Progressively Worse

fullsizeoutput_5d20The other day I was driving happily along, when suddenly the emergency brakes slammed on and my dashboard lit up with warning signs.  This has happened a few times when I pull into my garage a little too quickly, but never on the street.  I was confused and alarmed, wondering what on earth had triggered the emergency brake system.  And then I spotted it:  a small twig with about seven leaves that had blown across the street, directly in front of my car.

I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if there had been a car behind me when my brakes slammed on.  Would my car have caused an accident in its attempt to avoid driving over a little twig?  I’ll never know, but the thought makes me distinctly uneasy.

I recently bought a new computer, and while setting it up I made the mistake of answering “yes” when asked if I wanted to upload all my photos to “The Cloud.”  I was already paying a small fee to use I-Cloud storage, so that seemed to be the sensible answer.  Sadly, it wasn’t, because it resulted in all my photos being uploaded twice, even the ones that I had previously stored only on my desktop.  Even worse, I got a notice from I-Cloud saying that I had used up almost all my storage and inviting me to pay more to increase it.  It also loaded all the photos (including the duplicates) onto my I-phone, which took a big chunk of that storage too.  And I found that if I deleted the photos from my I-phone, it automatically deleted them from my computer as well.  Since I prefer to keep most of my photos on my computer and just my favorites on my phone, that’s a problem.

The point of these stories is that new isn’t always better.  I know that these days almost any annoying new thing seems to be justified by either calling it progress or claiming it’s a “matter of safety,” but that doesn’t make it true.  I’ve had to spend hours deleting extra photos from my computer and still have no idea how to delete them from my phone while still storing the ones I want on my computer.  And I’ll never be convinced that a car hitting its emergency brakes because a few leaves blow across the road is keeping anyone safe.

In far too many ways, the progress from our technology has made our lives more complicated and stressful.  It may be more convenient to store all of our personal information, including medical and financial records, online but it also means we have to constantly worry about hackers stealing our identity and our money.  Say what you will, but identity theft wasn’t a big thing before the internet.  And remember the days when real people answered the phones if you called your doctor, bank, or just about any other company?  Now we just get an automated voice listing various options, and none of them are ever the reason why I actually called.

Yes, I know, technology is mostly a good thing and we must “embrace change” and “go with the flow” and all the other pat phrases that people trot out whenever anyone dares to question the infallibility of progress.  I’m just saying that in my opinion, change isn’t truly progress unless it’s a change for the better.  And I believe that it’s perfectly okay to point out the difference between good change and bad change, and pick and choose (as much as we are able) which of the new technologies we embrace and which ones we reject….

Light It Up

IMG_0948As far as I’m concerned, the very second Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas season begins.  Within hours of clearing away the Thanksgiving dinner table and dividing up the left over turkey among my family, I am already planning my Christmas decorations for this year.  Others may spend Black Friday battling the crowds at the malls and big box stores for bargains, but I spend the day after Thanksgiving getting my house ready for Christmas.   I drag out my boxes of Christmas decorations while my husband assembles the tree in our living room in preparation for our annual tree trimming, which is always done while drinking champagne and listening to Nat King Cole.  Before the weekend is over, both my house and the tree are usually fully decorated.

Until this year, that is.  This year, things went terribly wrong.

We couldn’t find the lights for our Christmas tree.  We spent hours searching every box in the basement and every closet in the house before we came to the sad conclusion that we must have thrown them out when we took the tree down last year, because we were worried that they were getting too hot to be safe.  We decorate our tree with antique Christmas ornaments and like to string old-fashioned ceramic bulbs to go with them, but sometimes those bulbs can get very hot and then we worry about them being a fire hazard.  So we headed to the stores in hopes of finding some new ceramic lights that we could safely string on our tree.

But old-fashioned ceramic lights turned out to be very difficult to find.  The store shelves are full of the new LED lights, in an amazing array of colors and shapes.  If I wanted lights that shifted from colored to white and then back to colored again in less than five seconds, they had them.  If I wanted strings of miniature lights, flashing lights, lights that were shaped like Mickey Mouse’s ears, they had them.  They even had strings of somewhat normal shaped bulbs, but they included pink, yellow and purple lights, and Christmas lights were never meant to come in those colors.  That’s just a sin against God and country, as far as I’m concerned.

Finally, I found a string of old-fashioned C-7 sized bulbs in normal Christmas colors, so I bought three packages.  Then I spotted some LED lights, also in normal colors and only slightly larger bulbs than I’m used to, so I bought some of those as well, as a back-up.  But when I got home, I discovered that the old-fashioned lights became hot enough to burn my fingers within minutes of plugging them in, so I decided to suck it up and venture into new territory by stringing the LED lights on the tree.  It took me two hours and five strings, but I finally got them all on.

And my husband and I actually thought they didn’t look too bad, until we made the mistake of turning off the rest of the living room lights to bask in the glow of our Christmas tree lights.  Because there wasn’t any glow to bask in.  LED lights may be bright and look pretty on the tree, but they throw out no light at all.  None.  And what’s the point of having a lighted Christmas tree if you can’t sit in the living room on a cold December night, with nothing on but the tree lights and a fire in the fireplace, and enjoy the soft, cozy glow?

So, tonight we went back to the store, and found some “cool light” C-7 bulbs that look old-fashioned enough to show off our antique ornaments and bathe our living room in a Christmas glow without threatening to burn the house down.  I’m going to put them on the tree tomorrow, and hope that they work out.  Because if they don’t, I’m going to be spending the next few days searching for lights that do work out, and time is not on my side.  But no one ever said the quest for holiday perfection was an easy one.