Tag Archives: technology

My Dance With Consumerism: The Christmas Schwag

About That Other Thing, A Steff Note:
My Christmas eve posting was cryptic because sometimes we need the light of day before fear goes away. I’d gotten a call 10 minutes before I served Christmas dinner saying my late-ass brother wasn’t late — he was hit by a car and being taken by ambulance to emergency, with a definite head injury albeit the severity unknown. He’s doing very well, and is lucky to be alive. It was a pretty wrenching evening at times, and I wrote that post with him groaning in light pain while sleeping on my sofa, 10 feet away. Daylight made things better, as it often does.


It’s the calm between the storm fronts as my coffee reaches its bitter end.
I’m wishing I had another day of Nothing Doing after yesterday’s utter embrace of sloth, but I’m sadly headed into the world for acupuncture, shopping, lunch, and the like.
It’s half-way through my Christmas vacation. I’ve been on a shopping tear — all online — in doing the once-almost-every-decade shopping for electronics and things to make my life nicer on the homefront, signalling what will surely be a year of much belt-tightening and budget-respecting to follow. My last two such splurges took place in 2003 and 1994. Clearly, I’m due.
It’s the best kind of consumerism — the kind that enriches one’s life with careful choice-making before the splurging.

Oh, Glowing Picture On The Wall, Who’s the TVest of Them All?

For instance, I’m cutting my cable enough to compensate within one year for my splurge for a new TV and home theatre system. Thanks to sales, I got components worth $1300+ for under $600 after taxes. The amount I’ll save in 12 months for going to basic cable and using the one year of Netflix my friend gifted me? $588. Cha-ching!
My huge tube TV’s on its deathbed, taking as much as 6 minutes to just warm up and give me a picture upon start-up, and even when it’s warmed up, the input jacks are loose and just walking across the floor can cause me to lose picture. That’s been happening for three years, and was a real drag back when I was dating and watching something romantic or fun, and sucked even more with a back problem.
My stereo was from 1994, almost dead, and couldn’t even play my iPod, let alone play nicely with my out-of-date TV. My new dealio was 45% off, can play with iPod, is Netflix & web-ready, and will offer surround sound for those moments I give in to The Big Shiny Movies.

A Writer Needs What A Writer Needs

I picked up a new laptop, intended to make me work on my own writing more, and get out into the world to see people whilst I do so. My computer’s from 2006 and I suspect also similarly not long for this world. I saved another 40% on the laptop. Soon, I’ll get my office equipment, so I can have a healthier work environment. It’ll include an ergonomic keyboard & mouse tray, a back-friendly chair, a new desk, and other fixings, making for a more comfortable home office environment, since I’ll now be spending up to 40 hours a week there on just the “day job,” let alone writing for myself.
So, I’ll have a completely-new, ergo-friendly, and sexy office for only $550, because I’m getting things for up to 76% off, thanks to my smart deal-finding ways.
I did blow my wad on one treat that’s like a bottomless-refill cup of goodness for my soul — a new camera. I didn’t have a working one, and photography has been a love of mine for 20 years. It’s profoundly inspiring for my writing to spend a day shooting pictures, and there once was a time I’d write stories based on what I’d snapped. I long for those days. Nothing will make me get out and explore my new home more than having a great camera to record it with, like my new Nikon D3100.

Simply Gift-tacular!

There’s one new belonging I didn’t have to splurge on, and I can’t wait to have it in my life (it needs to be driven in from the Valley still). The Santa-Folks gave me a new KitchenAid Stand Mixer that will be incredible for homemade bread-baking and other things. This has been something on my wish-list for a very long time. I’ve still been using the hand-mixer I bought for $15 more than 10 years ago.

Barbara Krueger's iconic image.

Another gift I was given for Christmas, and it’s funny, because it was likely only a $10-15 gift and isn’t earth-shattering, is a CUTE littlelunch bag that has gel-pack walls on four of six sides, which you just store in the freezer, then it keeps anything cold for up to 6 hours. It’s FUNNY to me because it’s such a small thing but it makes me so excited to think about taking lunch breaks from working at home and walking to the beach with a book or my laptop, and eating a bagged lunch with controlled calories and nutrition, and keeping both my budget in line and me in the sun. It’s a really thoughtful little gift I love. It’s cute, functional, quick to set up, and pretty to carry with me. Perfect! Now I can envision it happening — me and my little peach-polka-dotted bag, together on shorelines and in parks, soaking up the sun and enjoying the outdoor writer’s life.

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

None of these purchases were spontaneous. They’ve all been on a wishlist for a year or more, and I budgeted carefully beforehand to make acquiring my whole list happen, and I try to buy what will last.
With only my office set-up left to purchase, I’m dead-on-track with my budget and it feels great to know I’ve bought better quality for every purchase than I expected I would find in my budget.
On Monday, I call and cancel all my cable add-ons. By then, I hope to have my new TV and stereo up and running. I see a future with less cable TV and more “deliberate choosing” of what to watch, either via the web or Netflix, rather than haphazard “what’s on?” channel-surfing that’s a bottomless pit for my time.

But Tomorrow’s Not Here Today

Then I’m looking forward to having a work desk at home that doesn’t leave my shoulders aching and my neck prone to starting headaches. It’s amazing how much that hampers one’s desire to sit and write for more than 40 minutes at a time. The desk won’t be a reality until I’m landed in my new home, come March, but my soul’s left wistfully wanting for that day.
While I’ll be thrilled to get out and meet new people on the Island when I move there, I’m making it very plain that my first motivation behind the move is to adopt the WRITER’S LIFE. This will mean a lot of time alone, and when I have a home that has a good entertainment system, lots of music to play, a camera to stoke my creativity, and a healthy writing environment with the right tools, I think the idea of being at home for all those long hours won’t feel like punishment anymore, especially when I’m so close to the city for quick escapes and refreshing The Little Grey Cells. I think those 15 hours I save on weekly “work” commutes via working from home will transform the way I work off-hours for me.
There’s still the mystery of where I’ll be. I’m prepared to compromise a little to get a two-bedroom (or one-plus-den) apartment in a neighbourhood I love. I want my work separate from my life, since it’ll be muddled together so much from working at home. I’m dying to know what I’ll be calling home for the next year or few, and I’m five weeks from knowing, eight weeks from going.

Buyer’s Remorse?

Absolutely not. With the holidays almost over and my budget intact, I feel great.
Unlike other people who buy new electronics every couple of years, when I buy things I have a tendency to use them until the end of their workhorse lives. I’m not about new or trendy, I’m about getting the best I can on a reasonable budget, of technology that’s been tested and true, and I’m big on not wasting my technology via replacing them for the “shiny” releases.
I’ve bought cheap-and-often in my youth, but I don’t do that now. When I replaced my sofa 3 years ago, I paid nearly 4 times what my friend did, but his will need replacing next year, and mine has a lifetime warranty on the frame and still has spots needing to be “broken in.” I have family members using the same brand of sofa from 20 years ago, because they bought smart with quality like me.
With a new home, a new town, new goals, new tech, new priorities, the coming year will be a really fun and exciting experience for me from day one to day done.
Sometimes, consumerism isn’t just empty acquisitions. Sometimes it’s about picking the things that really do let you be the best you. When I take breaks from writing, I love movies and drama. Always have. I love photography walks. I love writing in cafes and watching people. I haven’t been able to do these things for a long, long time. When my scooter died in late 2009, while my back was horribly injured, my life became more about commuting long-form through the city and surviving it, rather than living in it.
It’s sad it’ll take my leaving my hometown to get back to the smaller lifestyle I love, but it’s enthralling to know it’s closer every day. I’m 100% sure it’s the right direction, and with all the quality-of-life purchases I’ve made, and the things I’ll emotionally gain from the move, a part of me feels like there’ll be nothing left to want.
For now, I’m in a weird limbo between what I know is coming and what’s here today, but I’m soaking in every moment. What a ride.

Legacies: When All That's Done is Said

Wow, so this posting got long. It should probably be separated. I just don’t have the emotional-editorial prowess for that, so I’ll leave it all jumbled together. I’m sure as the days and weeks move on, I’ll become more cemented in what I believe about Derek’s legacy in the blogging world, but, for now, I’m less academic and more the fumbling friend amazed at the outpouring of interest in a loved, lost voice on the local scene, to say the least.


As of yesterday, our Vancouver friend, the Penmachine, Derek K. Miller’s infamous The Last Post had gone viral both on the web and in the world’s news media. On Monday, the Canadian Press newswire went live with a story on Derek, it was picked up by American Press’s wire, and suddenly it went from 23 notable world press stories on Sunday to more than 220 press organisations (at this time) carrying this story on Derek’s passing worldwide.
I wrote last week that, in blogging, Derek would “…have told his story. A ripple in the pond. That’s all most writers really want to make — a ripple in the pond.”
Some kinda ripple, Derek. Well done, friend.

Words, words, words

I think, in the scheme of Derek’s life work, in all he tried to share with others, that the legacy being created through this worldwide exposure to what blogging can DO for a man, his life, his legacy, and the memory others get to have of him, that Derek’s changing the world’s perception of blogging.
Maybe I’m too close to it.
Maybe I know the man, his work, and maybe I want this to be bigger than it is, but as someone who’s watched the press all her life and knows what the public thinks and feels, this is a rare, rare moment when a really honest, simple, powerful statement is getting heard by the whole world.
And it’s not a world leader. It’s not some political activist dying for a cause. It’s not a celebrity known the world over.
It’s just a statement from a good Canadian man. A father of two, a guy who married his soul mate and died still madly in love with her. It’s the guy we all knew we could call with a technical problem that needed urgent solving, or who we KNEW had just happened to take a secret perfectly-timed picture of us at that event where he just had a camera. He was that guy.
And somehow, who he was, who he loved, and the life he led, that was all captured in a mere 1,500 words. His perfect 1,500 words.
Then the world read it and, in 1,500 words, realised what was truly important in life, what can all disappear in a moment.
Like Derek wrote, “As soon as my body stopped functioning, and the neurons in my brain ceased firing, I made a remarkable transformation: from a living organism to a corpse, like a flower or a mouse that didn’t make it through a particularly frosty night. The evidence is clear that once I died, it was over.”
In a moment, we’re all gone forever. Then what?


So what’s his legacy, then? Super-nice local legend loved by those who were at the cusp of all the tech/web/music developments for 20+ years? Great writer? Spokesman for cancer, early testing, and living out loud?
But I think Derek’s legacy is bigger, with more global implications.
Derek Miller took time in his dying days to write a post that, if we’re lucky, changes the way we’ve been thinking about language, communication, social media, writing, and connection.
For Derek, blogging (and podcasting) was truth, education, community, sharing, connecting, activism, camaraderie, and putting his stamp on the world. He did it all. He stamped good.
There are a lot of really shitty blogs out there. Content farms, traffic-whores. A lot of bad blogs.
Derek was never guilty of bad blogging.
He wasn’t a “writing filler” kinda guy. He didn’t have some self-imposed turnstile of copy-quota where he “had” to blog every day. He was a writer who was compelled to share a statement, a truth, or anything, but he certainly didn’t blog so we the audience had something to read, or the PR companies with schwag gifts had reason to mailing-list him.
Derek K. Miller always blogged because he had something to say. Something smart, well-said, perfectly edited, often insightful, and never sensationalised.
Somewhere along the road in the last five years, blogging became about expected numbers, certain amounts one had to get done on a weekly basis. Some “experts” claim 3-6 posts is the “perfect” amount. They’ll tell you a “good word count,” and that Derek K. Miller’s The Last Post was 900 words too long. They’ll show you how to juice it up with “search-engine optimising,” and sex it up with a graphic or two — oh, and break it up with headings, gotta do that too.
But they don’t tell you how to have heart in your writing.
They don’t tell you that your readers deserve significant content. They don’t tell you that creativity, quality, honesty, and originality count.
Somewhere, somehow, blogging and social media became about having a social resumé, hawking your wares, getting connected, getting laid, everything someone like Derek K. Miller never bothered manipulating it for.
I’m a writin’ romantic — a passionate idealist about language, writing, and communication.
I believe that blogging is the BEST thing to ever happen to writing.
And I think blogging is the WORST thing to ever happen to writing.
But, for every site concerned primarily with driving traffic, and not worried about enriching your life, there’s a blog quietly churning out good content week-in, week-out, just like The Penmachine did.
I believe a quality blog only needs one posting a week.
If it’s great, then one will do. If it sucks, then none will do.
I believe the sparse, simple, shocking truth behind Derek Miller’s brilliant The Last Post serves as a reminder of what economy of language, a simple desire to state the facts, and opening yourself up to the world can provoke in all manner of people.
We all want to be remembered. We want a legacy.

Blogging: Whoop! There it is

Not stupid blogging. Not bad blogging. Not blogging where you’re talking about ordering a muffin.
Blog about what that muffin means to you — what do you remember when you’re eating it, what was the most emotional muffin you ever ate and why, what happened right before that muffin was served, how did it smell, how did it taste, and does the emotional overload that triggered that muffin return to you now and then when you’re enjoying one, and if so, what’s that like?
A muffin, does it matter to the world at large? No, but your experiences that determine how you feel about a particular muffin, those experiences might.
And that’s a sort of ridiculous-but-clear example of blogging is — a chance for every person to have a real, true, digital record of their understated lives. Their commentary, opinions, injustices, whatever. It’s a record.
We’ve lived in a world where publishing, media, communication have almost always been in the hands of those with money and power.
For the first time ever, we can control our words.
We can make sure others can read them, even strangers in far away lands.
AdAge magazine called Derek Miller’s The Last Post an example of the “democratization of publishing.” Yeah, okay. Sure: Cheap-n-easy self-publishing.
Personal blogging is powerful, not only for you but for the people who get to read it… and maybe even those you leave behind.
We’re told not to “tell” too much. Yeah, all this not-sharing stuff seems to be doing a LOT of good for society.
Oh, no one will ever understand what you’re enduring. No one will get that.
Derek Miller blogged about wearing diapers, yet millions are hanging off his extensive cancer-living archives this week.
You know who doesn’t know what people want to read? THEM. The “experts.”
You know what I want to read?
I want to read people who write about things that leave them feeling uneasy when they hit publish — or proud, or desperate to see what the comments are because that post mighta been pushing it or so angry while writing that clicking “publish” felt like they’d just flushed the toilet on all the shit that had ’em feeling that way.
I want to read about people experiencing life — in all its varieties.
If you CARE what I think, I probably don’t want to read you. If you think, while writing, “how should I say this to best elicit a reaction?” then I likely don’t want to read you.
If you write because you need to write, because you feel like you have something on your chest and you’re hoping writing will help sort it out, or because you just can’t NOT share THAT observation you had earlier today?
Then you’re the kind of blogger I wish everyone was.

Empowered by Blogging

Blogging is a tool we have for breaking down barriers.
We can connect, teach each other, expose injustices, examine life, do whatever the hell we want.
No longer are we under the thumb of industry when it comes to distributing our creations.
As artists, writers, musicians — if an audience is all we require, then we have the whole world before us. We have 100% artistic control. We have instantaneous access to publication and audiences. We are not at the mercy of industry. Industry is at the mercy of us, and the tide is turning.
Back in 1990 was a movie I always thought was ahead of its time on some of the issues (though dated now), Pump Up the Volume, about Christian Slater as a pirate radio DJ named Happy Harry Hard-on, aka Chuck U. Farley. The premise of all his angsty railing against society was pretty simple come movie’s end: You have a voice. Use it.
In the end, if Derek Miller’s legacy is that people realise they can use the voice they have, I can’t think of a better one. Nothing broke my heart more than to know Derek had lost his speaking voice for much of his remaining weeks in life, and to think his “eternal” voice is heard around the world now… well, it blows me away.
You have a voice. Use it. Leave a legacy of your own choosing.
And, more importantly, consider today what you’d write in your obituary for tomorrow, and take stock now of what you need to change to have that obituary reflect a life you wish you’d have been living — and an emptier bucket list.
Blogging: It’s good mental lifting. Writin’ does a soul good. Check it out, kids.
(Photos: Derek K. Miller — from Facebook profile shots he’s used.)