squirrel away random bits of aluminum foil, matchbooks, stale candy, and analgesics as a survival kit. After all, you never knew when it would come in handy, and wouldn’t that be a feather in my cap, to have that on hand?

The mind tends to invent the need for things you don’t need; I’ve been throwing around different lenses in my head because of a perceived need for missing focal lengths, for instance, or that I may run out of things to watch or play. When it comes down to it I can’t predict the future, and I sure can’t ensure that I’ll always have the right tool or survival kit at hand. Right now it’s not hard to drive those feelings down by asking the easy question of how often I’m actually going to use it, but I can’t count on it forever; the paean to materialism isn’t the most uplifting message, but understanding it is half the battle, really.

Mike

Phone Rings

9 December 2009

Dear J-

The amount of time we spend on each other isn’t supposed to be an afterthought; at the moment we’re pretty content, but how would our time needs increase with multiple kids?  Eventually we’ll be back to two again, theVet and me, unbelievable as it seems, and knowing who we were before, will that be enough to build a life after?  Me, for instance, I seem to have inherited the worst parts of my parents’ temper, being alternately passive and aggressive, prone to screaming fits and icy bouts of silence; how far do I go past those realizations to conquer them?

If there is a hierarchy of communication, the top layer is filled  with personal interaction:  in the same room, it’s hard to hide your eyes and body language, gestures are easily read.  Lose those and you’re in the telephone-zone, compensated by near-instantaneous contact and enough voice versimilitude that you can play them as movies in your head.  Bringing up the rear are your written communcations, whose speed may be aided by technology or not; the longer it takes, generally, the more deliberate the words.  You and I, J-, for instance, all these unsent letters and incomplete thoughts led astray by simple wind at times.

I am an incredibly poor communicator when I don’t have the luxury of nonverbal cues to inform me of attitude and nuance; every last moment without figgy tells me how much I miss her — one of theVet and my favorite pastimes is repeating   particularly turned phrases coming out of her two-point-five-year-old mind, and that alone should tell me how often our parents miss us:  not once a week when we call, not once every holday when we visit.  In other words, all the time, every day.  And regardless of how humble the communication, it’s better than maddening silence echoing hollow in your head.

Mike

Yellow Cheese

26 July 2009

Dear J-

We remind ourselves that the places we go are not based on what we want, but we still end up dragging figgy away (occasionally screaming, today) from various places when it’s clear that the obsessive, repetitive nature of a toddler’s mind demands trying that ride, watching those penguins one more time when there’s something else waiting around the corner, other shows to see. Most of our enigmas revolve around deciphering precisely what she wants — it’s clear she wants something, but not always clear what it may be.

Penguin Whisperer 4937 -sm

Today at breakfast, charming as ever, she leaned over and babbled something to the waitress, who listened attentively and then turned to us with a puzzled look. We exchanged laughs, convinced that figgy was just excited to be in the high chair, and yet this morning I woke up to near-complete sentences. “Daddy I want crabby” (this, a bedtime toy); after getting up, “I want cheese. YELLOW cheese,” after I started to pull the wrong cheese stick out of the package. Every week I prove myself wrong, thinking this one’s the best yet.

Mike

Stingy Phone

6 April 2009

Dear J-

Dreaming a bit here — trying to marry my stinginess with technology — makes me wonder if I’ll ever be able to reconcile my so-cheap cell phone service (Virgin Mobile) with desired features (a handset that doesn’t have a bullet list straight out of 2005).  We’re getting closer, but it’s going to take a small miracle in technical ability — or monetary means — to find the right mix.

You want to be able to do so much with the phone, right — there’s that lovely word convergence again — but ask for too much and you become paranoid about taking it out to show off.  Me, I’ll settle for something that reduces the number of battery-powered gadgets in my bag:  phone, camera, music player, PDA, game machine; it doesn’t have to do everything well, it just has to be able to do the things I need.  Of course, I suspect it’s a fool’s chase, and I’ll no doubt end up hoping for the next big thing.

It gets back to how much you need and how much you want.  Things are fine as they are; it would be nice to go on-line to grab e-mail and web sites away from a computer, but there’s no burning need to do so.  I don’t text message enough to justify a full keyboard, and my portable camera, humble as it is, is plenty adequate for my needs (there I suspect it’s a question of getting used to how it works).  Once the justification phase starts, that’s when I get in trouble with money, though.

Mike

Phone Jones

1 December 2008

Dear J-

At some point you end up upgrading your cell phone not because you need to, but because you want to.  We had a lively discussion on the various merits of different plans; suffice it to say that we’re on a service (Virgin Mobile) that isn’t necessarily the finest, or the most age-appropriate (the automated customer service voice menu grates on your ear), but does represent a good value; we paid a little more for phone hardware, but have recouped it (and a bit more) with the low service fees.  I wonder, though, if we don’t use the phones much because they’re so limited, connectivity and feature-wise, or if we’ve just developed the habit of not using phones much any more.

Witness, for instance, our lack of friends, and the complete and utter lack of importance (chances are that if you need to get one of us, someone will be at home).  We’re not mighty road warriors who need to, say, get instant directions or look up a restaurant’s phone number.  But maybe if we could, we would browse the web, right?  We don’t need something better, I just feel like we do.  The issue is that getting something more capable implies a need for something more capable, which may not be correct.

For instance, I’d like to have something that syncs with the address book on the computer, so I don’t have to keep manually adding and deleting entries in several different places.  A camera — a decent camera — might be nice once in a while.  It’s leading me to explore the idea of getting either something that’s unlocked and free to be used with a major-GSM-carrier prepaid SIM card, or to see what Verizon has available as their prepaid rates, now that they’ll support any clean CDMA phone on their network.  I continue to find myself amazed at the things this little Palm can do, and how responsive it is for being a derided, obsolescent operating system; Treos are plentiful and cheap, too.

Mike

Big Q

7 September 2008

Dear J-

We went to a barbecue on the beach today; the invite said from nine to one, so we went out to breakfast first, then over to Fiesta Island for the picnic, showing up, even with getting lost, around ten.  We failed to count on allotting time for figgy’s usual mid-morning nap, but figured that the stimulation of sand, sun, and dogs would be able to hold her interest until we could get a little food into us and we’d be on our way.  The hours dragged on and soon we found ourselves listening to her crankily declaim her deep and abiding desire for a nap, as well as denouncing the parents who apparently stood between her and that goal.

One of the milestones in growing up I think is learning that things you consider important aren’t necessarily of interest to the group — not everything, of course, but you learn to edit down your requests by taking care of the things you’re responsible for, and then stepping up and asking for a hand when you need it, or you feel there’d be a net benefit resulting from it.  Ergo, we went home, stopped by Taco Bell, and filled up on cheap American interpretations of faux-Mex (it generally involves a lot of melted cheese).  And figgy, deprived of any other reasons (so many dogs!  so exciting!  so sunny!  so many crackers to eat!) to fight off the nap any longer, dropped off during the car ride — so deeply, in fact, that she failed to wake up when I extracted her from the car seat, something that reliably wakes her most times.

So I wonder what lessons politics have to offer here.  Given that both parties espouse the same policies (why yes, we can satisfy your special interest) while diverging on a few, truly minor wedge issues.  Big government ultimately has an interest only in perpetuating big government, so we end up over-regulated and stretched thin as interchangeable resource units.  I can’t quite make up my mind whether it’s better to speak up (for everything, then becoming the boy who cried wolf too often) or to advocate greater personal freedoms (trusting folks to do the right thing presupposes an idealistic belief in personal responsibility).

Mike