Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Stuff I Don't Want

As Lesley and I count down toward retirement and the move to Oregon, we've begun making decisions about what to take, what to sell, and all like that. In other words, since we'll need very little in Oregon, at least for the time being, we're divesting ourselves of as much as possible. After all, why pay to ship stuff to Oregon and then pay to store it once we get there?
I'm told by people who should know (e.g., people
to 
whom I am married) that I buy entirely too many
cars. Which is ridiculous, of course. This is "Winnie,"
a 1957 MG.
This exercise has made it apparent that I have too much stuff. The thing is, I like stuff; always have. Books, for instance. I love books, and getting rid of them is difficult, almost painful. Of course, books are very heavy and take up a lot of space. The ones I really need, I'll keep, and I can buy (or check out from the library) digital versions of other books as they come along. I love books, I truly do—their heft and smell and feel, even the sound they make when you turn a page. But there are ecological and economic imperatives at work here; as wonderful as printed books are, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to attach weight (in the form of paper) to a weightless commodity (information) and then pay to ship that information all over the world. At least, not all the time, and not when you have other alternatives.


And a 1969 VW bug. Because look at it! How could
I pass it up?
But it's not just books; there are other things, too. I guess I've always been somewhat acquisitive. Like a crow. I need new things. Shiny things. And even if I don't need them, well, I need them, you know? So over time, I have collected stuff: I have tools and guns and guitars and computers and . . .  well, lots of things that I really, really wanted at the time. (Cars, too, but I purposely didn't mention that. No need to remind Lesley of how many cars I've had over the course of our marriage. On the other hand, we've been married almost 30 years, and I'm almost positive that I haven't had 30 cars during that time, so really, I'm doing pretty well. Not an issue. A non-problem. Completely under control. You know, in case she should happen to mention it.)


And a '69 Ford Bronco that I might have accidentally
bought. 
On the other hand, in spite of my love of technology, I keep encountering techie things for which I have absolutely no desire. They strike me as either silly, overpriced, useless, or (perhaps worst of all) as potential security/privacy risks.

Here's a list of "cool tech stuff" that I don't want:  
  1. Smart watches. I really like watches, but I like analog watches that don't try to do anything except tell the time—and maybe the date, although that's getting awfully fancy. I don't really need a watch that buzzes to tell me that I just received an email on my smartphone, which is right there in my pocket and which already buzzed anyway to tell me the same thing. Actually, I have a bunch of watches; I should probably get rid of some once I retire. I mean, one of my retirement goals is to not give a damn what time it is, so who needs a bunch of watches? Especially when at any given time at least half of my watches are sitting in a forlorn little pile, awaiting a trip to the store for new batteries.
  2. Smart TVs. I really just want a TV that works well and to which I can connect Web-enabled goodies (Roku, Chromecast, etc.) when—and only when—I choose to. (Because, after all, life without Netflix would not be worth living.) That way, when the Roku (or whatever such unit) dies, I still have a TV.
  3. Autonomous cars, trains, planes, skateboards, unicycles, etc. Yeah, count me out. I know too much about software to feel comfortable in two tons of remote-controlled steel and plastic and glass careening down the highway at 70 mph under the control of a bunch of programmers who may or may not have gotten enough sleep before writing the "how to avoid an accident" subroutine. (And Lesley could never handle being in an autonomous car; she can't stand not to be the one driving. She'll only grudgingly let me drive; she's certainly not going to allow a computer program to drive.)
  4. Foldable phones, computers, and screens. If it's small enough to drop into a pocket, it's at risk of being sent through the wash, and I have enough trouble with Kleenex, flash drives, business cards, and packets of gum. I definitely can't risk a $600 foldable phone. Anything that folds up to fit in a pocket would either go through the wash or get lost. 
  5. Laptops with touchscreens. I can see the need if you're an artist, say, working on a larger system (maybe an all-in-one) and you're actually drawing on the screen, but what I really want is a very thin, very light laptop. And if it's that light, it'll tip every time I attempt to poke at the screen with my clumsy finger. And besides, a mouse and trackpad was good enough for Grandma and Grandpa, right?!
  6. Fitness trackers. Not for me. I don’t need a machine watching over my caloric intake and exercise levels; I'm married, after all. Also, I'm not fit enough—and don’t plan to get fit enough—to require tracking.
  7. Web-enabled toothbrushes. Or forks, kitchen scales, or vacuum cleaners. Yes, all of these things exist. The Internet of Things (IoT) is pretty amazing and, in many cases, very useful. But there seems to be this rush to connect everything to the Web, largely as a way for one to differentiate one's product from one's competitor's products. Not a smart move, security-wise; keep in mind that everything is hackable, and then think about the potential security risks inherent in even practical-sounding IoT gadgets such as thermostats, toaster ovens, fire alarms, baby monitors, etc. In any event, sometimes it seems a little silly. A Web-enabled coffee pot? Really? A connected trashcan that posts to Facebook? An IoT egg tray? Internet-connected diapers? A connected dog treat dispenser—with video chat, no less? (Speaking of which, there's also a dog fitness tracker.) Yes, all of these things really do exist, and many more, besides, and I neither have nor want any of them. (Although Annie-The-Dog might vote for the Web-enabled treat dispenser. Then again, she's pretty smart. She'd probably figure out a way to hack into it, and then we'd wonder why we were going through 12 lbs. of dog treats every week. And why she can no longer make it around the block without being carried—not that we could lift her.)
Actually, I guess I kinda like "dumb" stuff. I like having a device that is dedicated to doing one thing and which does it very well. Having a tool that's mediocre at half a dozen things doesn't do much for me. (It is possible to create a multifunction device that does several things very well, of course. Our computers and smartphones are proof of that. But it's fairly rare, and almost never on the first iteration of a technology.)

My current vehicle. We needed something to pull
the trailer. Right?!

Come to think of it, when Lesley and I were first thinking about getting an RV, that's why we decided to buy a trailer instead of a motorhome. Motorhomes are awesome for full-timers (or almost full-timers), of course, but they're full of the sorts of compromises that are unavoidable when you want something to fulfill more than one function. Our biggest objection to a motorhome, though, was that we'd be paying for an engine and running gear that would end up sitting in storage for several months out of the year. Since we already have (and are paying for) an engine and running gear in the form of a very nice pickup truck, why buy another vehicle that's going to sit underutilized while we continue to pay for it?


This does not even count. It only has two wheels, right?
So... Maybe half a car?
Similarly, I'm not crazy about paying for an Internet-enabled toaster oven that I can control from my office when I would only do that once in a great while. Even when I'm not communicating with it over the Internet, I'm still paying for the ability to control it from my office. And I especially don't like the idea that some other person might figure out how to control it from his office.

16 comments:

  1. I would pay any extra to bring my books. I don't buy stuff except books and music. I can't be without them.

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    Replies
    1. Can't blame you, really... But I'm trying to keep in mind that I can have "books" and music in digital form. Painful, though... :)

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    2. Great read Rod. Having been through the decluttering of my life,(books and albums)your story hit home with me. Good luck in Oregon.

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    3. Thanks, Charlie! Well, if you survived, I guess I can too. :)

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  2. I must have missed that you are retiring AND moving to Oregon. Where are you moving to, specifically? (And congratulations!)

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    1. Hey, Jeff! We're headed for Depoe Bay. So, central Oregon coast, basically. And thanks. As of today I'm at exactly 100 days to go, which feels very strange! But we're going someplace we love and will be with people we love, so...

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  3. Bring all your books. Bring all your books. I may live long enough to read some of them!

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    Replies
    1. You'd better talk to your daughter - she's culling ruthlessly.

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  4. I'm trying to imagine why I would want the baby's diapers connected to the web? It's pretty obvious when they need to be changed as I am re-learning.

    Wish you had kept the bug.

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    1. Yeah, kinda tough to imagine, but then, so many things have happened that were tough to imagine, you know? :) I kind of wish I'd kept them ALL!

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  5. A wise post . . . except that from the age of 6 to 16 I longed for a Dick Tracy two-way wrist radio/watch. Too bad the phone got there first.

    I hope you are working on another book.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, yeah, I remember wanting a Dick Tracy watch. And now that we can have them, meh... Doesn't do much for me. :) No new book yet. Doing some editing for another publisher, but I am thinking about another book. Not sure how Lesley would feel about me writing another one. :)

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  6. Rod, it’s unthinkable that you would want to get rid of “stuff”. Example, you must keep that piano tuning hammer in case you ever decide to own a grand piano. Certainly you can’t throw away that Whitworth Spanner set in case you find a pre- WWII BSA Motorbike at a garage sale. How about that owner’s manual on how to repair a rotary dial telephone, are you going to trash that? Don’t you need stuff for the Thanksgiving Turkey? And where would John Glenn have been without the right stuff? You may need a bigger U-Haul, but please, don’t get rid of stuff.

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    1. Damn. You're right! And I would really LOVE to find a pre-WWII BSA at a garage sale!! OK, I'm convinced. Everything stays. Please contact my wife and explain this to her. I'll be . . . uh, fishing. Far away. :)

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  7. And of course one person's scaling down is another's scaling up, as we did moving from 16+ years living aboard our 47' boat to a 1,300 square foot condo. Oh, and we're still wondering why we stored this and that for 16 years. It's a learning curve, or is it a challange?

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    1. Ooooh, good point!! You guys really DID scale up, after all that time living on the boat. Must have been nice to have so much space! (Relatively speaking, of course.) :) What an awesome boat, though... You must miss it sometimes. I do!

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