Posts Tagged ‘blackberry


I’m so ashamed of the BlackBerry I don’t own

I love reading articles about tech gear I don’t have and probably won’t be in the market for any time soon.

There’s this howler right now in the New York Times / International Herald Tribune about how BlackBerry owners are so embarrassed and ashamed of their devices because of the many things they can’t do in comparison to an iPhone or other Android device.

BlackBerry outcasts say that they increasingly endure shame and public humiliation as they watch their counterparts use social networking apps that are not available to them, take higher-resolution photos, and effortlessly navigate streets – and the Internet – with better GPS and faster browsing.

In the next sentence we discover how these luckless BlackBerry-owning wretches are forced to do things that most everyone did about five years ago:

This means that they have to request assistance to get directions, book travel, make restaurant reservations or look up sports scores.

God, what a horrible life they must lead.

Imagine having to contact another human being to find out a piece of information, even if it is only to ask another human being with a better device to gather said information from the Internet.

And what about that shame?  Unless you’re psychopathic, shame happens to us all.  We feel shame and even public humiliation when we realise that everyone knows we’ve done something most consider to be wrong.   So should I feel ashamed because I freely admit to my readers that I do not own a BlackBerry, or an iPhone, or an Androgizmoid?  That all I need is a Nokia cellphone and that no, I don’t have an app for whatever it is you’re looking for?  Is it humiliating to do as I’ve always done and look up the sports scores in a newspaper?

And what about holders of older iPhones?  Will they start having to hide them under a book or buy camouflage because their version doesn’t have the fastest connection technology?  Where is this obsession with tech taking us when our measure of our place in society is how many bazillagigabytes of information we can stream while eating ice cream and crossing the street?

I don’t know, maybe living in Germany for 15 years has atrophied my sense of irony, but the tone of the article was pretty straight-forward.  And its message is simple, updated for today: keep up with the Joneses, or feel the shame.  It’s been the same since people first started to wear clothing and seek warm shelter.

I do know that smartphones are capable of transforming the way we live our lives, and maybe mine would change for the better if I got one. The fact that most everyone I know has or wants one makes me wonder how it is I keep missing the point.   I’m tempted sometimes, but for now – just for now – no thanks.  I want to hold on to a bit of my old ways a little longer.  Maybe like the vinyl I listened to while writing this, cellphones will one day come back into fashion and I won’t have to feels like such a schmuck all the time.


The berries and why I pick them

Back in the thick of summer a colleague at work looked at my bare forearms and asked, “Did you guys get a cat?”

“No,” I answered, inspecting the tiny red scratches, “just been berry-picking.”

The blackberries were beautiful this summer.  They started to ripen during a long heat wave while I was away at some shin-dig late June in Toronto, a hot, sticky blanket that lingered over the north of Germany for another couple of weeks after I got back until the third week of July.  Riding by my usual patches I’d always stop to inspect the crop, checking to make sure the bright green buds were on their way to red.  Then, as the red ones at the apex of each bunch started to blacken, I knew my free time for the next couple of weeks would be filled with picking, baking pies and making jam.

I have three main patches to pick in rotation.  One is a five-minute bike ride from the office, so after work I’d ride my bike into the thickest part, change into my old clothes and start filling the empty containers.

My main patch is a five-minute walk from home on a huge empty lot near the commuter rail line.  A third is a little further out of the way and much smaller, but worth it because the bushes are up against a building that catches and intensifies the heat of the sun, making the berries especially sweet if you wait long enough before picking them.  For the main patch near our place I’d carry a stepladder to throw over the bushes and gain access to the juiciest ones at the top that, without aid, always remain just too far out of reach.

Since I’ve been old enough to pick up a pail I’ve been heading off to pick blackberries, bringing them home so my mother could cook them up.    To be able to carry on so many years later something that started behind our house in a little mountainside Pacific coast village in Canada gives me a connection not only to my earliest past, but with the place it all started.

I also like the calming, meditative effect of being focused on one task.  In this age of continuous partial attention and constant interruption, having a couple of hours to concentrate on something as simple and timeless as gathering food for your family is quite rare.   I took the little red-haired girl along one morning and noticed that after the first few minutes of chatting and joking about little things, she too became relaxed and quiet as we worked our way along.

In bringing her along I also think I’m showing her how important it is to seize the day, to do things when it’s time to do them, because if there’s one thing that won’t wait for the next day, it’s berries.

There is also a great satisfaction in serving up a warm blackberry pie for dessert while a stack of jam jars cools on the counter, knowing that when you go to open one the following January you’ll be able to enjoy something that truly is the fruit of your own labours, and which costs nothing but the time you spend on it.  I go to markets and see trays of perfect berries selling for €8 a half-kilo and give a little inward smile.   Of course it’s easier to just buy them, but the pain of a few thorns and scratches that go away in a few days are worth it to get a lot more than just the berries.

The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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britbeach / at / yahoo dot ca

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