Sunday Sum-Up: July 4, 2021

This was the week I decided I never want a Smart Home. Why is that, you ask? Let me explain.

On Monday, my smartphone died. Out of the blue. One minute it was working just fine, and then it powered off and steadfastly refused to turn on again. No, it wasn’t the most expensive phone out there, and yes it was getting old, but still. It had been working perfectly fine until the moment it died.

And because I don’t get phone service through Verizon or Sprint or any of the usual American carriers, I couldn’t just walk into a shop and buy a new phone. I had to order a new one online. And because I had two-factor authentication turned on on my email account (one person hacks your email one time…), I couldn’t login at work and order a new one. No. I had to use my lunch hour to drive home, order the new phone, and then drive back to work.

Then it took the phone company more than twenty-four hours to ship the phone, and then it took another two days to receive the phone (which, let’s be honest, is quick service given my past package delivery woes, but when you’re without communication…). Then I spent another lunch hour setting up the phone with my phone number, contacts, email, and all the other basic communication stuff I use daily before the phone decided to spend the rest of the afternoon doing updates. Then I spent the evening fine-tuning alerts and alarms, settings and sounds. In the grand scheme of things, everything was fine. I was worried that I would have some minor emergency and not have a way to call for help, or that something would happen to a family member or friend and I wouldn’t be able to help them. But in the end, everyone was fine and everything turned out fine.

So why did this experience lead me to decide that I never want a smart home?

Because wow was it annoying to not be able to do things like login to accounts that required two-factor authentication! Everything wanted to either send a security code to my smartphone (Ha!), or call them (HaHa!). After the old phone died, I thought, “Wow, wouldn’t it be annoying if everything at home was a smart device and the central hub or controller or whatever up and quit working? All of a sudden your refrigerator won’t open or you can’t turn your lights on or do something super useful like that”.

So I don’t want a smart home. Like ever. I’m perfectly happy with standing up and turning lights on myself, or keeping track of my groceries myself, or setting the toaster myself, or whatever else a smart home claims to be able to do for me. Because what if something breaks down out of nowhere and I suddenly don’t have lights? How much of a pain would that be??

Keep your web-enabled smart devices. I’m okay without them.

Without most of them.

I like my new phone.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

I really don’t understand how Mina can just sleep like that with one leg hanging down. Doesn’t it fall asleep after a while? Do cats experience pins and needles? Is it remotely comfortable?

And then there are the other questions. Does she think the dip in the back of the couch was made for her specifically? Since she can sleep anywhere on the couch she wants to, why does she choose to sleep on the wood bookshelf or on the wood nightstand, which are not as soft as the couch? How much of the day does she spend napping on the couch? How much of the day does she spend napping in general?

And the most important question: How does she manage to constantly be so darned cute??

What I Read Last Week:

After the crazy amount of reading I did in throughout most of June for the Shelf Space Discord server’s Olympics Readathon, I feel like I read nothing this past week. Which isn’t true. I read plenty last week. It just feels like I didn’t. The issues with the phone didn’t help, but I also did things like ‘go outside’ and ‘see friends’ and ‘go to bed early’, so reading, for once, was set aside while I did other things. I was definitely okay with this.

Lots of nonfiction this week. Hallucinations was a lovely overview about the many different kinds of hallucinations that people experience (and have experienced through history). There are so many kinds, and they occur for many reasons, and I had no idea. There are hallucinations that happen when a person has lost or is losing their sight; hallucinations people experience in isolation; hallucinations people experience after the death of a loved one; hallucinations that happen because of traumatic injuries; hallucinations that happen because of drug use, and many others. Sacks does not delve too deeply into the neurological mechanisms that cause these visions (and sounds, and smells), but that’s okay because it serves as a foundation if you’d want to read further into the subject, or as a general overview if you’re curious. But long story short: Sacks explains that hallucinations are not automatically symptoms of a mind losing touch with reality. Often, they are a sign of things like the brain coming to terms with something (the death of a loved one), or the brain trying to create comforting visions after loss of sight. There are hallucinations that are upsetting or terrifying, but they are not the only kinds. Sacks was a wonderful science communicator, and its obvious that he was genuinely concerned not only for his patients’ physical well-being, but for their mental health as well. I’ve already read a couple of Sacks’s other books, but this makes me want to read the ones I haven’t read, too.

The Elegant Universe serves as a somewhat technical foundational book for people who are interested in the weird world of quantum mechanics, though Greene does use clear metaphors to explain things like Relativity and its effects. While the book is a little out of date (a lot of things have happened since its initial publication in 1999, and the second edition from, I think, 2009), but the basics of it haven’t changed. Theories like General Relativity (and Special Relativity) haven’t really changed since the 1920s-1990s. What scientists have been doing in the past ten years is observing things like gravitational waves, which has provided more evidence for Relativity. Greene is another solid science communicator, and while I was already familiar with many of the concepts in this book, it’s never a bad things to further solidify a foundation so you can build more knowledge on it down the road.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is a great little book that provides a more basic description of the fundamental theories of Relativity and what we know about things like the beginning of the universe. Neil deGrasse Tyson also narrates the audiobook (which is only about four hours), so I definitely recommend that. If you’re curious about what’s been going on in the field of astrophysics (or you’re wondering about, say, how we can detects planets around stars dozens of light years away), definitely give this book a try. It’s short and easy to read, and Tyson always provides great answers without talking down to his audience or making science seem dull or dreary. He is clearly excited about his subject, which makes his writing even more interesting.

The Witness for the Dead was a thoroughly charming story about a character, Thara Celehar, who featured in The Goblin Emperor. This new story is not about Maia, sadly (he’s only mentioned a few times), but I was still happy to return to this world and read more about its culture and the daily goings-on as Celehar goes through his days, doing his duties as necessary. He has a firm sense of what’s right and wrong, and he will not betray his morals, no matter the cost to himself. I’m not sure if the world would make much sense if you hadn’t read The Goblin Emperor, as Addison created at least part of a language to describe things specific to this world, but as The Goblin Emperor is one of my favorite books, I would never not recommend it.

What I’m Currently Reading:

The Last Unicorn is a fantasy classic, wherein a lone unicorn leaves her enchanted forest to go in search of others of her kind. She has heard that there are no more unicorns in the world, and she can’t believe this is so. Aided by a bumbling magician and a stubborn spinster, she goes out in search of the truth. I’m only sixty pages in, and so far it’s okay. Nothing to write home about, but I’m assuming that will change as I get farther along.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

I’d forgotten about Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars until a BookTuber I regularly watch happened to mention it last week, and since it suits the subject of the science fiction story I’m thinking of writing I decided to put it on hold at my usual library, and after a few days it came in for me. I’ll start on it some time this week.

In spite of the twenty-two books I read in June(!), I did not manage to read the next installment of The History of Middle-earth like I had planned to do, so I’ll either need to read two of them this month, or read the final book in December instead of November. Either is perfectly acceptable to me. We’ll just have to see how things go this month.

The Virgin in the Ice is the next volume of the Brother Cadfael books. I had downloaded the audiobook to my old phone before it quit working. I could have listened to it on my tablet, but my tablet has awful audio and had an annoying tendency to shut down the Hoopla app I’ve been using to listen to this series. So I decided just to wait until the new phone came in and start listening then. I still haven’t started it, but I plan to do so today while I’m doing the laundry.

The Craft:

Photography is a craft as much as it is an art, so this counts.

We’ve been getting a few storms in the past couple of weeks, and plenty of clouds, thought that hasn’t always translated to great sunsets.

But on Thursday, the sky was full of perfect clouds that lingered until well after sunset (sometimes they disappear half an hour before the sun goes down, and that makes for boring sunsets). So after checking the weather and sunset forecast, I doused my shoes, socks, and pants in bug spray, and headed north to the salt marsh. A quick hike took me to an open area with a great horizon, and I waited there until sunset. I took a bunch of photos while I was down there, but once the sun dropped below the horizon I had to start heading back to the car because it was getting dark. But I’d turn around and look back at the sky every couple of minutes, because the best color often comes after the sun has gone down.

That was the case on Thursday night.

I was on the last part of the trail, less than a quarter of a mile from my car about twenty minutes after sunset when I got the following photograph:

Not more than a few minutes later, when I was almost back to the car, I turned back to take this panoramic using multiple shots since I didn’t have a very wide lens with me:

So if you’re outside to get sunset photographs, and the sun has only just set, wait around for a little while longer, because the best colors don’t always happen when the sun is still up.

9 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: July 4, 2021

  1. It worries me just a little with all this smart tech. My daughter and friends went to visit friends in Boston a few months ago. Power outage. They couldn’t get into their Airbnb because it had a smart lock fueled by electricity and her friend had trouble getting into his dorm…same issue

  2. Right? Having all this electric-based smart stuff just isn’t a good idea. A mechanical lock will keep you as safe as a smart lock, and you won’t have to worry about getting stuck outside because of an outage. The latch for the trunk of my car is electric. The circuit board went out it, so I couldn’t open it. That was an expensive repair for something that would have been better as a mechanical thing. Smart stuff is not always better.

  3. I love when there are cloudy skies, but clear enough on the horizon that when the sun drops below it lights up the underside of the clouds. You can get such amazing colors and patterns, just as your photos show. Very nice! And I completely agree with you about smart homes. I’ve never wanted any of the fancy talking, and more importantly, listening devices so popular today. I even recently put aside my electric coffee grinder (not that it was at all smart) in favor of a hand crank grinder. I kind of enjoy the process more now. As for smart gadgets, all I have is the smart phone and that’s more than enough for me. I do fear exactly the situation you found yourself in. What will I find myself locked out of if my phone dies? Not a fun thought. But glad to hear you worked your way through it all. I love seeing Neil deGrasse Tyson here. I agree, he’s such a great communicator of these topics, as is Greene. The Last Unicorn has long been on my list of must reads. One day. For now it’s lost in that way too tall stack of books that sways back and forth each time I walk by. 🙂

  4. Wow, beautiful photos. Ugh, your ordeal with the phone sounds awful. I see your point about a smart house — and no, I don’t have any smart appliances or the like and don’t intend to. How frustrating. I’m happy to see you enjoyed Witness for the Dead! It did make me miss Maia though. I feel so invested in him — how’s he doing with a few years as Emperor under his belt? Is he happy in his marriage? I love that character so much.

    I hope you enjoy Packing for Mars! I read it years ago and thought it was lots of fun.

  5. Thanks! Yeah, the phone issue was a major pain. Overall, it wasn’t a huge deal, but it was a frustration that colored the whole week. And made me glad I don’t have any other smart devices.

    I want to see how Maia is doing a few years into his reign, too! Are he and his Empress happy together? They seemed to suit each other by the end. And he was growing into his role so well! I kind of doubt we’ll find out, unless Addison decides to write another book from another character’s perspective. Sill, happy to be back in the world for a little while.

    I’m enjoying Packing for Mars quite a bit! It’s different from what I expected, but that’s just fine. I’m about a third of the way through.

  6. That clear horizon under the clouds makes for perfect sunsets! They’re so rare here in the summer. The skies are usually so clear all day long once late June hits, but sometimes, conditions are just right.

    I’ve never really wanted smart devices, either. I might have a smart TV, but I’ve turned the listening capability off. I don’t need my TV listening in on my conversations with the cats.

    I just finished The Last Unicorn. What an odd little book! The story seemed to just be wandering about for the first half, then it finally found its story in the second half. The very ending was poignant and sweet, but it was kind of a long road to get there. Give it until the second half if you don’t immediately like it, and then see what you think. And be careful of that ever-growing stack of books!

  7. Love the sunset shots you got there.
    And you’ve convinced me that I need to read Witness of the Dead. I plan to get the UK copy because I like that cover better (and realize that I’m getting very picky about covers).
    And I’m with you on not wanting a smart home for the same reason.

  8. Thanks! I almost prefer the UK cover for Witness for the Dead, except it has a bottle with a skull and crossbones, and for some reason I don’t like things with skulls and crossbones on them. No idea why.

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