Thursday, March 17, 2011

Electronics-Addiction or Reliance?

Yesterday while reading one of my regular forums, I came across a thread that made me think about a few things. This particular thread was about an online service that allows you to watch movies and television shows at anytime. Originally, this company was nothing more than an online dvd rental, but now offers streaming movies and tv through your computer or gaming system, along with wi-fi capability. While the responses within the thread were different from each person, they were all basically the same in their core. Every one of them used this service, and most of them had it set up for use in multiple rooms so they could watch something or get online virtually anywhere in their homes.

I hear of and see people with cell phones that are capable of nearly everything a personal computer can do. You can use this phone to check your e-mail, get online, take and send pictures, text message, read a book, and now virtually any application that you can think of is available. For the majority of people, their phone never leaves their side. Some simply cannot imagine functioning without it

I'm old enough to remember when my parents got their first color television. I remember when the first commercially sold calculator and digital watch came out. I remember the first people I knew with their own computer had both a Commodore Vic-20 and a Commodore 64. I remember the first person I personally knew with a cell phone had a Motorola bag phone in his work truck, and I remember when my neighbor was the first person I knew to own a video game system when he got an Atari for Christmas. With the exception, of course, of the first television; I have been able to watch home electronics first come onto the scene and advance into what they now are in my 45 years on this Earth. I even remember going from an old rotary phone to a push button. And wow, that first cordless phone was just the coolest thing ever made. We though we were just a few years away from flying cars. Really?? A phone that doesn't have a cord?? WOW, this is like the Jetsons! Where is my robot maid and flying car???

. This is the hard part to think and write about. Have you ever gotten to the point in your life when you realize you sound like your parents? "I remember when I was your age...." "...uphill both ways in the snow"...... Well, I'm kind of there with this post. It's a bit of a hard pill to swallow, but I can accept it. Excuse me while I go look for another 50 gray hairs on my head....

I can't deny that electronics have advanced and in many ways helped or made our lives easier, but I can't help but wonder what they have done to us as a society. We've become so reliant on these items that we can't imagine living without them, and some have become so addicted to them that these devices nearly rule their lives. It's strange to me to see and read of people doing so many things with some electronic device, that either they could easily do otherwise, or so relying on that device for their day to day lives that they cannot do anything without it.

As I said earlier, I remember when a neighbor got an Atari game system for Christmas. It was actually pretty cool at the time. We would spend countless winter hours playing Frogger, PacMan, or drag racing. It killed time on those winter days, or those rainy summer days when there wasn't much to do outside. But, when the weather changed, that system sat on the shelf collecting dust. We had things to do-riding our bikes, chores (anyone remember those?), helping our parents, hunting, fishing, etc. Now I see people that spend entire evenings, or even days, playing games on the newer advanced systems. I personally know several who sometimes brag about spending their entire day off lounging on the couch playing the latest war-type game.

I've watched the home computers grow over the past 30 years. In high school, we used Radio Shack TRS80 computers, and now there are phones that are capable of far more than they were. I remember using my friends Commodore 64 over a phone line and thinking how awesome it was to be able to access someone else's computer. Now I can send e-mail, access any information, talk to friends instantly, and, of course, write in this blog. Actually, for those that don't know, I even met Lisa online almost 13 years ago.

I remember seeing people on tv with cell phones years ago. Normally they were the car phones, but handhelds weren't far behind them. The first person I knew to have any kind of cell phone was my supervisor/foreman when I first entered the pipe trade almost 16 years ago.He had a bag phone the size of a duffel bag in his truck, and it got horrible reception. Now I look around me and know only one person who doesn't have one. I'm constantly surrounded by people whose phone never, ever, leaves their side; and is constantly going off whether it's a call or text message. They're everywhere, and you can barely go anywhere where you won't see someone with their phone glued to their ear or typing away at a text message.

We did, at one time, have a game system. I had bought it the same winter when I met Lisa. I was working out of town and staying in a hotel 5-6 nights a week in the dead of northeast Ohio winter. I bought a used system and a few games just to pass the time in a hotel room. I still had the game system when we bought this place almost 11 years ago. I didn't think at the time I played it often, but I soon learned differently. I was sitting in front of the tv, playing a racing game, when I got up to get some coffee. As I walked to the kitchen, I realized that it was a beautiful day outside, and I had just spent 2-3 hours wasting away at a game. I unplugged the game and traded it off a few days later. I had the exact same thing happen 2 years ago when I realized that I had wasted 4 hours of a wonderful summer day watching a Mythbusters marathon. Two days later, we had the cable company come get the box, and we've never looked back. Since that day, I have read more books than I probably did in the previous ten years. I've stopped wasting my time and have educated myself in many ways. We spend time reading, talking to each other, and even sitting at the table playing board games. Life itself has improved in many ways since tossing the cable out of the window.

I've been writing this post a little at a time over the course of several days. I try not to cop an attitude when I write something like this based solely on my own opinion, but sometimes I do. It's those times when I delete the part I didn't like, and let it sit for a while. This morning I sat to read one of my regular forums with my first cup of coffee. Their forum is broken down into categories like most others, and I see a new post in the "videos" section. Sometimes the videos posted are educational, sometimes they're just entertaining, and sometimes they're of the poster's things done at their own home. I click on one that's titled in a way that makes me think it's from his home. When it opens, I'm disappointed to see that it's yet another video promotion for another video game. I see grown men talking about how they can't wait for the release of this game. Grown men. Not kids, not teens, not even 20-somethings, grown men. Maybe I'm just too disconnected now from games and television, but I just can't understand someone my age getting excited over a video game. It boggles my mind.

I'm sure that everyone is wondering where I am going with all of this, and here it is. I have to wonder if advances in home electronics have not only helped us grow as a society, but somehow choked us as people and are holding us back from being human. I see so many people around me and in the world that can't possibly survive their day to day life without electronics. They can't imagine a day without a cell phone, television, or game system. What started as simple communication and entertainment devices have turned into things that, for lack of better terms, rule our lives.I know people who can't even go to the bathroom without their cell phone. I know people that spend every waking moment away from work playing video games. I know people who sit and either read online or play games just the same. We are addicted, and we are reliant on each and every one of them in some form, whether we will admit it or not.

I'm aware that we live a lot differently than most of society. We aren't "the norm". I get that. But sometimes I have to look around and see how people live so differently that I'm not making myself an outcast from the norm, the norm is making me an outcast from it. I can't say we don't own any electronics. We do both have cell phones, and obviously we own a computer, but that's as far as we go. We don't have cable or satellite tv. We have an old, regular, boxy tv that we use to watch the occasional dvd. We don't own any type of game system, portable book reading device, or the latest phone capable of more than this old computer running WIndows 98. We've made our decisions based on our choices of how to live, and quite frankly, we never plan to go back.

I'm not saying everyone should make the choices we have. I'm not going to suggest to everyone that they toss the tv out of the window and concentrate on nothing but growing and raising their own food. I'm just asking that people take a step back and see what these things are doing to us. Everyone laughs at those old pictures from the 50's with the entire family huddled around the tiny black and white television. At the very least, they were together. Now look around and see that everyone in the family has their own tv, phone, computer, and game system in their own rooms. The dad is playing a war game, the mom is watching a chick-flick, the son is playin a guitar-playing game, and the little sister is on a social networking site talking about her teachers mole.

Take a day sometime and turn off all the electronics. Unplug for a while. Leave the tv and computer off. Leave your cell phone alone except for calls. Go outside and get some fresh air. Go to the library or book store and get a book. No, not from an online store or an e-book; I mean a good old fashioned paper book. Sit back and relax. Educate yourself. Go for a walk in the woods or the park. Sit under a tree and enjoy nature. Go home and plant something, then watch it grow. Think about that new electronics purchase. Do you really NEED it?

Spring Cleaning

What a dreary morning here. It's cold, raining, and the yard & garden look like a swamp. It's one of those mornings when you look out of the window and just want to go back to sleep. But, the snow is gone, the birds are singing, and warmer weather is on the way. There are so many things to do outside. I hope the warm and sunny shows up soon and sticks around. It's been a long, cold, snowy winter.

I've been tackling small projects over the past few days. The largest one has been cleaning and rearranging the tools and garage. I was able to get a nice metal roll-away tool box from the house I've been cleaning out, and I took the time to clean it completely and put away my hand tools. It's very cool to have everything organized and in separate drawers for the first time. Philips screwdrivers are separated from standard screwdrivers, 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 inch sockets and ratchets have their own drawers, metric and standard sockets each have their own spot, each type of plier has it's own drawer,(channel locks, pilers, snips, wire cutters/strippers etc), even torque drivers have their own drawer now. Ahhhhhhhh big box of red painted steel and tooliness, how I love thee so. Yes "tooliness" is now an official word. I think it belongs in the "Lisa-ism's dictionary with "roundy".

I had a much smaller roll-away box that I bought from Sears probably 17 years ago that I planned to give to a friend. But realizing that I have more tools than I had wall or available drawer space, I ended up using it. This one now holds drill bits and drill accessories, drywall tools, paint brushes and rollers, misc other household tools, and a drawer of tape measures. Yes, a drawer of different styles and sizes of tape measures. Lisa has shoes,(I dont have shoes...I have crafty stuff!!!) I have tape measures. Lots of them. It's a guy thing. (please note the edit from Lisa while I left this open on Wordpad) Remind me to not do that again.

While the workshop side of the garage is finally coming back together, I look at the other side and can't do anything but sigh. It's a small 2 car garage that I split in half by making a long workbench down the center between posts. The right side holds gas cans, garden tools, pots, and other misc things either on shelves or on the wall. The big problem is the floor area. In that one side; I have the tractor, tiller, push mower, wood chipper, garden cart, animal cage, four bicycles, chicken feed bins, straw, buckets, wash tubs, jack stands, floor jack, and a few other things. I've had to face facts that I have more "stuff" than I have garage. I'd love to build a lean-to behind the garage, or build a shed, but we don't have the money, and then there's always that ridiculous building permit thing that gets in the way. I'm going to try thinning out some things, but most in there are necessities. Arrrrrrrrrrgggghhhhhhhhh it's frustrating. Getting rid of tools? Is that really allowed? Will the tool gods strike me down?

I want to get things together, cleaned, and organized long before we start spring planting. I'm taking the time now before I start work in a week or two since we'll be back to just weekends and evenings for getting things done. It will be more difficult than last year since we added so many new garden spaces, but we'll manage just fine. The gardening and food production will just have to be on the very top of the priority list. Spare time for other things will be scarce this spring and summer,but I'm fine with that. That's what I do. I want this season to not only top last years production, but I want to prove that we can do it all while working two full time jobs. For me, the challenge itself gives me the drive. I do love a challenge.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Repost-A window to my past

Last night I was talking to some people in a chat through one of my regular forums, and questions came up about some of the things I do here at home. Some of the questions were about rabbits, and I mentioned how killing and butchering them didn't affect me very much since I had hunted since I was very young. I told them that sometimes, hunting was a necessity, and it reminded me of a post in this blog I had written a while ago. I dug through the blog archives and found it, and posted the link to share. As I sat here reading it late last night, I decided that today I would repost it here in the blog just to give some of the newer readers a little perspective on some things that have partly made me who I am. Some of you I've met through online forums, some of you I knew 25 years ago in school, and some of you just stumbled across my little corner of the internet and decided to stick around. Either way, this post from December 30th of 2008 will let you see a little bit of my past, and how it has returned to form me into who I am now. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

After reading Farmergeeks response on his blog about the Boy Scout books, it somehow reminded me of my youth. Nope, I was never a scout, but I had always wanted to be one. I wanted to wear that uniform, I wanted to go on outings, have friends, and learn from them, but it never happened for several reasons. One, my parents never liked to drive anywhere other than work or to the store. Two, they could never have afforded anything I would have needed to be in the scouts. And three, dad always said they were wimps, lol, I imagine he couldn't get in either...grumpy old fart. Plus I was a very nervous kid..really withdrawn,shy, and afraid of everything. Hard to believe ain't it??? lol
While growing up, I never learned any of the wilderness survival skills in the scout books like making a shelter or tying knots, but I learned a lot from just living, even though at the time I didn't realize it. I learned to garden, I learned to shoot and hunt, I learned to fish, I learned how to preserve food, and I learned how to live on next to nothing. Times were hard at home, nearly my entire youth was spent from check to check by my parents barely making ends meet.At that time in the late 60's and early 70's, concrete guys just plain didn't work in the winter, so dad was always layed off. To understand where I'm coming from, I'll go into a little detail:

I grew up with my mom, dad, and sister on 3 acres in a small township in the same county I live in now. Our house was a 3 room basement home. NOT 3 bedrooms, 3, living room, backroom, that's it. We slept in the same room as our parents on bunkbeds till I was about 12, when dad separated the 2 rooms. Heat in the house was via an oil burning stove in the center of the living room,no ductwork, just radiant heat.(so even though we had our own room, we had to keep the door open when it was cold) We had well water attached to a kitchen sink and a washing machine, and that was all. We bathed in an old galvanized washtub with hot water from the sink. Our toilet was an indoor outhouse of sorts, inside a closet in the backroom. Basically just a frame with a seat and bucket underneath, with a matching real outhouse behind the old shed that was about 80 yards from the house.In the evenings after dark, dad carried that bucket to the outhouse, 365 days a year. We finally got a real bathroom with a tub, shower, and toilet when I was 15, so we (sis and I)thought we were rich. We had a black and white tv attached to a 25 foot antenna tower dad scrounged from a jobsite, with a grand total of 5 stations. (anyone else remember antenna rotors?) I believe I was around 18 or 19 when we got basic cable.I remember an old rotary phone in the house till around '85 as well. The flat tar roof leaked, the floor was almost always damp, the bare block walls cold, and the place always smelled of heating oil and Hoppes gun cleaner. (though I still love the smell of Hoppes, lol)

Food was always a big issue. During the warmer months, we ate what we deemed as "normal" food, though most was the cheapest cut available, and usually other things from the dented can bins at the local Sparkle Market. We busted our asses with a decent sized garden all summer, and I grew to hate it as a kid. I remember many days of pushing myself and my sister through green briar to pick blackberries, as well as wild grapes, so mom could make jellies and jams to can or freeze. (I still hate freezer jam though!) We never had any animals other than beagles, so our only meat source other than the store (when dad was working) was hunting. I can't begin to imagine how many meals we had that were duck, squirrel, or rabbit. At the time there were still pheasants in this part of Ohio, and we were always excited to bag one since it meant a good sized dinner. I think the worst time we had was one winter when dad and I set off hunting on Thanksgiving morning hoping to get a pheasant so we didn't have to have rabbit for dinner. Luckily we got one that day .

Funny how life works, isn't it? Most of my life I hated the way I grew up and resented my parents for making us live that way. We were "forced" to help around the house and garden. We had to use an outhouse when everyone else had a real bathroom. We had to watch an old b&w tv when the neighbors had color, remote control AND cable! All through my teens 20's,and early 30's, I pulled myself as far away from that life as I could, buying and doing everything I could, just because I could. But here I sit, typing and thinking about all of this and realize something. I'm going back to that way of life on purpose. It makes me chuckle to think about it, but it also makes me kinda sad. I wasted all that time trying to ignore who/what I really am. It took me all this time to find myself, but I made it. Without my childhood, and without Lisa's encouragement I would never be where I am now.....make that-WE would never be where WE are now.Without going into any detail, she grew up very similar in a house not much bigger with FOUR siblings...and I thought I had it tough! Sometimes I write in this blog like it's all me, but it's far from it. Lisa had taken every step right beside me the whole way,taking this incredible journey of lifestyle change that we are on.
Though they'll never see this, thank you mom and dad for making me who I am today, and thank you Lisa for your love and encouragement. You are my guiding light down this path to self sufficiency.

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