Techno-Love (but only as a friend)

I don’t know if this is a male stereotype or not… but I do love my Tech. Maybe not to the extent that some guys, or even some women… but in my very own way, I do.

I’ve never really had a problem figuring out computers and technology. I tend to figure out the basics pretty fast, really just by playing around. (Manual? Who needs a manual?) But I also have never really gone out of my way to acquire it quickly, so I can always be on the “cutting edge”. Usually, I’m at the tail end of the parade.

For me, when I make a decision about acquiring new Tech (or really any decision in life, come to think of it), I mull it over and think for a long time, and then when I finally make a decision, I stick with it.

The first computer I ever bought was a Commodore 64, and even then it was not that long before they stopped making them, and long after its heyday of popularity. I even knew that at the time, and my reasoning was, “well, if it’s not that popular anymore, all these hundreds of games will probably come down in price.” It was good logic, actually… our house was well-stocked with a large variety of games. The first of which is still one of my favorites: Maniac Mansion. (LucasArts made some great games back then) That computer got the holy hell beaten out of it over the years… with the floppy disk drive (with an actual FLOPPY disk) and when computer monitors were heavier then me. You could easily see how it was a definite upgrade from the Pong and Atari systems the family had… but maybe not so much compared to the original NES my brother had. But I liked it… and when it came to the end of its useful life, I eventually resurrected it… and gutted it to make a sci-fi looking prop for a show.

The next… was a word processor. Yes, an actual word processor. A weird missing link between typewriter and computer. It had a disc drive, and a small internal memory and programming, that wasn’t compatible with anything else in existence… but it wasn’t a computer in the normal sense. It was basically a printer with a small keyboard tacked on. It was a gift from my parents as I headed into college, for the purpose of writing papers. And since it was the ONLY thing it could ever do, it did it pretty well. It got me through the 4 years pretty well. When most everyone else was going to the computer labs, I could do it in the comfort of my dorm room. (and I had to… because as mentioned, the discs couldn’t be used anywhere else. It was not only technological freedom, but prison as well.)

I started Grad School with a hand-me-down desktop computer from my Uncle, which did me pretty well. When I had the chance to upgrade to a decent laptop a few months in, I did so… after careful consideration, that is. (Its compact nature was appealing to a guy in a small apartment) And I then kept that computer for the next 8 years… long after its expected life-span. (That thing died and was resurrected via miracle on a couple of occasions.)

But after Grad School… the next bit of Tech I got was probably long overdue; I finally got a cell phone. This was in 2002, and most other people had gotten cell phones already, and now… EVERYONE has them. Even high school kids, and younger! That kinda blows my mind… yet, it also blows my mind when I realize that I can’t conceive of NOT having my cell phone with me. If I leave the house and realize later that I forgot to grab it… I’m hitting myself and saying, “Oh crap!” Now, I don’t get phone calls that often, (I’m not even that good on the phone!) and I do get a half-decent amount of text messages… but after going 27 years without a constant direct-communication-line to the world, (and surviving, by the looks of it) why did I now HAVE to have it near me every second? It’s sitting 10 inches to my right at this moment while I’m typing!

When I was seeing my first therapist, I remember mentioning one session how I kind of missed going around WITHOUT a cell phone, and sometimes, if you think about it too hard, you can feel kind of trapped by it. (Sometimes, you don’t WANT to be found so easily) She responded with, “Well, you don’t have to have it.” “Listen, lady… don’t go using that new-fangled voodoo brain logic with me!” Okay, I didn’t say that last part, but as much sense as it makes, and how true it is… I still keep my cell phone fairly close by.

And I’m on my third cell phone right now. As the contract is ending soon, I might look into getting another upgrade… or at least a comparable replacement, because I can’t think of what I would get that’s better then this one. It’s got a 2 Megapixel camera, plays music, has an audio recorder, has a calendar, I can check e-mail, has some games, not to mention… now get this: It actually makes *and takes* phone calls. (You knew that gag was coming, admit it.)

I was considering of getting an iPhone, or one of the comparable Android phones… but you know, to make those worth it, you need to buy a data plan for the phone, which would end up tacking on another $2000 or so by the time the contract is up. No thanks… I don’t have that much disposable income.

But as sort of a “compromise”… I did get an iPod Touch instead. It can hold ALL my music, shows video (so I can share neat things I find with friends), has some pretty cool “Apps” (some of which are actually useful), has Wi-Fi connection for places that offer it free. Really, the only things it can’t do is: be a phone, or take pictures on it. That’s okay, my regular phone does that. And I can live without the cellular Internet. So, after a few weeks of considering, I treated myself, and have been pretty happy with it.

One thing I don’t like doing with my gadgets is trying to “one-up” or use it as part of a Penis-Size Competition. You know what I mean, too. If you get/do something, someone has to point out that THEY got/did something cooler, shinier and more impressive. (My oldest brother has been known to do this) Personally, I figure, “I need mine to do A, B, and C. Can it do those? Yes? Great, now I don’t give a crap that yours can do D, E, F or G. No, no… I get it. F and G are *really* peachy keen. I still don’t care.” Penis-Size Competitions: No actual phallus needed.

I was looking into getting an E-Reader, like the Kindle or Barnes and Noble Nook. I especially thought the Nook was the neatest between the two… but when I went into a store to play around with one (prior to ordering), I wasn’t able to see how a .pdf looks on it, plus the touch screen was a little slow to respond, and a few other concerns. But between those two, it still looked to be the better product. But then that Apple iPad was announced.

Now, I didn’t start drooling over the iPad like a lot of people did. I did find it humorous though, that within minutes after its announcement, all the males on Twitter were excited for it… and all the females were making Maxi-pad jokes about it. Personally, I didn’t see the big deal. Now, yes, I’ve been wanting an E-Reader, but I liked the size of the Kindle and the Nook. The iPad… way too big for my liking. That’s not exactly “portable” to me. (Portable to me means, it can fit somewhere on my person, out of the way, and I get to have both hands free. The smaller the satchel, bag, backpack it can fit in, the better.) But the iPad is in color, with better touch response, its faster, etc. Frankly, it’s an oversized iPod Touch. (Which was another point that leaned me towards getting that) If they had the exact same thing… only the size of the Kindle/Nook… I’d probably have gotten that. I’d even wait for the 3G version. The only thing that the iPad has done, is convince me to keep waiting, because now none of it looks that appealing to me. (Also, it’s surprisingly easy to read on the iPod Touch… or iPad Nano, I guess.)

Not all technology these days is interesting to me.

I’ve yet to get completely excited by Blu-Ray, or Hi-Def. Personally, I don’t mind that theatrical movies are at 24 frames per second. Yes, it’s ironic that the higher quality resolution and framerates look cheesy and fake to us (The webcomic XKCD just did a bit about this the other day.), but I still like the gritty, muted look to a lot of movies. Call it nostalgia, but I find it easier to get lost in a story when I’m not being distracted by the detail on every blade of grass or hair on someone’s head. And it’s only going to be seen on movies made in the last 5 years, maybe. Everything before that? They weren’t intended to be seen at that resolution. So… it just seems pointless.

The latest gadget I bought, is going a bit old-school. Actually a lot old-school. It’s a camera. Not a digital camera… and actual film-load 35mm camera. I was hanging out with a friend of mine in Boston and saw this assortment of “unique” cameras. All film-ones, construction was plastic and a bit cheap… one model was strictly a “fish-eye”, it distorts all the pictures like you’re looking through a peep-hole on a door. Another looked like a 1920s box camera… and the one that interested me, had 4 lenses on it. It takes 4 mini sequential pictures on one frame of film. Each photo is divided into quarters, and you see 1 full second of an event, broken into four frames. They call it the “Actionsampler”. Now, sure, I could probably take one of my digital cameras, put it on “sequence burst” so it takes 3 or so pictures one after another, and then photoshop them together… but somehow the nostalgia of doing it the old-fashioned way is a bit on the romantic side for me. Yeah, I never had much luck with actual film cameras in the past, but I do know a little bit more, (at least where NOT to take pictures) so hopefully some of these can turn out a little better.

Hey, it was cheap, novel… and interesting to me. And I’m not dating anyone, so why not treat myself? It’s a better reason then some people have when getting new toys.

What are some gadgets YOU love or hate?


The Cut of My Jib

During my unintentional sabbatical… I ended up hitting the gym… a lot. I really just needed to get out of the house, because staring at my computer screen just wasn’t working for me. (and by “not working” I mean, “driving me crazy”) Before, I always went to the gym on my way home from work… because it was on the way, and extremely convenient. Now, of course, it had to be a special trip. So let’s see: Special trip… or sit in the house and be depressed, lazy and crazy. I’ll take “Special Trip”, please. I needed something, anything, to do… and going to the gym seemed like a nice, healthy option. Hey, I was paying for it anyway… might as well get my money’s worth out of it.

So I went every day, Monday through Friday, and took weekends off to recuperate. Mondays and Thursdays was arms and upper body, Tuesday and Fridays lower body and abs, and Wednesday was nothing but Cardio. I was silently proud to be sticking to my make-over plans, and occasionally getting nice compliments from friends. But due to my own critical view of my self, and judging by the horrible dating luck I was having, I always saw/see the flaws and knew/know I still had/have a long way to go.

Then, when I gotten into August of that year, the Temp agency I was going through gave me the distinct impression that “things were picking up” and I would be having some impending interviews approaching. So I pulled out my suit… the one I’ve previously mentioned as “my first suit”. Now, I bought this during another bought of unemployment, again for the purposes of interviews (and also since I had nothing nice to wear should the occasion arise). When I did that, I had been in a period of “letting myself go” a little too much. This was after my old medical problems, in which my weight fluctuated wildly from too low to too high, and then settled on “too high”. So when I was being fitted for this suit… I was given the “Executive Cut”.

I understood from the get-go that “Executive Cut” was just a friendly euphemism. It meant I was tubby. Any guy that takes offense to that, saying, “Hey… I’M wearing an Executive Cut suit!” Guess what? Nothing wrong with it. It just is what it is. You’re no less a quality person… now shut up and accept it. All that matters is that you have a suit that looks good on you, so chill.

Well, now my suit *didn’t* look as good on me. I know I had lost a little bit from my waist, and the suit (and sportcoat) were a little big on me. So, I had to go on a little errand… one that I was actually looking forward to doing.

I brought the suit and the sportcoat back into Men’s Wearhouse (the one with the tailoring department), went up to the counter and said, “It gives me great pleasure to finally be able to say this: I need to have my suit taken in.”

Yeah, it did feel good to say it… to know that I’ve made enough progress with exercising, and that it was noticeable enough to affect my clothing (in a good way). It was a nice positive reinforcement, and I was smiling. The tailor said, “That’s great. If you would please go put it on, we’ll take the measurements and then take it in.” So, I went into the little dressing room, put on my Executive Cut suit, and stepped back out onto the sales floor, waiting for the tailor.

He came over, started measuring, and soon said, “Well, this isn’t going to work.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

“This was YOUR suit?”

“Yeah, I even bought it from here, it’s on your records.”

Then he excused himself for a second, and brought over a saleswoman, and they both started tugging and pulling on the suit, folding it up against me, etc… basically using me as a mannequin… and both seemed…. Amazed.

I’m just standing there, not sure what the problem is… I just need the suit taken in a little bit, right?


The pants of the suit I had brought in (which were tailored for me when I got it) had a 40-inch waist.

I now needed a 34-inch waist.

Keep in mind that on a suit, the waist isn’t just above the hips where we normally wear our pants, but rather higher up, just under the belly button. So I lost 6 inches around my belly… a hell of a lot more then I thought I lost.

So the pants now look like they were another hand-me-down, and the suitcoat and blazer are similarly swimming on me now. They asked me, “How much weight did you lose?” “Well… according to the scale, only about 5 lbs.” (I guess this is proof I’ve been replacing it with muscle, huh?) They looked at each other and back at me, amazed and smiling… all the while looking over the racks of clothing.

Uh… are they trying to find one that’s my new size to use as a template for cutting these down? I wondered hopefully… and futilely, it would turn out. No, they were looking for a new suit for me.

I asked them, “Can’t you just take this one in?”

The tailor then proceeded to explain how they “could”… but he would have to take so much material out that the suit wouldn’t look right. He couldn’t guarantee that it would look good. To put it bluntly… it would look like a Picasso. (His Cubist period, for you Art-History Majors. Never say I don’t show you any love.)

The old suit, with the Executive Cut, was created with a belly in mind… every cut and stitch of it is molded around that idea. A belly of which I apparently didn’t have anymore (even if I do still see it when I look in the mirror… man, am I self-critical or what?).

If they can’t take it in… and I obviously can’t wear it to interviews without looking like an 8-year-old playing in Dad’s wardrobe… It looks like I don’t really have much of a choice.

Thinking of the personal accomplishment, I cheerfully thought, “I need a new suit!”

Then the logistical aspect came to mind, and I thought, “Oh… I… need a new suit?”

Then the dawning of financial horror… “Holy crap… I need a new suit…”

I’ve always tried to not be “cheap”, but as someone who’s never HAD a lot of money, shelling out a few hundred on the spur of the moment isn’t exactly something I’m used to. Anything that costs over $50, I feel hesitant, and over $100, I feel I have to “think about it” because it feels like an “investment”. (Which, yes, this is an investment.) And being unemployed at the time sure didn’t help, to put it mildly. I felt my heart beat faster, and thought I was starting to panic. It was something I *had* to spend right there. (You probably don’t want to hear my inner monologue when I need to have expensive car repairs done… I want to curl into a fetal position and shut out the world.) And I never got to wear the old suit that often… so that was feeling like I had to throw away $500 worth of clothes I didn’t get to enjoy.

But the tailor and the saleswoman started looking through the racks, and found a nice suit for about $300. That’s a good price for a suit… but still… $300. I did refuse when they asked about replacing the sport-coat… I figured that wouldn’t be a good idea at that time. They were able to do the few needed alterations right there, and I could leave in an hour with it.

So, while I was waiting for that to be done… I had to just walk around the mall and kill some time. And what else am I going to think about other then, “Oh God… I just spent a crapload of money on something that *feels* frivolous (after all, a suit isn’t necessary for actual caveman-like day-to-day survival), and I don’t really have money coming in.” Sure, I had to collect unemployment, but I feel guilty using that for anything that isn’t vital to caveman-like survival. (I hate feeling like a leech on the system, and I was hesitant to even apply in the first place)

Yes, I know normal people don’t think like this, and wouldn’t have a problem with it, or even for the reasons that I do. Whatever made you think I was normal?

But all these things… these possibly unfounded neuroses running through my head… and then I go and end up making the biggest mistake I could at the time.

You see, I was feeling vulnerable. I was feeling stressed, and a more then a bit worried. I needed encouragement. I needed to hear, “Its okay. Needing and getting this suit is a VERY good thing. You’ve made a great accomplishment, losing those inches. You deserve this, it’ll look great. Keep your chin up, it’s gonna work out wonderfully.” I needed some kind words… I needed assurance.

I needed to call and talk to my Emotional Support System.

Instead, I called my parents.

Apparently, I had a lapse of memory, and thought they were in that category. Sure, that sounds cruel and unfair. But my parents are “every silver lining has a dark cloud” kind of people… and as thankful as I am to them for bringing me into this world and doing what they can for me over the years; emotionally speaking… they are NOT the people I can talk to for that kind of support. I think the fact that I tried in this instance may say that I wish they WERE, but every instance of trying to tell them anything, good or bad, has pretty much blown up in my face.

My mom answers, and I tell her what’s going on. Instead of what I wanted and needed to hear, she said, “Well, can they just take the other suit in a *little* in case you gain some weight back?”

“… I’m sorry, what?”

Is it just me, or did that sound… how shall I say it? A bit “un-encouraging”? Is that essentially a vote of no-confidence in my efforts at the gym and eating better? Because it sure as hell sounded like it.

I tried to explain exactly how much I’d lost, and how taking the old suit in “a little” wasn’t exactly an option. When my father got in on the conversation later on, he remarked how if I keep going to the gym, I’m “just going to need ANOTHER suit.” Now, that one may be more of a “delivery” kind of thing… because where he was putting the emphasis did not sound like it was celebrating the accomplishment of slimming down, but of the annoyance of having to do this errand again. (Even though it was for me, and nothing to do with him)

Now, if I lost *another* 6 inches from where I am now… I wouldn’t be worried about a suit that fits… I’d be worried about a hospital gown that fits, because that’s where I’d be treated for malnutrition. No, I wouldn’t be crossing another tailoring-threshold, and any adjustments to a smaller size would be minor ones, fixed with a simple “taking in”. It wouldn’t be changing the “cut” of the suit. His reply echoed my Mom’s initial statement; “Well, you better keep the old suit for when you gain the weight back.” (Notice his has a bit more certainty in it then my Mother’s.)

Wow. Just… wow. I have to wonder if my family ever actually *listens* to themselves.

So, back to when I was waiting at the mall for the suit to be finished… and NOT feeling as good as I had hoped at this point… I went to look outside my immediate family. (I definitely wasn’t going to try my brothers… at best I’d get an “Okay, so?”) I texted a friend of mine, summarizing the situation… and thankfully, she told me what I needed to hear. This *was* a good thing… it’s a great thing! Sure, I didn’t get much use out of the old suit, but why should care about a suit that looks crappy on me? I worked hard, and I deserve this… I deserve to look good, dammit. This was definitely the right thing.

When I picked up my suit… I did, in fact, feel a hell of a lot better. If anyone ever wonders why I’m so fiercely loyal to my friends… it’s for things like this.

And I would come to realize later… the financial hit wasn’t as bad as I thought. My months of being frugal hadn’t sapped my savings like I was afraid it was, and monetarily, my situation was a-okay. I *probably* could have afforded a sport coat as well… but I still figured it wiser to wait on that.

But eventually, when I did start working again… I went and bought myself a SECOND suit. So I could have some variety. And then this winter, I even bought two sport-coats. In both instances, I had considered and decided ahead of time, so the buying was actually a pleasurable experience rather than a spur-of-the-moment-stress event. (And in neither case did I bother to tell the ‘rents.)

Now I’m looking for more opportunities to wear them.