Brave New World

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Tech Junkie
11 Mar 2009
Brave New World

My mom just called to announce that she’d taken herself “off the grid”. This is the psychological equivalent of a drug addict going cold turkey, but you’ll have to trust me since you’ve never met her. The trigger was an outrageous invoice from a cable company that had, in league with the devil, convinced my mother to sell her soul in exchange for a telephone/TV/DSL service package. For half an hour I listened to my mother’s indefatigable rant about a bill that skyrocketed from $19.99 to an obscene $239.87 after the 6-month promo expired. I won’t bore you with details, but highlights included terms like “big-brother”, “consumer fraud”, and a conspiracy theory linking her bill to Al Qaeda and poppy crops growing in Afghanistan. I’ve never heard her in such a rage, so it was probably the withdrawal talking.

My mother (now in her 70s – may she live and be well to 120 so she can witness the corporate demise of her current cable company), is the world’s biggest techno-junkie. As a kid, my family was always first in the neighborhood to own any innovative domestic product including stuff like: touchtone phones with speed dial, an Atari game system, anything with remote control, and an early model microwave the size of a dishwasher that rattled, shook, produced a neon green glow-in-the-dark aura, and was later used as the prototype for Fermilab’s particle accelerator. Whenever my mom wanted to do a 5-minute baked potato she’d send me and my brothers 3 blocks away to protect our reproductive systems from potentially harmful radiation. I guess she was worried about mutant grandchildren, which might explain why my oldest kid has a size 13 foot and grew to an aberrant height of 6’3″. No one else on the family tree went beyond 5’10” or thought that becoming an assassin for the State of Israel was a good career choice.

My mother (and I’m really proud of this), dropped out of nursing school when she was 20 to get married and become a full-time housewife, then went back to get an education when she was 60 something. In between needle pointing and china painting she earned herself the coveted Microsoft Certified Service Administrator credential. It’s a brave new world out there, but my mother can speak a foreign language from the country of Windows (Bill Gates does own a country, doesn’t he?), has single-handedly reconfigured every computer I’ve ever owned (an impressive number since whatever I buy is obsolete within 6 months) and works part-time but earns more money than any nurse you’ve ever met. Thanks to my mother, my computers do all sorts of wonderful and amazing things very, very quickly although this makes me so nervous that I need ten tranquilizers before I turn any of them on.

Which brings me to the subject of my mother’s rotten timing. She wants to become a Luddite when I’ve just acquired my newest gadget… the iphone! Gadget is such an understated term, because I’m impressed even though I avoid products associated with adjectives like “soft” or “hard” unless we’re talking pillows, toothbrushes or boiled eggs. It’s not that I’m techno phobic, it’s just that I’ve become a conscientious objector to things that supposedly make life easier but then turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth in terms of time spent fiddling around to figure out how everything works, or even getting them to work in the first place.

And how could I not be impressed with a cell phone that came in a box worthy of Tiffany’s that was way too small to contain an encyclopedic owner’s manual? Instead, I found an elegant little foldout that had me out the door and operational in less than 10 minutes. What can I say when I’ve never owned a PDA, a Palm, a smart device, a GPS navigator, or an mp3 player? Now I’ve got it all in my pocket plus a 917 area code. I can ditch my address book, my dayminder and my lifetime supply of post-it notes (post-it notes are my religion)! I can downsize my purse, download my e-mail and update my brain with the latest lingo of SMS. And I really need to update my SMS vocabulary because a niece recently sent me a txt msg that ended with “TTYL MWAAA”. It took me several days to figure out she meant “talk to you later” and was blowing me a kiss.

And SYNC! This is my new favorite verb.

But I was puzzled when the 8-year old asked me to show him my “apps”. I thought maybe “apps” meant “Apples”. When I told him, “I don’t own any other Apple products”, he replied, “Like duh mom, apps means A-P-P-L-I-C-A-T-I-O-N-S”. And he made sure to spell it out slowly because he knows his mother is a moron who was born in the olden days as in, “Mom, when you were little did you travel by horse and buggy?”

It really is a brave new world. For less than $1 per app, I can turn my iphone into a game center, a travel agency, a financial advisor, a health/fitness coach, a medical examiner (there’s an eye test or is that itest) and even a global currency converter. When I make repairs to my new house in Cedarhurst, I can turn it into a tape measure, a caliper and a bubble leveler because I’m a Chicagoan who doesn’t trust anyone who’s a builder in NY. And if you think there’s no relevant content here, think again because I just ran a search on Jewish apps for the iphone and my head is spinning. You can turn the iphone into a siddur, a Hebrew/English dictionary, a zmanim calendar, and something called a Pareve-Meter that’ll track your time between meals and alert you the moment it’s OK to latte after that artery-clogging lunch from McKosher.

Which reminds me. The house in Cedarhurst has a busted water pipe and a flooded basement. I haven’t even moved in yet or started fixing things and already it’s causing me grief and costing me money. I wish some ambitious entrepreneur would quit his day job and help me joint venture all kinds of Jewish apps for the iphone and we’ll get rich quick. I’ve got a sublime idea for an app that’ll turn the iphone into a chametz locator and cut down the amount of time it takes to clean for Pesach. OMG, it really is a BNW and BTW I gotta run.


Sent from my iPhone

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.