March 24, 2014

Pause for Reflection, #1: The Computer and Me -- I Need Less PC, More Kindle

I made many mistakes planning my recent cruise from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires. But packing my Kindle -- which I'd just pre-loaded with John Adams, the biography by David McCulloch -- was probably my best planning decision.

Books and Me
I thought I'd spend lots of time at sea listening to several mysteries I had loaded onto my Nano. The cruise seemed a perfect opportunity to give audiobooks a try. But I picked up the Kindle first, and -- after just a few pages -- I was totally hooked on the Adams biography. 

OK, I confess: I'm only about 1/4 of the way through the book. But at least I'm reading it. I've had the paperback version on my bookshelf for years, but its size -- 750 pages of small type -- always intimidated me. There was no such effect with the Kindle.

My book reading has typically consisted of 15-30 minutes before my afternoon nap and again before bedtime. Frequently, I'd read magazines during those times, not books. 

The Adams biography reminds me how much I've enjoyed reading books, especially biographies and memoirs. I wish I had more time for reading.

But the big problem is . . .

The Computer and Me
Over a decade ago, I found I'd nod off if I read a book or watched TV after supper. So I turned to the computer. The interactive quality of time online would keep me alert until 11pm or later – my preferred bedtime.

I enjoy research and writing on the computer. I started this blog soon after my Parkinson’s diagnosis five years ago, and it's become a rewarding part of my life.

Churchill referred to his depression as his “black dog.” He knew he had to keep it "on a leash" so it wouldn't overwhelm his life. The computer is my black dog.

A Confession
A few years ago, I realized I was spending too much time at the computer -- mostly researching and writing posts for this blog -- and not enough time living my life. Something had to give. I talked a dear friend into becoming my collaborator. "Stanley" prefers to remain anonymous. He’s an excellent editor. I often receive compliments about the writing. That’s Stanley.

Aware of my addictive tendencies, I consider Facebook and Twitter dangerous black holes. If I really fell in, I'd never re-emerge. So Stanley handles social media for the blog. I enjoy seeing posts from family and friends on Facebook, but that's about it. 

Recently, I've decided to take more control and keep my black dog on a shorter leash. So now Stanley writes many of the posts about current research on Parkinson’s and other health issues.

I used to enjoy overcoming the glitches and roadblocks I'd encounter with computer software . . . and occasionally hardware. I figured that solving those mysteries was good for my brain, and might even help keep cognitive decline at bay. 

Recently, I discovered that dealing with these inevitable computer challenges often coincided with blood pressure spikes. I'm always reluctant to ask others for help. But why should I risk a heart attack or stroke when my two resident tech-savvy Millennials are always ready to come to my rescue?

Kindle and John Adams have provided new incentive to put “the computer and me” into better balance.

Before I fell asleep for my afternoon nap, the Founding Fathers were wrapping up the War for Independence. I now know how much more Adams contributed to that victory than Jefferson -- or virtually anyone else except Washington.

Time for bed and book.

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