Friday, May 7, 2010

New technology

I’m not a huge fan of technology.

Well, that’s not true. I love technology. I’ve watched, even participated, in awe over my lifetime as it’s changed our very existence on this planet. For the better, I have to believe. No, I do believe.

So okay, technology is fine.

It’s figuring it out I’m not crazy about.

Because all too often, I can’t.

But nonetheless, last week I decided to take the plunge into G3-land. A new cell phone. A “smart” phone. One that may well be smarter than me. Even though I have a Ph.D. But that degree is from the 80s. And it is now a new millennium.

My old cell phone was also of this millennium. It was an LG “Dare”—as in, I dare you to use me to my full potential. It won that bet, hands down. I used it as a phone—easy enough—and eventually I got quite enamored of texting as well. The camera was good, and my friend Ruthanne in Boston and I would occasionally share photos out of the blue. (The best was on my last day in China two years ago, thirty-four floors above Shanghai: the shrill beep-beep-beep of a text message waking me to deep dark night. I fumbled for the phone, and up popped a bucolic scene of emerald green grass framed by a white picket fence, golden dandelions fluttering in the sunny breeze. “In Vermont: thinking of you,” read the text. Later that morning, in the back of the minivan on a clogged gray highway inching toward the airport, I turned and snapped a photo of the bunched cars behind us, and sent that off to Vermont.)

Although with the Dare I had the possibility (I dare you) of the internet, and email, and all that froofraw, all I really wanted was a phone. I got a fancy one for the camera—and because I like having the best. But I didn’t want to pay for the “frills.” So Just a Phone it stayed.

Since then, I’ve watched friends manipulate their iPhones, Palms, Blackberrys to conjure up pertinent information, fun facts, new leads, places to go, things to do—and felt, yes, pangs of envy. “Via Facebook for iPhone”: you’re sitting in a movie theater, waiting for the show to start, and oh—I can let everybody I know know that I’m, yes, sitting in a movie theater, waiting for the show to start!

I rather doubt that I’ll do that, but now . . . I can. It’s a new lease on life.


So today, David and I are on our way to do some geocaching—five or six spots in Rip Van Winkle Park, Pacific Grove, plus one or two at Asilomar. We’ve just come from Verizon, where I got my phone activated and all my contacts transferred from “I Dare You” to “Incredible” (so much friendlier), and have decided to stop for a cup of coffee while we download a geocaching app or two, to test these babies out. (David got a new phone too—his first cell phone.) I decide on CacheMate ($8), whereas David goes for GeoBeagle (free). (There’s a theme here, but I’ll save that for another posting.) While I’m struggling to input all the data necessary to make my purchase—my fingers feel so cumbersome—David says, nonchalantly: “Hey, a cache was placed just today. And it’s only 167 feet from here.”

One hundred sixty-seven feet? Placed today?

“Finish that cappuccino,” I say. “We’re gonna get us a first-to-find!”

The last time—the only time—we got a first-to-find was a fluke: it happened to have been planted the day the weekly update arrived on my computer; and it happened to be a quarter mile away from our house. But this—167 feet? And we learn about it thanks to our droid? How much more serendipitous does it get? This was meant to be!

I dash to the car to get the GPS—since we haven’t gotten quite so far as to be able to use our phones as homing devices. We then head a short way up the street—a parking lot away—to a sparse stand of three struggling eucalyptus trees. And there, tied to a branch with fishing line, is our quarry: a seed that is not a seed: Corymbia ficifolia (was Eucalyptus until 1995, I’ve just learned—those taxonomers . . .)

If I’d been on my toes, I would have published our FTF then and there, but I waited until I got home to my computer—when what did I discover, but a posting by another geocacher (from his cell phone, of course) saying that he was second-to-find, which “isn’t too shabby.”

No, not shabby at all. And now I'm a little less shabby myself. If I can grasp the use of this new incredibleness I've harnessed, I might be making a few more FTF's.

At the very least, I'll be showing this new phone that it’s not smarter than me.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A new year, a new list, a new recipe

2010. Maybe because it’s halfway between the turn of the millennium (historically momentous) and 2020 (if not momentous, at least mumerically cool), I am feeling a different energy this year, in the air, in my intentions, in the very few resolutions I actually made. One resolution was: READ MAGAZINES, MAKE NOTES, GET RID OF MAGAZINES—WITHIN ONE WEEK. Another was: DRINK WATER. The intentions, by contrast, were things like BE DECISIVE, BE GRATEFUL, SAY YES, CELEBRATE, CONNECT, PAY ATTENTION. And because intentions without actions are meaningless, I have been “acting” in a sense: by making lists. That, I guess, is the “pay attention” part of my gallery of intentions.

Let me just say, before I get going here: I am not a list maker.

I lead such an unstructured life it’s silly.

And to me, lists mean structure. And so they are scary.

Yet these past two days (I am so on a roll), the structure I feel from my lists has made me feel, not scared, but—dare I say—in control. Not of my life, I won’t go that far. But of something that my life, my happiness, my well-being, depend on.

And today, a day when I crossed almost everything off my list (MEDITATE keeps managing to elude me), I am feeling powerful. Like I can do anything.

Okay, okay, maybe not anything. But at least I know I can straighten up the house (isolated corners of it, but that’s a start); I can, in the process of straightening up, find an important bit of information gone lost, in this case a piece of paper that will allow me to make plans for a frigid weekend in Yellowstone come February (very happy to check that one off the list, because I wasn’t looking forward to reconstructing it); I can get my Search & Rescue gear in order, so that now I am poised for a call-out (and so one will come, right?); and I can go through my closet to cull clothes and shoes that, as much as I once liked them, I know I will never wear again and so are now destined for Goodwill.

Oh, and here’s the big one: I can cook. I can!

The truth is, I enjoy cooking. Once or twice a year. At least, that’s the story I tell myself. Lately, though, I’ve had the hankering—for a stew, a soup, something simmering all day in the crockpot. A mélange of ingredients and spices, tastes and smells. The other day I was going through the magazine Real Simple (remember that resolution I mentioned?) and found a couple of recipes. One was for chicken stew with peppers, olives, and golden raisins. I tore it out. And last Thursday I entered it on my list for the week; and today, for the day.

And with the sweet intention of making dinner tonight, I took some time this afternoon to visit the market and buy chicken thighs (skinned, boneless), chicken broth (low sodium), kalamata olives (pitted), and red and green bell peppers. And then, a few hours later, I put on my reading glasses and got to work.

Although the recipe specified 30 minutes for preparation, 1 hour for cooking, my approach has never been to prepare, then cook. I wrestle with the ingredients as I go along. Which meant there was some down time (while I wrestled with peppers), so all in all the recipe took closer to 2 hours. And so: I’m about to add a new intention to my list: PREPARE, THEN DO. I can use the reminder, in various areas of my life.

As for cooking, since I already have one recipe ticked off, maybe this momentous year will see more than just two under my belt. Well, in fact, it’s a given. Because this year I have a separate little list: 55 things I want to accomplish before my next birthday, December 4, 2010. And on it are #6: BAKE BREAD and #42: MAKE CASSOULET and (how did this get on there?) #32: DINNER PARTY (though David can be in charge of that; I will sous-chef, something I’m very, very good at). Oh and #46: MAKE RECIPES FROM 5 LITTLE-USED COOKBOOKS. Seven or so cooking events for the year? I might manage to do that.

But I will need to put them on a list or two, or seven. Or more.

I’m kinda looking forward to 2010. I am sensing movement.