Archive for Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Shouts and murmurs: Living fully in the age of computers

November 17, 2004

While putting clean sheets on the bed recently, I inadvertently untucked the flat sheet. My first thought wasn't "oh no."

It was "Apple Z."

For you see, on a MacIntosh computer, any mistake can be undone by immediately typing at the same time the apple and z keys.

We've heard it said that computers are taking over our lives.

I argue that point. Computers aren't taking over our lives -- they're becoming our lives.

The more time we spend sitting in front of a computer, the more likely we are to begin "thinking" like a computer.

I estimate that on a typical Monday I spend the bulk of at least 10 hours at my desk.

During that time, I'm likely to operate Photoshop, Quark (a pagination program), Microsoft Word, my digital camera, the CD burner, a camera viewer program, two scanners -- one for negatives and one for printed photos, Eudora for e-mails, a Web browser for searches, another Web program for building online photo galleries and maybe the calculator or Excel.

That's 13 programs right there. Then in the office there's the copier, the fax, and heck, even my telephone, which requires different codes for transferring calls, and a telephone headset, which also has its own control.

When a computer has accessed numerous programs during a relatively short time period, they tend to freeze up.

The only way to get them going again is to restart.

In thinking about it, I would venture to guess there are some of us who might agree that after operating a dozen or more computer programs during a long day's time, we, like our computers, might freeze up. And, we might find ourselves in need of restarting, as well.

I noticed in particular this Monday evening that by the time I went home, my ability to think creatively was zilch.

Fortunately that's not a permanent condition.

In the last few years I've learned a few tips to get back to normal after a day at the computer.

In the cooler months, I start by taking a quick dip in the hot tub. Before I had access to a hot tub, a warm bath served the same purpose.

Then, although it was dark outside, I turned on the outside lights and walked up and down the driveway for about 30 minutes. We live in the country. Tall trees arch over the driveway, which is surrounded by woods. The sounds of nature, the smell of fresh air and the freedom to move and let my thoughts wander began to bring me back.

After that, I went in the basement and played the piano, practicing a soothing New Age melody.

By then, my husband gently reminded me, it was late, and tomorrow would be another busy day.

Thank heaven, I thought, for the ability to come home, be with people I love, and unwind on a peaceful autumn evening -- all without a computer screen staring me in the face.

Still, I realized Tuesday morning, there are moments only a computer can fix. When almost finished with this column, I accidentally highlighted the text and deleted it -- every word.

What was the solution?

The solution was to think like a computer.

And that meant a quick touch of "Apple Z," of course.

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