Saving Too Much

Saving everything (aka too much), goes against a default humans have contended with forever.  Humans could never save everything for a host of reasons, such as time to process everything and the space to store it all.

This mainly applies to physical stuff because eventually we run out of storage and it’s obvious when that happens. Of course some people will move to a bigger place to accommodate their things, or start renting external storage units.

The seemingly infinite amount of digital storage space and new technologies that help us process all of our digital belongings have influenced a lot of our habits and behaviors. Now, it’s possible to save more than we ever thought possible. And in some scenarios, it’s easier and initially less time consuming to save everything that it is to sort, label, and manage it properly. This doesn’t even take into consideration how many things are saved on our behalf, or about us, by third-party apps and services we use. This is mostly because we’re either not aware of how much is being gathered and/or we don’t care about because we never see or use what’s been collected.

Saving everything is tempting, but here are some of the dangers:

  • Losing track of what you have (if you get hacked, how would you know what was compromised?)
  • Difficulty finding what you need (searches yield hundreds/thousands of results requiring time to review)
  • Migrating content to latest format to ensure that it can be accessed with updated softwares/hardwares (the less you have, the less you need to transfer)
  • Exposing too much about your past self, when you’ve moved on to new things in your life (goes with losing track of what you have)

So what do we do to combat the urge to accumulate so much digital stuff? Of course, this is only if you feel bothered by the Digital Detritus lingering around in forgotten, neglected caches of stuff.

Some strategies are:

  • Be mindful about what you are creating and saving
  • Restrict storage limits – rather than paying for more, try to utilize the space you have
  • Save strategically
  • Go through your digital holdings periodically and purge – since there are so many things to review, I find it useful to start small with a single folder or my bookmarks bar

Cleaning up digital storage can feel tedious, until disaster strikes. Then you’ll feel better because you’ll know what you have.

Audio Navigation

Typically when I use a map app to get around, I prefer to type in the addresses, rather than relying on the location feature to pinpoint where I am. (Read more about why I do that here and here.) Since the location feature is disabled, this also means I need to rely on reading the map to get around instead of taking advantage of the audio feature.

However, there are a few distinct scenarios when having the location feature engaged and the instructions dictated are a life saver.

Scenario #1: When I’m navigating for my partner. I can’t even count how many times having Google maps read out the instructions has prevented an argument or dispute about which way to go. When Google maps is wrong, it’s easy to blame the app, which diffuses a lot of tension, especially when driving in an unfamiliar place.

Scenario #2: When I’m driving by myself. Even though I look at the map and directions before I go somewhere, it’s very useful to have the directions dictated to me when I’m driving solo. This means I can focus completely on the road and has prevented me from getting lost a number of times.

Scenario #3: Useful feature for people who can’t read maps. Admittedly, people who can’t read maps, or figure out how to use the map apps, are a big peeve of mine. I get frustrated when people with smartphones, especially taxi drivers, can’t figure out how to get around with the map apps. I blogged about this before in a post titled “When Smartphones Make Us Dumb.”

For these non-map reading people, the audio directions are a wonderful thing. Google maps will tell someone exactly where to go. All the person has to do is turn on location, pay attention to street signs and glance at the moving blue dot on the map to make sure s/he is going in the right direction.

On the flip side, sometimes Google maps gives too many instructions which can be distracting. For example, when driving on a highway that sometimes intersects with other routes. Google maps will repeat several times to stay in one lane or the other to continue on the same path.

The other annoying thing is when the radio is playing and Google maps interrupts with a direction. Sadly, the radio will not automatically pause so both things play at the same time.

The VR Wars: Training

Read last week’s post here.

Her first week of training, Rory was surprised how many hours she spent working out, almost the same amount of time dedicated to playing various combat video games. The games started out basic before ramping up the second week when VR equipment appeared. Special goggles were strapped to her head with a helmet at the start of each session. From that point on, she was in whatever world the trainer decided to “drop” her in.

Elbow and knee padding was provided along with a bullet proof vest. It was heavy and made Rory hot while training, but it was for her own safety. The guns would come out later and it was important she was used to wearing the vest.

Trainees had hurt themselves, or others before in some of the more advanced sessions. The equipment was wireless so technically nothing was out of bounds. Occasionally trainees would be so caught up in the action that they would unknowingly attack each other.

And all of this happened while the “kill” mode was disabled.

By week two, she realized why the exercise was necessary. These games were as intense as doing the actions in real life, like she was really on a battlefield, complete with sounds, smells, and physical sensations. In one session early on, she witnessed a classmate take a blow to the chest and a few bullets in an arm. Rory was surprised to learn later that her classmate had been badly winded from the experience and had to go to the infirmary for stitches.

What kind of VR games was she playing, she wondered. She had played VR games before and the beauty of them was that they were virtual with no chance of getting hurt in the game. With these games, she wasn’t so sure. She desperately wished she could find where Tinto was so they could compare notes.

Rory had heard that the new VR style of fighting had dramatically reduced the number of civilian casualties and had nearly eliminated bomb raids and the destruction of infrastructure. So what was going on? How could soldiers still be dying and getting injured?

Thinking about the answers to these questions gave Rory a bad feeling and put Tinto’s warning words into perspective. Bound by a strict contract, her only option now was to stay alive and get out.

The VR Wars

“Whatever you do, don’t die.”

The words echoed in Rory’s brain as she stood outside the non-descript building, her new place of employment. She drew in a long breath, filling her lungs with oxygen. This often helped to calm her down. It was her first day reporting for duty after months of training.

The advice of her friend, Tinto, had been on her mind for days. She and Tinto had met playing video games together. What started as an online friendship had turned into a real life one when they met for the first time at a game conference. Rory had surprised everyone by winning the big competition, beating out a cadre of mostly male contenders, many of whom were more experienced than she was.

It was at that same conference the two of them were…noticed. It was well known in the gaming circuit that conferences were a good way to get recruited, if you were into that sort of thing. Rory was always undecided about how she would feel if she were to get recruited. She never really thought she had a chance of being noticed, so it wasn’t something she spent time thinking about. Tinto, however, dreamed of being recruited. He knew there were risks, but also the potential for big payoffs. Money that he could use to help support his family.

Tinto and Rory had been celebrating the big win when a friendly man, with a trim moustache and a thick, bush of dark brown hair approached them. Right away they knew what he wanted, to enlist them in the government’s digital war training program.

Information about the program was carefully controlled by the government. People that had gone into the program, many of whom came out again, were sworn to secrecy. There were rumors about what it was like and what happened when you fought a war virtual-reality (VR) style. But nobody on the outside knew for sure. The added mystery heightened Tinto’s curiosity making him eager to join, but it had the opposite effect on Rory.

She was cautious by nature, it’s what made her a gaming champion. She evaluated risks and options differently than Tinto, assessing before deciding.

In the end, Tinto signed up that day with the recruiter. Rory started the program a few months later, after careful consideration.

How did one prepare to fight a VR war? Rory would find out.

Summer Reading Update

In June 2018, I ambitiously decided to spend the summer getting through all the unread books in my bookcase. (Read about it here.) At the start of the project, I had 28 books to get through.

I now have 22 unread books remaining, but three were added over the last year. From last year’s original count of 28, I have 19.

I have to admit, I pretty much failed with the project. It seems now, looking at my bookcase over 1 year later, that the pile of unread books hasn’t changed that much.

In reviewing my year of “reading,” I realized I got sidetracked by a couple of things.

  1. I finally got a new ereader last October (2018). I wasn’t able to resist the allure and convenience of reading on it, compared with an actual paper book. This is especially true for the super thick hardcover books that are on the unread shelf. I do love paper books, and I would be very sad if we didn’t have them anymore, but the ereader is so small and versatile. It makes reading on the go really easy.
  2. People kept giving me new books to read, which for some reason, made it to the top of the unread pile. So while many of the books look the same as the ones from last year, it’s because the new ones were processed more quickly. I also acquired a few on my own.

A few months ago, I did end up going through the rest of my bookcase and donated some books, so that cleared up some space.

Even though I failed with my little project last summer, the approaching long, dark, cold winter months in Canada will give me ample time to start the project again. I usually don’t move around as much in the winter, so it’ll be a good opportunity to tackle the really heavy, large, thick hardcover books. I definitely don’t want to be reading those on the subway.

It’s now become a new Winter Reading project.

Iceland: Elves, ATV Rides, and the Blue Lagoon

Our last day in Iceland was eventful and action packed. Throughout the trip I’d been doing my best to see elves and huldufólk (hidden people) in the many majestic landscapes we visited. Luck hadn’t been on my side but on this last day, our guide took us to a special beach and gave us all a “pill” to grant us powers to see the elves.

I didn’t see any elves, but the seascape was spectacular. Even more magical was having the sun come out for a brief period of time, a rare and welcome treat.

the Elf Beach

After the beach we headed to Grindavik, a town in the Reykjanes Peninsula. We toured the Search and Rescue center, where we heard from a volunteer about the different sorts of rescue missions performed by the center.

Following the tour, we suited up for an ATV ride through the lava fields.

My mom was in the back seat of the ATV and I proved to be a terrible driver. The ATV was clunky to steer and I veered off the path once or twice. The terrain was bumpy and full of muddy depressions making it challenging to stay on course. At the midway point, we stopped to take pictures of an abandoned ship.

Following the ATV ride, we had lunch, then headed to the famous Blue Lagoon spa for a relaxing afternoon soak in the mineral-rich waters.

I felt a bit conflicted about the Blue Lagoon because it’s a manmade natural wonder. The Blue Lagoon, we discovered, was created from a geothermal power plant’s seawater run-off. As I learned during my trip, Icelanders love a hot soak and I suppose the local residents couldn’t resist the allure of the heated, turquoise waters surrounding the power plant. They started bathing in it and discovered that the mineral-rich waters had restorative and healing properties.

Although I normally prefer swimming to lounging around in hot waters, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Lagoon. The spa consisted of one giant pool, but temperatures varied in different places. Plus, it was really cool to feel how the mineral deposits created a smooth, enameled surface on the lava rocks and crevices filled with soft, silty mud.

Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated from my soak, I boarded the bus. We headed back to Rekyjavik for a farewell dinner and one last magical night in Iceland.