When learning a new language, you are bound to make mistakes. It’s expected and normal. But when you are in a world where you don’t understand a thing without an interpreter to help you find your way, you might become dazed, confused and a tad irritated after a while.

Such is the language of computer programming for me. Product Key IDs, Windows Installer corruption and the inability to update applications such as Skype, a lifeline for me in so many ways, are things that put me in a tailspin.

And so it was this week. That is, until Mumbling Microsoft Man came to the rescue. The support guy on the other end of the line spoke so quickly and unclearly that I literally only understood the first and last word of every sentence.

“It……….again. So…….,okay?”

Right.

For the record, he told me I could use his last name here, but since we got on a first-name basis over the course of an intense three hour on-again, off-again mobile phone conversation, I decided to create a pseudonym for the purpose of this post.

It only seems fair.

After repairing what at first seemed like a minor missing link, Microsoft has gained enormous respect in my eyes. Admittedly, like a college student dabbling in drugs, sex and rock-n-roll, I have been known to dabble on the Dark Side (read: Apple products). Their graphics rock, the look and feel of them are appealing and the store itself makes me want to take my shoes off at the door and speak in hushed tones as I admire, well, everything. I love Apple products for their cutesy nature, their instantaneousness and their speed.

Yes, even in a blog about slow, speed is valued. But when push comes to shove and I really need to write, my PC stands like a lighthouse in the dark: solid, stark, simply there.

You can imagine my frenzy when my PC rejected any type of updates whatsoever. To make a long story short, an old registry sweeper application I stupidly downloaded had eventually erased an important product key that unlocked the mystery that is Microsoft-based computer programming.

Microsoft Man patiently began our session with a kind request for the Product Key ID. I gave him the wrong one. He patiently asked me to look on my computer tower, not my Home Office software packet. I got down on my hands and knees, owing him my own set of patience as I scanned all four dusty corners of it. Finally, with a shriek of delight, I found what he was looking for. After discovering how dirty my floor was, I pulled myself up from under my desk and waited for Microsoft Man’s next intelligent command. He logged into my computer via some secret remote program and I watched him whip around my computer screen like Super Geek trying to find the solution.

Forty minutes later, I was a liiiiiiittle less patient, understanding only half of what he was saying. What first came out of my mouth as, “I’m sorry. Might you please repeat that?” later morphed into, “Huh?” accompanied by a glazed look of the truly defeated.

But Microsoft Man would not be beaten. After an hour and ten minutes, we took a break. I headed for the kitchen, he to a colleague’s desk. I’m not certain whether he beat his head against it, but he came back to the second conversation sounding as even-keeled as ever.

I threw him a bone.

“Would you like to take a lunch break?” I suggested, secretly muting every time I took a bite of my Thai food.

“Not until this is over,” I heard him say.

What commitment!

He manually added some gibberish into an additional screen and by the third hour, we were speedily updating, reinstalling and generally smiling at the amazingness of Microsoft Man himself.

He kindly suggested I fill out the customer satisfaction evaluation form that would inevitably pop into my inbox in a few days.

You bet I will, MM. Somehow I feel like we speak the same language now.

What’s your computer repair story? If you have a PC, I know you have one. Now Apple, well, that’s another story!

Remember when phones were large and looked like this?

A replica of my first telephone

 

We have moved on from the early 1980s when rotary was the norm and push-button was for ultra-modern folks. I had a phone just like the one pictured above. I paid $1.50 a month and shared the phone with my sisters. Those were the days.

Today our kids clog the talkwaves wherever they are. Only they usually aren’t talking, but typing.

According to a Vondane Mobile survey, texting and calling habits vary drastically between individuals ages 13-24 and 25+. Here are some highlights:

  • Nine percent of people ages 13-24 send over 1000 text messages a week. (My thumbs hurt just reading this, much less typing it.)
  • The majority of teens/young adults age 13-24 only make between 1-5 calls a week. (And usually not to Grandma, but to their friends ~ at least at my house!)
  • Seventy-six percent of parents keep track of the number of calls/texts their children make. (I wouldn’t go near my daughter’s cell phone. “It’s like my diary, Mom. Hands off!” Okay…)
  • The majority of those surveyed say cost is the most important consideration when deciding on cell phone service. (Agreed.)
  • Seventy-five percent of those surveyed own an iPhone or Android phone.

Below is the state of telecommunications today. Where do you land on this spectrum? Text like a teen? Are you a Scrooge on Skype?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine taking an entire day off. No cell phone. No one calling your name. No computer. No client calls. No children begging for ice cream. Just you, yourself, and, well, YOU!

Yesterday I declared a sabbatical from my every day life and headed for the hills. Well, not really. I first headed for the woods. In fact, I left my iPhone, with little battery power left, behind. After an hour power walk, I went to the gym to enjoy the sauna and a hot, albeit short, shower. Browsing the supermarket aisles for a snack, I took my time with no real purpose or timeline. I even waited patiently in line while two women and a two-year-old unloaded their heavy shopping cart onto the conveyor belt. I had two items, but didn’t mind just standing there soaking in my surroundings. What an fabulous feeling not to try to squeeze time like an orange!

I missed the train to Munich so had to wait 30 minutes for the next one. So what. I called my husband with 30% left on my iPhone battery to say I’d be home in the evening or later, in case I found a movie I liked.

When I finally got to my destination, thousands of people rushed to and fro. Seeking refuge (and warmth) in a bookstore, I sat amongst the others on a long bench made for book lovers who just want to focus on one thing: the book or magazine they were reading. I found a book on burnout, which felt purposeful enough as I am doing research for a new book on it myself.

It was there that I realized how tiring a purpose-driven life can be. When we do everything on purpose, with focus and intention, we have no real time for Bacchalian enjoyment. To do a thing simply because we want to resides outside the realm of our vocabulary. In our achievement-oriented society, having a ‘be’ day seems extravagent indeed.

But it was just the thing I needed after a string of successive achievements. When we keep our eyes on accomplishment only,  we have no time to recuperate. With all our time spent on going for the gold, we find our worth only in the doingness of things instead of realizing just being is more than enough.

Did you know you will continue to exist — that is, to be — even when you don’t ‘do’?

Where did our drive for constant activity come from? According to the book I just read, Warum Burnout Nicht Vom Job Kommt by Helen Heinemann (in nearly one sitting – it was that good), burnout comes from the blurring of the lines around our specific roles in public and private life. If we live with uncertainty as to where my role begins and, say, my partner’s ends, we are left with a domain over which we will combat. Combine the lack of clarity with a lack of pause to reconsider which direction each of us should go and a wildfire ensues. Each of us, running as fast as we can, toward an ill-defined end goal can lead to burnout faster than you can say, “Call 911!”

Slowing down and taking pause really do help because in those pockets of air we allow ourselves come the solutions to many of our issues we otherwise quickly try to sweep under the carpet.

Take the Slow Challenge and call a whole day off for yourself. What do you think you’ll discover?

According to a recent report by Cisco, one in three college students and young professionals ranked the Internet as important as food, air and water. These under-30 folks don’t have a working memory of Life Before. Like television, it’s just always been there.

But it goes deeper than that. Two-thirds of colleges students admitted they’d ask about a company’s social media policies during a job interview. The sticky question “What will this position pay?” has been replaced with “What are your thoughts on Facebook during work hours?” Fifty-six percent wouldn’t even consider a job offer that banned social media. Wow.

And it appears the next generation is willing to forgo a higher salary for more flexibility. One in three prefer mobility, social media freedom and device flexibility over more pay.

Give me Facebook. Or give me death.

Forty-one percent of those companies surveyed claimed they used attractive social media policies and device flexibility to attract new talent. Four in five college students want the freedom to choose the device they get to use.

Amazing.

As a freelancer, I work with several computers, an iPhone and even a GPS. I’m just as saddled with devices as the next person. And I’ve never considered the restrictions others may have who work in an office setting. It appears the next generation prefers a work-at-home solution. Three in five believe they have the right to work remotely.

Corporate learning and development professionals could benefit from this intelligence as they devise training programs for the next generation. These are exciting times full of possibility.

If given a choice, how would you prefer to work? Remotely? In an office setting? A combination of both?

The New York Times recently reported on an interesting concept called ‘shadow work’, the unpaid duties we fulfill every day. Going beyond the obvious (such as child care and household chores), the article’s author, Craig Lambert pointed to the real reason we’re all so exhausted. We complete more tasks today than ever before.

And I’m not just talking about email or iPhone usage, but also about mundane things such as the self-check out function at most any grocery store.

At the risk of sounding nostaglic (and, tangently, pathetic), I would like to reminisce for just one moment. It used to be you had a bag boy who would roll your groceries out to the car for you. No more. You may have a bag boy (or girl) in the US, but those things never really existed in Germany, where I live. In fact, in addition to bagging the groceries yourself, here you have to even coin-operate the shopping cart, resulting in your having to push the thing back into its slot to retrieve the coin you put into it. It prevents car dings. It preserves order. And it’s an athletic event every time I food shop.

Now there’s something lovely and slow about bringing your own bag. Really, there is. But let’s look at a few other examples, such as the gas station. As Craig suggests, gas stations used to be called service stations because you had, well, service. The guy in the red jumpsuit and clipboard would ask what kind of gas you wanted, pumped it, then managed the payment. Now you can swipe, pump and drive without talking to a soul.

It feels lifeless. And robotic. And 1984-ish. Only it’s 2011.

If we opt to stand in the check out line (in Germany, you have no choice but to do that, besides at IKEA, which has its own brand of do-it-yourself flair), we are often tempted to check our smartphones while waiting to see what in the world we missed in the 18 minutes we food-shopped. I do it. I know some of you do it too.

By day’s end, it’s no wonder we’re so exhausted. All that DIYing can put a strain on one’s sensibilities. We all need each other and helping others is a great way to connect and feel part of something greater than ourselves. So the next time you’re tempted to push the 15 items or less limit to check out faster, seek human connection instead. Smile. And the cashier might just smile back. The machine won’t. Guaranteed.

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Tech wizardry is yet another skill set the 21st Century demands. Don’t know basic html? You are in such trouble. Haven’t a clue how to configure an iPhone? You hack.

Life. It’s complicated.

Apart from feeling like the IT department, nay, the CIO of my family, I have been called to stretch my mind way farther into the Cloud than most people

As retrieved from CloudTimes.org

would admit. Upon the recommendation of a dear friend who’s just as iPhone-happy as I, I cheerily downloaded the latest iO5 software, which is iSpeak for a sleeker operating system that allows the iPhone to do cool things like check your email and let you surf the ‘Net (does anyone even call the Internet that anymore?), which is what prior operating systems let you do too, only this one is supposed to offer a more svelt experience. I, on the other hand, nearly died.

You see, my nifty little update completely erased all my phone contacts. And disengaged my iPhone from the mobile network. So, like many who experience an unexpected power outage, I panicked in the dark. That is, in the light. The light-ness of my dismembered inbox.

I sniffed. I snorted. I stomped. Dagnabbit! Someone else must have experienced the same thing. So I went to my (Microsoft!) desktop and checked out a few forums. Soft ways, hard ways, go to the Apple store ways. None of it helped. Until I remembered my mobile phone provider gave me a manual configuration sheet to follow when I first set the thing up. So here’s what you need to do if you too are lured into the sexy surrender of a software update on your iPhone that then paralyzes the use of your mobile network.

Step 1: before you do absolutely anything tricky like connect your iPhone to your iTunes account and expect it to innocently choose only those things that will make your life more convenient and not do a general swipe/swish/swoosh when you press ‘update’, forgettaboutit. iPhone does what iPhone wants. So keep that manual configuration data handy that your mobile provider used to set up your phone in the first place.

Step 2: Go to >Settings.  Tap >General, then >Network. Tap on >Mobile Data network.

Step 3: If your data has not be erased, genuflect to the tech gods who did well by you. If it has been, go to the next step.

Step 4: Put in the configuration data as it is listed on the sheet your mobile provider gave you. Don’t have it? Call them.

Step 5: Leave a comment here telling me about your experience. Did it work? Are you cheering gimme a P-O-W-E-R-O-F-S-L-O-W! What does that spell?

Ah. Forgettaboutit! But do leave a comment because we tech minds have to stick together. It is far too easy to get lost in the Cloud.

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My iPhone doesn’t work in the United States. Or, more succinctly, the roaming charges would cost more than a flight at high season. So, along with my desktop, my automobile, and my TV work, I have laid my iPhone to rest for the next five weeks.

In a phrase, I am entering the No iPhone Zone.

It makes me light-headed at the thought, really. Fiddling with my various apps as we waited for the travel agent to nail down the actual flight times that had changed since we booked the trip seven months ago, I realized how wonderful my iPhone feels, resting with such trust in my hands. When some of my friends warned me about how fragile an iPhone can be, I quickly ran out to get a protective cover for it. And I’ve dropped mine twice; each time it was cushioned by an ultra-shock absorbing cover, a ‘thick skin’ if you will, to ensure a soft landing on any hard-tiled floor. I take great care to always have it with me. Not very slow of me, I know. But there are some things a girl just can’t do without.

Or can she?

As the travel agent clicked and tsked at his desk, my children and I each pulled out our various gadgets to make the wait more bearable. He went on and on with the airline until I finally got up, confident that my children were adequately distracted, and ran an errand before plopping myself down again. Just as I entered his office again, he put down the phone.

“I really don’t have time for this,” he sighed, as he folded the final travel documents into an envelope. His desk was clear, he had no to-dos bursting from his appointment book, and I wondered, as I discreetly tucked my iPhone into my bag, what he did have time for. Booking travel arrangements for people is his job, after all. Maybe it was all in his iPhone hidden in a drawer somewhere.

As we gathered our things, I spoke loudly enough so the agent could hear me. “We’re travelling without our gadgets,” I explained to the children who looked at me quizzically. But then, through some magical spell, they agreed.

“No iPod, no iPhone, no nothing. Nada. Nichts! We’re going to take in our surroundings when we reach the States. Basta!”

We all laughed at the thought of a real-live unplugged vacation. Go West, young lassy. And leave those devices behind. I can do it. I know I can.

It may not be as quiet in the car now, but I’m actually glad. That No iPhone Zone is sounding pretty good after all!

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