I can figure out how to do most things, no matter how complicated, if I put my mind to them. There's no shortage of challenges. There's my home computer, and my work computer, my cell phone, various entertainment electronics, a minivan bristling with options, kid toys, and so on. I spend half of my day figuring out why my technology isn't acting the way I think it should.

And then there is the complexity of general living, including my various business ventures, and lately the overwhelming complexity of building a house. My desk is normally a blizzard of paperwork ranging from taxes, to contracts, to payroll, and health insurance issues. It's all under control, mostly.

This brings me to my Bluetooth headset for my cell phone. I bought one that is allegedly a good brand. The interface involves pushing the body of the earpiece in just the right place, without the benefit of a visible button or one that you can feel with your finger. Where you press, and when you press, depends on the context. Is a call incoming, or are you making one, or hanging up, or turning it on, or what? And sometimes you are required to hold a button for a longer period of time to get a different result than you would get by briefly pressing it.

And so it sits on my nightstand, mocking me. The user manual has long been sacrificed to the random clutter of some junk drawer or other, never again to be seen. I have tried using the device a few times, but I find the interface impenetrable. Sure, I could hunt down the manual, and spend an afternoon memorizing the sequence of events, having people call me just to practice. But I don't memorize well. I can remember a new concept forever, but I don't remember my home phone number because I don't call it. This thing has been sanitized of all concepts. It wins.

Likewise, I have never been able to back up the data on my computer. Ever. In concept, it's pretty simple. You buy the backup media, fire up the backup software, set some options, and off it goes. Over the years I have tried perhaps 20 different backup media, and half a dozen backup software solutions. So far, none have worked. It's always a different reason. Sometimes my backup disk is empty but it acts as if it is full. Sometimes the software appears to be properly scheduled but just refuses to run. Sometimes it runs but only backs up a tiny file or two and then quits.

Again, I could figure out how to solve this backup issue. It is well within my capability. But instead I will just copy the most important of my files manually to another disk and call it good, as I have for the past 20 years. And I will simply not answer my phone if it rings while I am driving. I just don't have time to fix these problems.

You might have noticed that I publish entire links in this blog instead of embedding them in a highlighted word that you can click. That's because sometimes the software lets me do it the right way and sometimes not, for reasons I could figure out if I spent a day or two trying.

I worry that the list of things I don't have time to figure out is growing. Is there some sort of saturation point where I just say screw it and go live in the woods?

(P.S. I tried to review this post before publishing it but today the blogging software only shows me advertising instead of a preview. I could spend today figuring out why, or I could just publish without previewing it. Guess which one I did.)
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Jun 25, 2009
Ah, the modern need for each of us to be an "instant expert".

Remember in "The Matrix", where the guy loaded a disk, and - presto! - Neo knew Kung Fu, or Trinity could fly a helicopter.

Mordern life assumes that we all have that ability.
- We buy (or build) a house, and suddenly need to know everything about finances and mortgage options; building codes and zoning laws;
- Our loved one is sick. The doctor needs US to make a medical decision;
- Someone dies, and we are suddenly experts in funeral planning, estate exectutoship, and grief councelling.

Sometimes we can do it, or at least fake it enough to get by. Sometimes, as Scott points out, we're smart enough, but there just isn't the right combination of time and desire to learn one more thing that we won't need to know in just a few months.

So where's that guy with the disk and where are my implants? Scott's post about mind-reading machines shows just how far away we are.
Jun 25, 2009
Boy Scott (don't take this the wrong way) you sound pitiful, and I mean that in the best possible way.
Jun 25, 2009
I think the reason the list is getting longer is because technology continues to advance. It's not hard to figure out how to work a spoon, for example, but for whatever reasons, millions of people still can't set the time on their various electronic devices. Since we keep adding applications and hardwear to our lives, we're all bound to get caught once in a while in some kind of vortex where we just can't make the technology work for us.

My fiance and I can't send each other photos on our cell phones. He's changed his phone three times. Each phone had the capability, yet, nada. I can send and receive photos with other cell phones. I'm sure there is a way to do it, I mean, teenagers do it, but it just doesn't seem worth the effort of figuring it out. I suppose this is somewhat coloured by the many hours I spent trying to get the MP3 player on my phone to work, which we never had any success with. It took over a year to get my service provider to bundle my cell phone and Internet bills. I think we're technologically exhausted. We're waiting for the day we just end up with phones that just "work".
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