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As the pandemic's shroud fell over the U.S. in mid-March 2020, my wife just fortuitously enough happened to have started a new exercise program online – something called “Peloton”. With the “stay at home” orders and much more coming into effect, and a lot of our work/school immediately going virtual, working out at home all of a sudden became a real family activity. The pandemic accelerated our entire family participating in these Peloton online workouts, with all of us regularly doing yoga – driving a significant interest in health & wellness from our 11 year old boy/girl twins. We exercised so frequently that my children started clamoring to purchase the Peloton Bike – with its rather massive cost, my wife suggested that the children put together a Powerpoint presentation/business case, outlining the ROI of purchasing such an item. Unbeknownst to them, we had already purchased one – but their presentation sealed the deal! The skill of performing online research, putting together slides and (most terrifyingly for my daughter) having to present to her father made for a great experience for all. Much of our kids' research was conducted on laptops that they had to purchase as virtual schooling started. In the early days of the pandemic, I decided that the family would need a non-stop stream of entertainment, and moreover found that there was a treasure trove of items online, so quickly became my family's “Arts & Culture” Department. I scoured the Net for activities that the family could partake in, while exposing them to the performing arts. We started with a screening of the original Broadway musical “CATS” (Andrew Lloyd Webber version) which my kids weren't too fond of. I then found a performance of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, as my kids had never seen/heard a classical music concert before. Our daughter is fond of singing, so we enrolled her in a virtual Met Opera camp - and wound up watching 1 or 2 Met Opera performances. In-general, I did anything to expose the kids to various forms of the arts, while also being somewhat entertaining and rather different from the usual “NetFlix/movie night” that many fell into. This worked for quite some time – though not without consternation from my kids, who began to tire of the random series of events I'd have planned for us to experience (all of which I would then donate to online – as these artists would be posting their work online gratis since all live performances were cancelled). My wife played along to my whole shtick and served as a cheerleader. We also realized that technology had changed the paradigm for summer camps– we had no need to only look at Dallas-based camps for our kids, my wife told me. And that's all she needed to say. Beyond the Met Opera camp (which was based out of NYC), our son participated in a basketball camp with the NBA's Orlando Magic, having assistant coaches in Florida berate him over Zoom as he did pushups in our driveway at 6am! My daughter learned all types of arts & crafts from curio store vendors in San Francisco. My niece started a virtual cooking class from her home in New Jersey that our kids participated in. The highlight for me personally was when my wife & I joined a group of folks on Facebook Live to follow a Parisian baker – on Bastille Day – as she (and we) made corn brioche. As all this was occurring, I remained locked-down in our closet – literally! My days of travelling around the U.S. for work had stopped, and our master bath closet was the only place I could work where I wouldn't disrupt my virtual schooling kids, or my physician wife (who was now big into telemed in the home office). I realized the power of the Internet when I posted a picture on LinkedIn of working from my closet (using our ironing table as a desk and my sock drawer as my laptop area) which elicited over 10,000 views. Plato famously stated that “Necessity is the mother of invention” – and since we had to stay indoors, we worked to dramatically reinvent ourselves – with technology. From virtual exercising to arts & culture to global experiences to working from the closet – the pandemic for us has led to a greater familial happiness and togetherness that we didn't have pre-COVID. To underline this, our daughter told us her birthday (in Apr 2020) was the “best birthday ever”. How did we accomplish this, you ask, in the midst of a global pandemic and pre-vaccine availability? With technology! Sure, my wife & I had decorated the house – but we also coordinated 3 Zoom meetings with family, that totaled nearly 200 attendees from 5 countries. She also spent her birthday on rotating FaceTime/Houseparty calls with a series of friends, getting 1:1 time with each. So much has been written about the negative impacts of technology (especially over the past 12-18 months) – but as you can see from our family's experiences, there are a myriad of ways that technology can bring happiness, even in such an uncertain time.
What a bliss is this Quarantine! Where the days smoothly pass amidst the undecided culture of following a routine, where the bright and clear mornings no more invite a man's engine to hustle betwixt the race of transportation and time in order to reach his destined workplace; a quarantine, where there is a lessening worry for morrow and a diminished criteria to borrow what a man has been dwelling upon so far, an another man's company, assistance and bodily affection for now one has learned to welcome ‘social distancing' with open arms and dearly kissed his ‘self-isolation'. A tint of wonder reflects in those thirsty eyes when they instinctively gaze at the sky that has never been as pollution free as it seems during the current pandemic. Various planned and expensive attempts to procure the fresh water of river Ganges never succeeded inspite all possible human efforts, for all it silently asked the humans was to truly respect the aspect of their holy river; all it ever wanted was to replenish in its own natural way while humans were busy in decorating it with their religious and industrial activities. The undisturbed marine habitat has provided a perfect condition for olive ridley turtles to lay eggs in Odisha's beach. With the factories and industries being shut, with the large number of vehicles being parked outside the respective owner's home and with the minimal artificial interference in the nature, birds and animals are fortunately tasting the syrup of freedom. Sparrows have returned in the verandas, peacocks are again rejoicing with their wide feathers on a rainy day and a Malabar civet, which is a critically endangered animal, was spotted walking on the road in Kerala. Does it not feels like an unprescribed duration of undeserved holidays, where one can casually find their precious selves inclined towards the unread books, that they have always wanted to lay hands on, just to recite the favourite paragraphs to their parents before bed. Those awaited head-massage therapies in grandmother's lap, that never got fulfilled due to lack of time or the entire family playing the board games around the centre table now no more seem to be a mere dream. It is now, the time to unravel those folded sheets of paper in which the roughly crafted sketch of a ‘happy family' was swiftly drawn in order to someday be painted on the canvas. It is the hour to try the recipe of those favourite dishes that have always been tasted with friends in those hyped cafes of the city or treating the family with a handmade ‘blueberry cheesecake', until our dear siblings finally utter in disagreement complaining about its weird taste, suitable to but only your own self. It is that precious time in life when the family values are being rediscovered. Not only a sense of reconnection is overlapping the dead ideas confined to the separate rooms of family members but an essence of sharing the household tasks and a deeper level of discussions are taking place, that are playing a major role in enhancing the bond. Most of the time is being spent together by laying back comfortably on sofas, all the heads being turned in the same direction and keenly watching the most indulging series on Netflix or rediscovering the cultural values by watching Ramayana and Mahabharata episodes. It appears like all the so called ‘generation gap' imbibed within our minds, that has been pretended to exist since the day mobile phones took the place of a companion, never really subsisted in the real sense. A busy life it has been, has it not? All the chances that individuals have strived to grab on their professional sphere, the possibilities of aiming to reach infinite goals that have kept the souls awake during the endless nights and the unwanted stress that has always hung with pride on the exhausted shoulders, can humans dare to put it at halt, all at once? Maybe it would not cost a lifetime to once sit and appreciate the beauty of solitude and observe the clear skyline filled with stars instead of desperately aiming towards becoming one. Maybe it is recommendable to press that pause button imbibed on the body's functioning system and cease to treat life like a race and relationships, like they are losing the real trace. Therefore, so close lies this opportunity that one never imagined to be a part of but also the one you can make the most of, just by being who you have since a long time have ceased to be. Covid'19 has brought a serious thrill of insanity in human lives and nature in a form of role reversal, such that it has caged the rational beings, limiting them to their comfort zone, confined to the walls of their home. Nature has finally been granted a precious time to rejuvenate, which has brought animals back to their natural habitat and given them a chance to breathe.
The sudden snap of loneliness seems to leech the very warmth out of the air. With a silence louder than the genial laughter and chatter that blasted through my laptop speakers mere seconds ago, it creeps back in, reacquints itself with the corners of my living room and settles. I make a mental note to call a friend later, chase it away again albeit only for a short while. Sighing heavily, I sink into the cushions of my sofa, the overly familiar feel of foam squares yielding to my weight. The laptop still rests precariously on my crossed legs -my ever attentive ally against confinement-induced insanity. My faithful assistant in study and work, my communication portal to the world outside my little apartment. A lifeline and a curse. For months now, all I've had to show for a life once lived has been stretched across thirteen inches of pixelated nothingness. Technology is a wonderful thing but even this apex of modern human endeavour cannot replicate the hug of a relative, the playful shove of a friend or the kiss of a lover. And for me, an island to myself without a house full of people who would turn out to be strangers after months of finally learning about one another, the absence is so sharp it cuts me to the quick. Yet . . . It's not enough. A call, a Zoom date, letters flitting across a screen. If anything, the much-lauded tool for connection only serves to amplify the distance it supposedly breaches. Phone calls ring hollow, video ones glitch and shudder, always leaving the participants a beat out of sync with each other and messages require the use of emojis to feel any shade less impersonal. And still, despite this, each attempt at communication only delivers the shadow of company. Only now, in the midst of a nationwide lockdown do I realise the wraith-like quality of our modern communication forms. Only now that I have no human contact do I distinguish between the virtual and the real and just how precious the latter is. How, in our fast-paced lives we take for granted the ability to co-exist in shared time and space. A tad melodramatic? Perhaps. Quarantine has not been kind to my penchant for overthinking. But the longer I sit here, smothered in my couch and eager to head out for food supplies if only to be within greeting range of another human being, I find myself coming to the same conclusion. When did we merge the personal with the artificial? When did the organic mesh with the mechanical to such an extent that pre-Pandemic us, us ungrateful techno-abusers would feed our addiction even in the presence of other living, breathing, feeling people. Phones had become a fixture, perhaps even a third party participant in every interaction. And now they take center stage, fully commanding the space they once peripherally occupied. I place the device aside, getting up to stretch my limbs and pace about the little space for the umpteenth time. I've never been a particularly outdoors-y person. But the urge to frolic amongst variable shades of green or to sleep beneath an open, star-flecked sky has been gnawing at my conscience for weeks now. I wonder why it took a dramatic roll of fate's dice to bring out such strange longing. Why it took the world to shut down for the true appreciation of such simple wonders to be appreciated once more. When did we become content with so little? When did once-in-a-lifetime moments become opportunities for snap shots and videos, archiving the occurence at the expense of full experience? How did squares of metal manage to enchant us so to maintain our undivided attention for hours at a time? I mentally chide myself, stern resolve determing a course of life that will actually be living once I'm set free from this box. I know it will not last. Once the calamity is lifted and earth's rotation reset again, things will go back to how they were before, within a more broken world. After all . . . We've become accustomed to our glass boxes and technological self-quarantine. The former most do not even notice. The latter is one I doubt most would mind maintaining. Sighing, I retrieve my phone from my pocket and head back to the sofa.
Continuing the process of creating folders and organizing my photos, first on my phone and now on my laptop. I think because it is much easier to do on my phone perhaps I'll just continue to do it there and then delete all photos from my Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus from my laptop before copying all folders to the laptop again. That would make a cleaner set of files and make it easier to find a particular photo. But for now the photos on the laptop will remain as they are: around 90 folders and 8,900 unsorted photos. On my phone I can select and move several hundred photos at a time. On my laptop I can only select and move a few single photos at a time, attempts to do more result in unintentional copies being created, adding time needed to delete those. I have 8,163 photos left on my phone to organize. Once I'm caught up with sorting I'll continue the process, updating the laptop every month or so. In my photo here, can you spot the flying bee?
Today I spent much of the morning copying the photos from my phone to my laptop. At first I was frustrated 😞 because I couldn't connect to my laptop. My laptop Windows was not recognizing my phone, it kept saying disconnect and try again. Turns out that I was using a bad cable. Once I figured that out I got my cable from my car finally got connected. Almost, but not all selected photos copied. I'll have to probably use Bluetooth to transfer those few that failed to copy. I'll cut this short because I'm really tired and need to work on getting to sleep at a regular time. I was out in a torrential rain Friday.
Today I continued my task of organizing my photos on my phone. If you remember about a week ago I had more than 17,000 photos in my internal memory, and I have been moving them into folders on the sd card. I now have somewhere around 9,150 remaining in the internal memory. I'm almost ready to call it good for the next 7 to 8 thousand photos! Just kidding! It's been too much work to not keep them organized as I go.
It was the first summer that I was here in Ashland when I still enjoyed an innocent and unbounded hope about the future, which since then has given way to a far more pragmatic sense of qualified optimism. I was taking math classes at SOU, my son was not yet born, and I took a certain joy in doing my calculus homework in the evening, after my wife and infant daughter were already sleeping, at the few late-night haunts in town with a decent kitchen staff and after-hours menu. That night, I was at Harvey's with a cheeseburger and fries, nursing a cider, and working out integrals per a worksheet of common transformations, in longhand on graph paper. I happened to overhear an exchange between the bartender and a slightly-drunk, eager beer-drinker who had just arrived from a show that had just finished down the street at Standing Stone Brewery. Bartender: What can I get you? Customer: I'll have a tap beer, whatever you got in an IPA. Bartender: Sure thing. Where ya comin' from? Customer: I just saw the Brothers Reed over at Standing Stone. They just finished up. Bartender: Cool, you know, I've heard about those guys but I've never seen them play. How was the show? Customer: [Blank stare]. They're very popular. I met a retired professor from Berkley at a holiday party earlier this month. It came up in our conversation that he hastened his retirement (only slightly, he was quick to clarify) in part because his students would no longer visit him during his office hours; instead, they sent him text messages, wondering how soon he would be able to post a PDF of the minutes from his latest lecture to the class forum on the university intranet. Human interaction has quickly become a side-product, a hassle, a sort of if-I-must technicality of last resort. He felt less connected to his students quite generally, and also felt the pressure to make way for faculty that had more facility with that stuff: presumably email, and text messages, and online form-filling. He mentioned as well that working out grades at the end of the semester seemed to be decidedly more error-prone, now that he was forced to fill out a spreadsheet online, instead of using the now-archaic combination of ink and paper. That yearning for a curated experience has spilled over into music for the younger generations, it would seem - as if the music fans of today are only interested in perusing the top 10 list for their genre of choice, with little regard for how it is assembled, or what the criteria are for excellence. Perhaps, a kitschy twist on the line from Arnaud Amalric, and the disastrous Albigensian Crusade: "...the Lord knows who are His." As long as someone is sorting something out, little matter the details. Just tell me what is popular, so I don't have to waste time figuring it out for myself. Where's the fun in that? There was once a time, that I remember fondly - if, to be fair, with some embellishment - that personal tastemakers ran amuck in society, doing very tedious things to make their preferences known. Things like designing their own band t-shirts with markers and ball-point pen, making garish tie-dyes in plastic buckets, and spending hours making cassette tapes from radio broadcasts for sharing with friends, or prospective lovers. The mix-tape has resurfaced of late, but it no longer represents what it once did - the mark of a tireless commitment to personal branding is now gone, such that we can simply enter a phrase into a search box, click a bunch of '+' symbols, and share to socials without so much as having to press play and record at the same time on a cassette deck somewhere. At the risk of sounding like an old man waving his fist at a windmill, I would just like to make the point that in those days it seemed both plausible and logical, perhaps even inevitable, to have differences of opinion - and by extension, many if not all of us were forced to contend with the ambiguous details of our own taste. Today, not so much. Even with a few beers in his system, even when speaking to a friendly and attractive bartender with genuine curiosity about the music he just saw, the average concert-goer can only muster up a fuzzy reference to collective opinion, and a slight sense of horror at being asked to form an opinion on the fly. It is possible that from the quaint confines of our Rogue Valley, the great patterns of humanity are too far in focus to yield any empirical verity. Yet, it is also possible that we have lost sight of a simple truth: that personal conviction is sexy, and blind allegiance to the perceived zeitgeist is not; and that unless we make time and space in our society for the individual's need to turn inwards and explore, only vague intimations about collective opinion will remain in place of the once-passionate embrace of unique preference. With that, I yield the remainder of my time to the youngster who speaks, without irony, for an entire generation.
It is a Tuesday, September 12th, 2017, around 10:00pm. I am sitting in a near-empty Frostbites with my dad and his co-worker, Tom. Tom is sitting at a different table, so my father and I can have time together, he says. We are eating frozen sorbets, and I am showing him the many (many) defects of my BlackBerry Torch. Yes, you read that correctly—it is 2017 and I have, for some reason, a BlackBerry Torch. While the height of technology when they appeared in 2010, BlackBerry Torches are now edging on artifact status. Having a BlackBerry is unique to most, and pathetic to some. Nevertheless, I have one. Or at least, I do for now. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss my approaching upgrade. I am getting a Samsung Galaxy of some sort, but the name is forgettable, like the phone itself. For me, the trade is bittersweet. I got the BlackBerry on New Year's Day 2016, after my old phone malfunctioned and died. The BlackBerry was supposed to be my placeholder until we got our upgrades in March. I accepted the BlackBerry with chagrin, with its slide-up keyboard and clock that insisted it was 2056. But March became May, and May became August, and a year later, I am still saddled with the BlackBerry. It is less of a pain at this point and more just an extension of my personality—I am The Girl With The BlackBerry. At this point, the upgrade is less for stylistic reasons and more out of necessity—like an old dog, I am worried about my BlackBerry's health, and I am uncertain it will go on for much longer. “The messages are out of order now,” I say, scrolling through my inbox. “I have two pictures saved, and it tells me I'm out of space. Also, this button is clearly missing,” I say, showing him where the “back arrow” and “end call” buttons should be. The list goes on. Tom joins us at our table, prompted by my father. As we further dissect the BlackBerry's ailments, Tom makes a comment: “That's embarrassing.” Although this jeer is pointed at my father for making me use this monstrosity for as long as he has, the comment slaps me. Embarrassing? Although we were literally JUST talking about what was wrong with it, I am offended that someone would make such harsh comments. I am about to burst into tears. I jump to its defense. “I know it's embarrassing, but I love this phone,” I say. “It's worked for so long, and only recently started malfunctioning. Plus, it's different,” I add, which is what it all boils down to. “No one else has a phone like this.” It is in this moment that my alliance fully manifests. Come to think of it, I have never loved the BlackBerry exactly, but I have a dependence on it. It means something to me. In a world full of iPhones and a smattering of Samsungs, my BlackBerry is an oddity. It is not an everyday occurrence, like a sand dollar. It is inconvenient for almost everyone—it sends group chats to me in seven different threads, and when I reply, it puts MY message in a separate thread to everyone else. It can take good pictures, but only if the lighting is absolutely perfect. It has no front-facing camera, so selfies are out. It can download no apps created past 2011, so the only ones installed are Twitter and an expired Facebook app, neither of which I use often. But like the sand dollar, it is rare—that is where the value lies. In a world of individuals striving to be different, to be unique, the BlackBerry does that. It keeps me grounded and doesn't allow me to look down on other people, because people have done the same to me because of it. It prevents me from being distracted, due to the apps (or lack thereof) it holds. I find myself more present and more observant; more aware and more involved in what's happening around me. In all my insecurities of being wanted and noticed and loved, my BlackBerry is what screams, “here I am! This is exactly who I am” when I am too afraid to fully be myself. When I am scared to be loud, quirky, goofy, my BlackBerry is that. Owning the BlackBerry has, in a cheesy way, helped me grow into who I am now. It has kept me grounded and humble, allowed me to be intentional. It has allowed me to express myself how I always wanted but never knew—as different, quirky, and unique. Tom doesn't know any of this. Tom hasn't had a BlackBerry for a year and nine months. It's not his fault that he doesn't know any of this, and given the circumstances, Tom can only assume that I am hindered by the outdated technology. I back down from my small fight, aware that I am the only one who knows I won. Tom says something, but I am not listening. I am looking at my BlackBerry. While it has not been convenient for anyone; while it has deleted my messages every time it restarts (which is often, due to its poor battery life), I know I will miss the BlackBerry, but I also know what I will take from it with me: the appreciation I have for being different, the awareness it provides me, but more than anything, the greater sense of self it gave me, allowing me to be who I am with no apologies.
Over the past year, I have survived- fully functional- without the aid of the modern-day ‘iPhone'. I have made friends, engaged in healthy social interaction, and largely missed out on absolutely nothing in my life because of this quote-unquote detriment. I have still been able to participate in nearly every aspect of my life, from school to my social life in a fairly normal way. The only part that I have missed, in my opinion, is the normalcy of being a teenager in this fine, unholy mess of the present day. The world has evolved, as everyone who reads this is surely aware, in a way that has sewn phones into the fabric of our lives in a deep, irreparable way. We suffer without them- Or at least we think we do. From the moment we wake up to the moment we lay our heads on our pillows, they are in our hands and influencing us, movement-to-movement. They wake us up for work and school every morning and ceaselessly pester us throughout the day- “Wanna go out for lunch?” a message may read. “There's a party this weekend! You should come!” another may offer. ‘Three new likes on your post.' ‘Four new comments on your post.' When you see the situation laid out in front of you this way, it may seem like nothing more than an unhealthy obsession we humans have created for ourselves, and that it is- for some people. We cannot neglect the fact that, through technology, we have infinitely eased some of our daily life hassles. We have additionally greatly improved the safety of our world in many ways, too. Without phones, you would not be able to quickly message your parent and ask who's picking you up from school. You would not be able to quickly check your bank account so as not to spend more money than you have. You would not be able to shoot your boss a message, letting her know you're too sick to come in this morning. I've made my case in support of phones, but I have yet to acknowledge their dangers. Not having a phone, and therefore experiencing these minor inconveniences, was one-hundred-percent a result of my own choices. I had repeatedly made mistakes- And when I was given grace, I made the same mistakes again. I will not use a phone incorrectly moving forward. I couldn't, knowing the damage it can, and has, caused. I am not willing to ruin my own life- To burn before I've even gotten off the ground. I will not engage in online interaction with people I don't know. Stranger Danger is a phrase we have been teaching our children for years- But the only real danger is when that stranger is behind a screen. The term ‘stranger' even extends to include people you've met in real life before, but don't really know. I will not send messages or images that are in any way considered inappropriate or could be held against me in the event the person I once felt comfortable and trusting in decides to turn against me. I never felt like this was a real thing that could happen to me, but I am now very aware that it's not such an uncommon thing to experience. I will not send secretive and malicious messages that are worthy of hiding. The phone is meant for communication, sure, but only the positive and polite kind. I must be honest with what I say through the phone, and be careful of the way the things I say may come across. I will not interact with the dangerous- Frankly even deadly- world of social media. Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook are a breeding ground for hate speech, cyberbullying, and life-ruining miscommunications. I am, quite possibly, the most aware of the dangers of technology due to the massive impacts it has had on my life. As a member of the first generation to be unable to remember a time without the internet, we have had these phones in our hands and in our lives since we were born. I personally have come to be alright without having a phone- Grateful, even- Until fairly recently. I desire the functional, organizational tool that is a cell phone. As someone who now has a job, a bank account, and very well may be using the, admittedly sketchy, Indianapolis public transit every day to get to and from school, having a phone displays obvious benefits. The only way I can properly use these aforementioned benefits is when I am very cautious not to abuse them. I would like to be able to reach my parents when I arrive at school in the morning. I would like to be able to get messages from my manager when she needs me to work extra days one week. I would like to be able to check my account balance before I buy those Chick-Fil-A fries at lunch and dip into the negative. I would like to be able to talk to and call Lindsey and Kaikeyi and the rest of them when I am not physically with them, especially Kristi who lives far away. I would like to take beautiful pictures of my art, makeup, and cosplays, and friends when people ask to see them. I would like to use a phone as a business tool to further the reach of my commissions. And finally, I would like your trust, even on days when it's hard. I would like nothing more.
916.5 miles 13 hours 798 minutes 47,880 seconds. Thinking about it is as if my mind has transformed into An effulgent allusion. A scene of the serene tides climbing back and falling off the shores that nestle into the vast, bottomless abyss of blue. My eyes grow lachrymose, and become victim to the overwhelming moisture That falls down my cheeks, that makes my lips tremble. My hands shake, turning ivory as I grip only air. My heart stops, as I breathe only to keep myself alive… But am I? If this is life, then why should I want anything to do with it? I blame myself, fore I went too far, you needed me there, and all I had to do was get in a car. All I had to do was put everything down, come straight to you, leave town. But I didn't, because revenge doomed me, when I thought about you only thoughts of pain consumed me. When I thought of you, my mind went black, I let you down, just as you did to me, and I thought I would be okay with that. But as of now, I can only feel regret, because at 5:13 am when your heat beat grew slow, when your mind shut down, and when your soul flew away All I had to do was travel 916.5 miles 13 hours 798 minutes 47,880 seconds. But I didn't, and you were all alone. And your last few thoughts, to me, are unknown. But when the clock striked 5:13 am. And I wasn't there… I can only imagine how much you thought That I didn't care...