Saturday, January 28, 2012

Connections to the Things that Connect Us

My iPod tried asking out a woman we met on the street this week.
I was driving around my hometown of Pasadena, California, running errands at the time.  We were stopped at a red light.  I had my iPod hooked up so it could play through my car's stereo.  I've started learning Korean, so I had the Korean language track playing.  
While waiting for the light to change, an attractive Asian woman started crossing the street from my right.  Just as she was even with my open driver's side window, my iPod said: 
"Onul chonyoge chowa antushigesso yo?"  
The woman spun in the middle of the street toward me, a shocked expression on her face.  I stared back at her, not making the connection between her look of surprise and my iPod asking, in Korean, "Won't you eat with me tonight?"  
Then, the English voice on the Korean learning track said, "Now say, 'Ok.  At what time?'"  
Maybe my iPod was trying to prompt her reply.  It didn't work.  When she heard the English voice she laughed.  She nodded at me with a smile and continued on her way.  
Good try, iPod.  Better than I've ever done with someone I didn't know.  Better luck next time. 
I saw something similar on television this week.  The Big Bang Theory is one of my favorite shows.  I'm reminded of me and my friends in High School when I watch it.  If asked, I would put myself somewhere between Sheldon and Leonard as far as my nerdiness goes.  
Raj got a new iPhone this week on the show.  And he fell in love with Siri, the "intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator" that comes installed on the new version of the phone.  You ask it a question and it gives you an answer.  Raj could talk to Siri the way he couldn't normally talk to a live woman (at least not unless he's been drinking).  
At one point, Raj asked, "Will you call me 'Sexy'?"  Siri responded, in her computerized voice, "Yes, I will...  Sexy."  
And it will do it, too.  We tried in our office.  Several of us were talking and laughing about the episode when one of us called over a young lady who owned the new iPhone to see if it would really do it.  
"Tell me I'm sexy," the young lady whispered into the iPhone's display.  I wondered, Does the iPhone come with an app to help people that had self-esteem issues?  It probably does.
"I don't understand," Siri replied.  "'Tell me I'm sexy.'"  Maybe Siri needed some encouragement, too.  
I leaned over to her.  "I think you need say it differently.  Raj said, "Call me, 'Sexy'."  
"I don't understand," Siri said.  "Raj said, 'Call me, "Sexy"?'"  Maybe she didn't want her and Raj's relationship to be open yet.  
The young woman rephrased her request, and Siri caught on.  Siri first informed her that she hadn't updated her owner profile with her name.  She scrolled instructions on the screen on how to do that.  Then the owner needed to tell Siri how she wanted to be identified.  
"Hey, Siri...  Who am I?" she asked.  
"Is there something you want, Sexy?" came Siri's obedient request.  
I don't have a smartphone yet.  I want one, though.  I remember the first time I saw one in action I wanted one.  
It was at Comic-Con, the largest comic book convention in the United States, which takes place in San Diego each July.  I had met a number of fellow artists and writers that I had only known from online before.  The dealers floor was closing down.  There was a dozen of us standing on the sidewalk, talking.  We decided we would all have dinner together.  
We went the rounds of everyone's preferences and nutritional restrictions, and decided that we needed to find a Mexican restaurant that had a vegetarian menu that was within walking distance of the convention center that didn't require reservations for a party our size.  Yeah.  
I was just starting to think that I'd run down to Horton Plaza and get a burger on my own when one of our company pulled out her iPhone.  It was the first time I had seen one.  She bent over her screen and started typing something out.  In a moment she announced she found a place, four blocks up and two over, that matched all our criteria.  At my exclamation of surprise she showed me the map her phone was giving her to place.  
After a ten minute walk and a fifteen minute wait, we were all seated and placing our orders, which included tofu burritos.  Cool. 
I feel an attachment to my computers.  I have to take my Macbook with me wherever I go.  When I'm asked why, my reply is something like, "Just in case."  So far no one has gone on to ask, "Just in case...  What?"  
Just in case we're trapped in an elevator and our cell phones don't work BUT there happens to be an unprotected wifi hotspot on the floor just outside, I can send an email to someone to save our lives, how about THAT?  Huh?  
Oh, yeah...  You can do that with your iPhone, too, huh?  
The real reason I take my Macbook with me is because...  It carries my dreams.  Just like my iMac back home.  I'd carry it with me too, if I could.  All my stories are on it.  All my drafts and final submissions.  My plans for my novel.  My finances.  Everything I want to keep track of.  
I figure if (Knock wood that it doesn't) something were to happen to my apartment while I'm gone and my beloved iMac were lost forever, my valiant little Macbook would be by my side to help me carry on with all the important things in life.  
It's not just the "data."  I keep all that backed up, daily, on my iPod, as well as a USB stick drive.  The machines themselves have personalities now.  Like the way my iMac will sometimes "accidently" bring up iTunes when I've been writing for a long time to tell me it wants to play.  Yeah, you can say that the keystroke commands for saving a file and for bringing up my music player are close together, and that it's just the slip of some tired fingers.  But I know better than that.  Every morning, I stroke the keys, and the words flow from my brain, down my arm and into its display and storage unit.  
I can't go into greater detail.  What goes on between a man and his computer should stay there.  
One of the worse moments of my life was last August, in Reno, Nevada.  I was there attending "Renovation," the Sixty-Seventh World Science Fiction Convention, or "WorldCon."  On my second morning there I went to open my Macbook to start my daily writing session.  
It started to boot, then the screen flickered.  I saw an icon of a bomb with a fuse.  Not good.  The screen went black.  It died.  
If you had placed me on a desert island with a day's supply of water, I would not have felt more desperate.  I had backed up my work from the previous day, but...  What was I going to do?  How was I going to write today?  With a pen and paper?  Why not ask me to get back home to Pasadena in a covered wagon while your at it?  
I began to wonder If I had done something?  Should I have shut it down last night?  Had I not packed it carefully enough for the drive up?  Was my trusted friend gone for good?  
Fortunately, one of my smartphone carrying friends did a search.  There was an Apple Store on the outskirts of Reno, south of the convention center.  A fifteen minute drive down.  A ten minute consultation with a genius.  They carried my Macbook into the back.  No hospital waiting room felt so tense.  
It was good news.  A small clip holding a wire in place on the  power source had snapped, allowing the wire to come loose.  It was something they had corrected on later models.  They considered it a warranty issue.  It was fixed for free.  
I carried my Macbook back to my car and set it on the front seat.  I drove back over to the Starbucks where I had left my smartphone possessing friend.  While waiting for her come out, I gently rubbed the brushed aluminum cover of my Macbook.  
"Hey, buddy...  Glad you're doing OK."  My friend came out of Starbucks just then.  I put my Macbook back in my bag.  
I wasn't embarrassed or anything.  It's just that...  It was a private moment.  Right?


Blogger Sheila said...

It's amazing how connected we get to our electronic companions, isn't it? And yes, I do take my little pink netbook everywhere with me...just in case.

January 31, 2012 at 9:10 AM  

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