Odds And Sods

It’s been one of those days – you know the kind, when you get consumed by all manner of little things that don’t really help with anything.

I’ve had more than my fair share of them, I think. It’s like that point about half way through packing up to move house, or unpacking afterwards, when there’s stuff everywhere but it doesn’t look like you’ve made any progress at all. It’s just total chaos.

That’s the last couple of days for me.

I’ll start with freely admitting that returning to work (or returning to work hours and powering on the work computer, seeing as how work happens from home these days) after a week and some vacation was not something I particularly wanted to do. Vacation just isn’t long enough: by the time I’ve recovered and started to feel like a living being instead of a sleepwalking undead thing the vacation is over and I start the slide back into terminal fatigue again. Barring a lottery win, that’s life, though, so this isn’t bitching about it. It’s just what it is.

Add to that our exceedingly elderly cable modem has been getting progressively flakier over time, with little outages more or less at random – probably not quite one a day on average, but certainly often enough to be a nuisance. So we made an appointment with the service provider to change the thing out for a new one.

After work (where I’d spent most of the day wading through emails and catching up on everything that needed to be caught up on), I disconnected the thing, bundled it up, and took myself to the provider’s office – or so I thought… Turns out they’d moved. Cue panicked drive to the new location, where I searched for the place, only to realize that provider had also changed their name.

Once I got that sorted and got in there, I had the staff exclaiming in shock over the poor beastie, since it was so elderly nobody there recognized it as one of their models, even though it had the sticker on the back with their old name on it. Once they’d recovered from the discovery that such antediluvian equipment not only existed but still more or less worked, they handled the changeover to a new model without any problems, and I headed home.

Where I discovered the “joy” of unclear instructions.

See, the new cable modem comes with built-in router and wi-fi capability. All very nice and happy, except for the slightly awkward fact that the instructions managed to neglect to mention that the activation process needed for the wi-fi is also needed to activate the device itself. Failing to complete the activation process leaves you with wired internet that says it’s on but doesn’t actually let you connect to anything. And yes, me being me, I learned this the hard way.

Today covered some new and equally “interesting” lessons. Like, it’s a really, really bad idea to move a home safe that’s been delivered inside even though the box it was delivered in is falling apart and you don’t think it’s a good idea to leave it on the side porch. It’s a bad idea because the damn thing is ridiculously heavy and I am not in any way ready for impromptu weight lifting exercises thank you very much. We only ordered it because we’ve got a small collection of important documents that happen to be too large for the normal size of home safe, and they’re the kind of thing that you want to keep in something that’s fireproof. You know, leases, citizenship certificates, that kind of thing.

I’m growing to really hate legal paper size. What’s wrong with letter? Or – shock of shocks – international standards like A4? I’m not going to let myself get diverted into a rant about standard sizings and the way the world seems to take a perverse delight in avoiding using standardized anything.

Honestly, I get the reasons for it: it’s a combination of inertia in the form of it being easier to keep doing things they way they’re currently being done than to change anything and the migration penalty of the cost involved in changing to a different format. It’s the same as the old tale of the space shuttle having to be built to a size that could be transported on a standard gauge railway, a size which in turn was based on the main wheel ruts of wagons that were pulled by teams of horses two abreast – that is, two horse’s backsides apart, as it were. Yeah the story is probably a load of hooey, but the point of it, that the things we do have a certain amount of inertia to them which carries through generations and many, many layers of technology… That is true.

Let’s face it, how long do you think it will be before the green and red icons on the cell phone are the only places people will see those shapes? We’ve not had a land line in years, and the only place I see phones with earpieces now are in businesses (not that I’ve seen that in over a year). Picking up the earpiece of a phone is well on the way to becoming an alien action – but the icon will be with us forever.

Erk. I’m clearly just as scattered as my life is.

At any rate, it can be fun to throw this kind of thing into fiction and see how many people pick it up. It doesn’t add anything obvious, but characters having frustrating but normal days now and then and having to deal with the legacy of generations of technical and cultural changes just adds a bit of depth and realism to a piece if it’s Heinleined in well enough.

And on that note, I’m going to finish up here because otherwise I’ll keep rambling until I fall asleep at the keyboard. Again.

16 comments

  1. “Picking up the earpiece of a phone is well on the way to becoming an alien action – but the icon will be with us forever.” Like the “save” icon — a floppy disk!

    1. Exactly! I figured if I mentioned that I’d never stop rambling on. And on.

  2. Heh. I deliberately got a reproduction 1930s heavy Bakelite desk phone for my home office. It has very loud actual bells that ring, but push-buttons instead of the original dial. The handset is tethered, so I keep a pen and notepad beside it. I prefer the lack of “roaming,” because it is on the former land-line [now fiber optic, and ain’t that a pain when the power goes out] and all calls are business calls. Or solicitations.

    One problem I foresee with earpieces on office phones is frequency overlap. This past year at Day Job, we discovered that if someone left their classroom with their wireless mike still on, it grabbed the receivers in the other classrooms. Teachers could not figure out why they did everything right but had no audio, or had audio from two rooms away. We had to go to strict protocols, even with back-to-back classes, for turning the various audio boxes off and then on, in sequence, and not setting foot outside the room with the transmitter in a pocket or on a belt.

    1. Yeah, the frequency sharing stuff is interesting. Insert the ‘crazy’ ‘conspiracy theory’ that Big Tech is doing it on purpose to interfere with military usage of spectrum.

      1. Been there, done that… A long time back I had one of the early models of cordless headphones. It used a radio signal – and someone else in the building had the same model. Which used the same radio frequency, of course. We had to make sure our signal units were kept aimed away from each other or the interference was a right mess.

    2. I’m waiting for there to be a cellphone accessory for a reasonable price that is that kind of a desk top phone– connects to cell phone via bluetooth and acts as a speaker.

      Cellphones are often poorly designed for actually, y’know, TALKING.

      1. Ooh, yeah. That would be helpful. There are apps like that for PC – I’ve been using those for work for a while now – but I’m not aware of anything short of plugging in a headset or possibly a bluetooth headset that would work for a phone.

        I’m not about to experiment with my bluetooth headset, either. I don’t want to deal with the kind of mess that having one headset paired with multiple devices would cause.

      2. I’ve been looking for one for a long time. Did find something for iPhone but Apple products have not worked for me. So is it flip phone forever? (I do have a $10 a month smartphone to have a “public” number — it gets all the spam.)

        1. My mom has a system to turn her cellphone into the home phone, but it looks like the 90s wireless sets not like a CLASSIC phone.

        2. Well, it’s not an accessory, but I am now bugging husband if we can get this so I can teach the kids “how to answer a landline.”

          It’s a converted you can plug the house phone into, which then connects to the phone.

  3. And people will not notice the fossilized metaphors making their fictional dialog– odd.

    You can’t have “a strong suit” in a culture that does not have cheap paper and so does not have playing cards and so does not have the game of bridge.

    1. Those are invisible to the cultures they exist in. I’m constantly surprised even after nearly 19 years in the US by how many British metaphors I use. The US equivalents just don’t feel right for me.

      An awful lot of readers won’t even notice fossilized metaphors that don’t fit the setting. A “good deal” has been almost completely divorced from the act of dealing cards, for instance.

      1. Heh; would you, by chance, be familiar with Lawrence Brown’s YouTube series “Lost in the Pond?” His topic is differences between American and the UK, and he does words and idioms a lot—”cookies” vs. “biscuits,” etc.

  4. I like books that invent their own metaphors. The Lensmen had “QX” (instead of “OK”). Time travel books that bring “OK” to different eras. Swearing by the “Old Gods”. IIRC, Pam is also responsible for “screaming mama gods”, but I’m not sure.

    1. Wasn’t that what “they” finally charged Casanova with—swearing by the Devil instead of God?

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