moldybluecheesecurds 2

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A birthday with some self-illumination

My birthday this year was great.  K did the dishes for me on the day of (a weekday) so I got to read a new book for an hour straight (not easy with two small children).  I got good foods (e.g. French Silk Pie) and had a small, low-key "happy hour" at our house with a group of friends.  Today was a great end to the "birthday week," with a leisurely lake walk, playing the sand with the kids, and a tasty, simple meal ("veggie delight" sandwiches and scrambled eggs).

I'm not sure why, but thinking back on the week (and some of the things I got for my birthday) fired the spark of self-reflection.  For example, why am I so delighted with a ceramic paring knife?  Or the quick-read kitchen thermometer?  I'm not really a foodie by the standard definition.  While I like good kitchen tools, my "birthday meal" (a family tradition) was from Chipotle this year.  I also found a Groupon to the local bar that has great burgers.

Rather, it's what Robert McCloskey called "labor saving devices" in his Homer Price books (childhood favorites) that both intrigue and delight me.

Seriously, if you do any amount of cooking with vegetables and have not tried a ceramic knife, you haven't lived.  As K knows, I will talk for hours about how delightful that first slice was, how nice it is to chop carrots and how well the knife cuts tomatoes.

Do you know how much I like this?  Isn't this knife great?  

It's the third knife I've asked for as a gift (I started with this one - get it, it's terrific and inexpensive), and I just love that it makes something we do (cook) significantly easier.

I also rave occasionally about the pot rack in the kitchen corner that freed up two whole shelves in our cupboards (if you live in a city home, this kind of space-saving is not easy), the lights I installed in the clothes closets in the bedroom (yes, that shirt IS blue), and - of course - my iPhone.

An iPhone presents the ultimate intersection of "labor saving device" and technology.  I'm the guy who at age 14 got SimCity 2000 for Christmas and - after realizing the family computer couldn't run it - spent five months reading the game manual, the weekly Best Buy circular, and writing about it in my English class journal every week (I still have it - wow, I was obsessed) until we got a new computer.

By the time I got an iPhone (the year the 4th edition was released),  I had already researched apps I wanted.  I knew every reason why the 4 was better (or not) than the 3 or 3gs.  And I had also researched jailbreaking, just in case I couldn't handle Apple's hardware/software lockdown.

Why was this device great?   Schedule a meeting while at a meeting? Great, my phone says I'm free next Tuesday.   Carry my music and audiobooks without a second device - delightful!  Skip packing the Nintendo DS on airplane trips - okay!  Skip bringing a book and bring an ebook - splendid!  It was the consolidation of entertainment and productivity.  Labor saving!

Then there are apps.  I already use Mac programs like Quicksilver or Hazel or TypeIt4Me to shorten or automate everything I do on the computer.  The iPhone itself was just the beginning.  JotNot Pro was the end of paper filing in my house.  Dropbox was the end of flash drives (and my worry about regular backups).  GroceryIQ was the end of paper lists for shopping.  Remember the Milk was the end of forgetting that thing you asked me to do last week.  Lastpass means I can have a password like this 20Y$%UWERT#@$TERry34509j3049r2304jt4 and I don't need to type it in.  Ever.

I could go on (as K remarks, I often do).

I've realized over the years that this tendency does require some moderation.  One can (and has) spent more time looking for a shortcut that a new tool will ever produce.  But it's kind of like panning for gold, the finding is the fun part, even more so than actual results.

Got any good tools or technology that make your life easier?  Share with me in the comments?

No comments: