A Digital Guy’s Quest to be Analog Again

27 December 2018

It’s no secret that I’m a techie type of person. This blog is filled with reviews on tech products, how-to’s and fixes for obscure problems related to computers. I enjoy that stuff. I enjoy building new things with computers and leveraging technology to do things that I find useful. For 12 years it was even my job as a Systems Administrator. I was building and maintaining servers, networks virtual environments and supporting workstations among other tech related duties. I enjoyed every bit of it too. Many times I’d get an idea for something and build a small-scale setup of it at home to test out and then if it worked the way I wanted, I’d go to work and build another one and deploy it for a practical application.

I like to think I’m skilled in software operating systems like Windows, macOS (OS X), and Linux distributions including Raspbian. I love those little Raspberry Pi computers because you can do some many neat things with them and they cost next to nothing too.

For about the last 15 to 20 years my home had lots of computers and computer parts in it. I frequently would build myself computers and do the same for others too. A lot of the time I’d be fixing other people’s computers at home which left me with lots of parts; some useful, some not so much. I didn’t mind that too much because I was helping others and once in a while making a few bucks too. I almost never charged anyone for my work and would say they can pay me whatever it was worth to them. It didn’t garner me much money that way but I didn’t mind as long as any of my out-of-pocket costs were covered.

But after a while, (quite a few years actually) I got sick of having a bunch of extra parts and computer shells stored all over the place. I was also getting tired of having to unplug my setup to fix someone else’s computer. I usually didn’t have an extra monitor back then because they were huge and cost a lot. Remember those old CRT things? So I started cutting back on my builds and repairs and would refer people out to local businesses when they needed major repairs. Once in a while I’d work on someone’s PC in the office for them. It wasn’t much to do that because most of the time is spent waiting for something to install like Windows where you just click a button a wait a while. So I’d click a button and go back to doing regular work and check on the progress of an install once in a while and then click the button again. Over the last few years that has cut down a lot too, to even doing none on the side. That’s just fine for me because as I start to age I don’t like working on computers in my spare time anymore. I’m getting a bit too tired with all of my other, increasing, responsibilities and workload to deal with.

At home over the last year or so I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of “in my face technology” that I have setup. What I mean is that I’m tired of seeing network switches, extra tech gear like external hard drives, CAT5e cabling strung about to connect various things in the apartment and so on. So I’ve been paring it down slowly to only having a small desktop computer, a Mac mini and a small laptop, a 2018 MacBook Air. I’ve tried to do away with the extra’s too and rely on internal storage or iCloud Drive to store things and files I need.

While I enjoy technology I don’t always like the stigmatism that if you were to visit my home it would be like walking into a huge data center with computers and servers all over the place. I want to live in a home that looks like a home with comfortable furniture and a nice lived in look and feel.

I also have a great passion that has been underdeveloped in my life and one that I regret not cultivating much sooner and that is writing. I’ve loved writing and the idea of writing since I was in grade school. But I spent too much time hating school and desiring to go outside and play and later on playing too much Nintendo. Then as adulthood came along and the US Marines called I kind of forgot about writing.

Going back to grade school for a bit, I recall an assembly where there was a speaker, probably an author, who was there to talk about writing and encourage us to get involved with it. I don’t recall anything of what they said except for one concept. That is that for a writer they should also keep a pen and paper handy, whether you’re on the road, or sleeping, you have them close at hand. That is because you don’t want to lose an idea or a thought because you couldn’t write it down and then later on when you were ready to write about it, you couldn’t remember it.

Then there was summer school once. I had to attend because I failed French class and needed the credits; remember I hated school? One day we had a creative writing assignment where we were to write about anything we wanted. There was no direction or instructions except to write for the allotted class time. I had taken it to heart and literally wrote about any thoughts that came into my mind and filled up several sheets of paper in doing so. When I turned it in the teacher read it over and more or less gushed in exuberance over it to the class. He had said this is exactly what creative writing was all about. While I was a bit embarrassed at the spotlight on me, I was secretly pleased with myself on that one. I don’t know anymore what it was I wrote about and I wish I still had that paper today so I could read it again.

That leads me up to today. After writing and publishing my first book two years ago, "Preaching to Patronizing: How Religion Made Me Lose My Faith>", it has rekindled my early desire to write. With writing comes lots of reading too, as the famous author Stephen King points out in his book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft".

I had to ask myself why I don’t write more and read more books, because I enjoy both. The answer was staring me in the face. It was TV. I love TV, I really do. But I spend way too much time in front of it doing next to nothing after getting home from work. I decided it was time to make another change in my life, much like I did when I started to cut back on all the computer stuff in my home. I decided to cut back on TV time. That was another thing Stephen King mentioned in his book about writing, and that was to throw out the TV. One can take that at face value or figuratively. I took it figuratively in a sense and rather than throwing it in the trash, I took it down off the credenza in the front room and put in the back room closet on the floor. I also took down the one in the bedroom as well. I replaced the TV in the front room with a pair of Apple HomePod’s for listening to music, podcasts and audiobooks. All of which I can do while I write or read. Now I still have TV, but its in the back room now. I took my Apple TV 4K and a Dell 4K monitor and set it up back there next to the desk with the Mac mini so I can watch 4K TV if I want to. This should limit my time in front of the TV because it means I have to go to the back and sit in my desk chair to watch anything. That is less comfortable long term so I won’t spend hours at a time there like I did in the more comfortable chairs of the front room. I do my writing up front on the MacBook Air far more than I do at the Mac mini.

Now the analog part of this story relates to the reading and writing and the reduction of technology in my home life. In addition to the stuff I already mentioned, a few months back I disabled all visual and audible notifications on my iPhone and iPad with the exception of the actual telephone part of the iPhone. I was getting a digital overload of notifications from text messages, emails, Twitter and other apps. I kept it down to a minimum and to some people what I was getting would probably be nothing to them. But to me, it was more than I cared to deal with. I actually miss the old days in the 1980’s and part of the 1990’s when we didn’t have cell phones. All we had was a telephone screwed to the wall with a cord and no answering machine. If we were out, we got no calls. I miss that in today’s overly connected society where we’ve come to expect instant gratification to our queries, texts, calls, chat’s and whatnot. I hate that. I’d rather reply and check my messages in my own time.

Since I disabled notifications the last few months have been much more pleasurable for me. I’m not distracted by noises and screen light ups from the iPhone anymore and I feel more relaxed and calm because of it even less anxious too.

Since I like to write, I’ve also used a few apps on the computer as journals and I end up stopping with them after a short period of time. I think it’s because they’re on a computer and I still allow myself to get distracted when writing in them with switching apps to check other stuff out instead. But there is also the art of the craft too, the analog part of writing. Remember that old pen and pad? That’s what I’m talking about. I actually enjoy the feeling and experience of putting pen to paper and writing. Now, a fair warning, my penmanship is awful and I hate that about myself. But that doesn’t stop me from writing in a physical journal each day and night. I like books and I like seeing empty books getting filled up with writing too.

I mentioned earlier that I was a Systems Administrator for 12 years. Over the summer my boss retired and I was promoted up to his old job as an Executive Director. That means my tech guy days are now over professionally and now I’m just an administrator. That means that I’m now working more with my words than with the technology systems I can build and manage. With that now comes more reading and writing professionally, which is fine because I enjoy those things as well.

In combination of reducing my reliance, my addiction, to technology, and a change in roles at work, I’m trying to gradually get back to a more analog life at home. I know that it’s not practical to do so completely because technology is ubiquitous now, but I can still do a lot of enjoyable things without it. Eliminating the TV as the main focal point in the front room and physically writing in a journal are steps in this journey to return to a more analog life, a slower, perhaps easier life that isn’t so fast-paced and driven by technology.

My book writing remains on the computer despite my journal writing being done on paper. This is because its much easier to publish when it’s all done on a computer versus paper. Plus, you’ll be able to read it too!

Download the pdf version with pictures here.