Killing time

iphone-518101_640I love my iPhone. I wouldn’t say that it’s attached to me at the hip, but I definitely rely on it for a multitude of tasks that I never would’ve guessed just a couple of years ago.

In particular, I love that it’s turned me, a one-time technophobe fearful of all new apps and social media outlets, into a lover of all things technology. I can’t get enough of it, mainly because it helps make life easier.

However, saying all that, there’s one simple app that I’m ready to kill. It’s not really an app per se, but I hate it all the same. I hate the alarm clock on my phone. If I could, I would eliminate it, but, of course, if I deleted it from my smartphone, I would need to go back to a real-live alarm clock and I hate them even more.

Like most people, I need my alarm clock to exist, to start my day and get off to work. As I blogged recently, we purchased a new bed and that has made a ton of positive improvements in the quality of my sleep, but I’m still not getting enough sleep.


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Learning to let go

vials-1781316_640I should be better at this.

My son is attending a science camp geared for middle school students at a local college this week and has come home with stories about the experiments the class has performed each day and some of the antics of the other kids.

I’ve been encouraged by the experiments, not so much by the other kids. In short, some of the boys have been rude to the teacher and other students; played video games when they should have been listening; and misbehaved. The behavior hasn’t been crazy or even extraordinary, just bothersome.

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The games we play

The running back slid one way and then cut back another, gaining huge chunks of ground with every carry. He was so quick and even if a defender started to tackle him, if you tapped on the “b” button at the right moment, he’d spin out of the tackle and go onto score. He looked unbeatable.

Likewise, the quarterback threw bullets for passes and when the wide receiver caught the winning touchdown he danced in the end zone just like in real life.

In the early 90s, I bought my first gaming system a Sega Genesis. I came home from work one Friday, exhausted from a long week and went out and bought my first system. I figured that I had a job now. I wasn’t in college anymore. I could afford to blow off a little steam. Why not?

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When the real thing becomes a letdown

When I was six or seven-years-old, I saw my first drive-in movie. One of my school friends asked me to come along with his family to see the Walt Disney Productions animated feature Robin Hood.

I remember being mesmerized. I talked about the night-out for weeks. First I couldn’t get over what a treat it was to see a movie. The animation, while out-of-date now, was revolutionary at the time and seemed to jump off the screen. And secondly, I was thrilled to be able to throw a football with my friend before the movie started and then actually watch the movie outdoors.

With that idea in mind, my wife and I took our kids recently to participate in all things American: the drive-in movie. We had fun. It was a great night, but I drove away thinking the night was a letdown for my teenaged kids.


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Missing the Big Valley Part II: Sending out my message in a bottle

I feel sort of like the guy who writes a message, rolls it up and puts it into a bottle, and then throws it into the ocean to see where it lands. The note could be an SOS message to potential rescuers, a message to a long-lost love, or even a silly schoolboy note, the topic doesn’t matter.

The bottle floats here or there in the choppy waves and most times the note — in my case, my blog — goes unheralded floating forever in a nether world. Oh thanks to modern technology and social media, I’m able to see that my blog touches home with a few loyal Facebook friends and family members, who have my eternal gratitude, but it floats into nothingness.

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Five old school things that still rule

My sons finish-up school this week. They’ll hand in their books, clean out their lockers, and get ready for the summer. It will be a fun week for them. We live now in a society controlled by the web and social media. For all the change this has meant, one big end-of-the-year school activity has stayed the same.


Students still purchase school yearbooks. There’s no app they need to download. They don’t go online to see what their friends wrote about them. They simply need to buy a real live, in the flesh book. And very much like my own experience, they’ll spend the week browsing through the pictures between classes — laughing at some, cringing at others — and getting their friends to sign their yearbooks.

The old phrase still rings true: “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Continue reading “Five old school things that still rule”

When photos come alive

I think kids today are missing out.

They’re missing out on one of my all-time favorite hobbies. When I was young, my mom kept a large, green shoebox full of family pictures in her bedroom closet. When I was bored or felt blue and needed a pick-me-up I’d pull the box out to look at and reminisce about past vacations and family milestones.


We weren’t a big photo family. We didn’t have any natural photographers in our family and this obviously was well before the age of the selfie. However, I used to love looking over the photos we took and had packed away.

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Who needs an automagical button?

An IT consultant was helping a group of my coworkers and rather than giving a deep explanation on how a particular piece of software worked, he joked that it would “automagically” fix the specific issue we were discussing.

Automagical (4)I’ve never worked in IT, but I’ve heard sales people, consultants and project managers refer to automagical solutions a number of times over the years. I’ve often thought that it would be great to automagically take care of many of life’s issues.

For example, instead of bending over to pull the laundry out of the dryer, wouldn’t it be great if you could just hit an automagical button and the laundry would automatically fold and put itself away. Now there’s a problem that IT needs to fix.

Here’s a few others.

–Exercise. Who wants to exercise? Yes, I love running and I need it to keep my sanity, but there are still days where it would be great to hit the automagical button to speed up time to a future point, skipping over my run. And oh by the way, wouldn’t it be great too to automagically lose the twenty pounds I’m trying to lose.

–Taxes. If you’re tax-law challenged, you can take your taxes to an accountant. I even read the other day about an accountant with an entrepreneurial spirit who sets up shop in a bar for young executives to take care of their taxes. You can even purchase software programs like Turbo Tax that walk you through sticky tax questions. Saying all that, I would still love a button that would instantly take care of my taxes each year. Now that would be an “easy button.”

–Dinner. You come home from work, your family’s waiting. Everyone is starving and nothing is prepared. You haven’t even remembered to defrost anything. Did I say too that you really don’t want to call the local pizza joint or go out for dinner? What do you do? Easy. Hit the automagical button and dinner’s waiting on the table.

–Car issues. I’ve spent a small fortune on car maintenance bills this year. Engine issues, check. Tires, check. Brake issues, check. A funny noise when you have the air conditioner running and you make a left-hand turn, check. Push the automagical button. Gone.

BriansButton (2)

There’s no question that life would be easier with an automagical button. No problems, no worries, right? But something tells me that those little burdens, those inconveniences are what make us stronger and give us the strength to face bigger, more important challenges.

So, I guess I’ll skip the automagical button for now.



The lost art of letter writing

I like to think that I’m technologically savvy. I love how technology connects us and makes our lives simpler. I’ve even become an Apple geek (even if the stock has tanked the past several months, after producing results for so many years.)

But I also see how technology has changed us for the worst.


In particular, technology has made us reliant on short bursts of text. We’re limited in our tweets to no more than 140 characters. Facebook posts max out at 60,000 plus characters, but most consist of no more than a couple sentences. If you write more than that, your friends are likely to comment that you’ve written a book. We text on our smartphones, but most times we send messages of just a few words strung together to create one shorter word. OMG for example. Some of us still rely heavily on email, but it lacks panache. Most messages are here today, gone tomorrow.

In short, no one writes handwritten personal notes anymore. You still have a few holdovers, the occasional family member who will send you a birthday or Christmas card, but letters, for the most part, have gone the way of the landline phone, CDs, or dvds.

I suggested to someone recently that they might want to send a thank you card to a friend who had helped them in a time of need. You might have thought that I had suggested they prepare to cross the Mojave Desert without food or water. Even with my suggestion, it’s easy to see why personal letters and notes have become outdated. It costs 49 cents to mail a letter nowadays and it’s a major annoyance to sit down and write one. You have to think about what you want to say and there’s quicker, more efficient ways to communicate. Letters take time and who has time?

Despite all that, I still think it’s a shame that a part of our culture has died. People used to communicate some of our deepest, most heart-felt emotions via letter: anger, sadness, love, happiness, and everything in between. Now we’re more likely to pull out our smartphones, make a YouTube video and post it on social media.

But where does that get us?

I still have the letter that my mother wrote to me my freshman year of college. My mother didn’t say much in the letter — just a few run of the mill things — but it touched me that she would take the time to write when it wasn’t something she felt comfortable doing. I pulled the short letter out recently from the bottom of a desk drawer and I could hear my mother’s voice in her scratchy handwriting. The letter instantly took me back to my dorm room and the feeling of happiness I got when I opened the envelope to find the letter and the $20 bill she had hid inside, encouraging me to take care of myself and use the money to get a pizza.

When I send my daughter, a college freshman now like I once was, a text that says GL2U (Good luck to you) or WTG (way to go), will the message still mean as much to her? Will it touch her the same way my mom’s letter meant to me? Will it let her know that we’re thinking of her and that we miss her? Will she save it on her phone for years to come?

Maybe, but I think not.


I love texting as much as anyone. It’s quick and means I don’t have to talk to someone on the phone or face-to-face and God knows the part of me that is an introvert loves that, but handwritten notes have a lasting touch, a permanence, and commitment that emails or text messages can never have.

Yes, I’m old school, but sometimes going old school and emphasizing the personal touch is just what the doctor ordered.