The return of the satisfying hang-up

Photo by Mike Meyers on Unsplash

A new iOS update is out. As always it will take a lot of getting used to. I don’t like the redesigned lock screen. I especially don’t like the way it defaulted my old wallpaper to a new “personal” focus that blocked text message notifications. I didn’t know it was going to do that, so I missed messages all day long yesterday from my father and my wife.

But there is one new feature I adore even though I haven’t used it yet. You can now enable Siri to disconnect a phone call by saying, “Hey Siri, hang up.” I suppose it’s intended to make it safer to end a hands-free phone call while driving. That’s irrelevant to me. I don’t talk on the phone while driving. To explain why I’m excited about it, first we need to take a ride in Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine.

I grew up in the era of bulky, heavy phones. In those days, to end a call, you would place the handset back in its cradle. If you were angry, you could slam the chunky handset down. It made a very satisfying & cathartic crash. Whoever was on the other end would hear it as the last sound of the conversation. For the recipient, it was loud, disturbing, and irritating.

With the shift to cordless, electronic phones, that satisfying option disappeared. There was no cradle to slam the phone into. Instead, you had a button to disconnect. Sure, you could pound that button. Do it hard enough, and you might give yourself a transient dislocation that would throb for days. But the other party would only hear dead air. For all they knew, it was an accidental disconnect. They might even believe that they got the last word! The advent of cell phones made it even less cathartic. Tap the screen. Bip.

Yawn.

With iOS 16, Apple has reintroduced the pleasure of rudely & abruptly ending a call. Because you can say, “Hey Siri, hang up,” and the other party will hear it! How exciting!

“Hi, this is Bruce Feeblebrain with Parents for Making Children Ignorant. Do you realize…”

“Hey Siri, hang up!”

Boom! The sheer rudeness of it more than makes up for the lack of physical satisfaction. The other party, interrupted, hears you overtly and angrily ending the call. No leaving them wondering what happened. Instead, absolute certainty that you did it on purpose.

It’s almost enough to make me want to start answering telemarketing calls again.

The End of Twitter

A dead bird on the ground

For me, at least. I’ll deactivate my account as soon as I have time to download my archive and then delete all my tweets. Twitter’s new ownership motivated me to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: stop using Twitter. The value of Twitter was never as high as the costs.

There was value. It’s not like when I quit Facebook several years ago. I loathed everything about Facebook by the end of my time on that platform. Stopping was simple and I didn’t miss it. Twitter was different. I disliked some aspects of it, but there were plusses. I used it to broaden my horizons by following people I wouldn’t have been able to interact with in meat space. People from different ethnic groups. Disability activists. LGBTQIA voices. I learned a lot. Twitter also provided humor, information, and sometime an outlet for my creative silliness.

The drawbacks were more significant. As an easy diversion and distraction, Twitter degraded my ability to focus and think. The filth of Twitter occasionally bubbled up, even though I was careful to curate who I followed. That didn’t do wonders for my emotional equilibrium or mental health. (The use of ethnic slurs spiked as soon as the transfer of ownership occurred. I don’t need that in my life.) Leaving Twitter will go a long way toward improving the quality of my intellectual life.

Twitter isn’t worth being part of anymore. Many of the voices I follow are leaving, anyway, and its usefulness will only decay from here. Time to go.

(Photo by Chris Slupski on Unsplash)

Sylvie’s Desk

casey-horner-4rDCa5hBlCs-unsplash

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

I found this vignette in one of my notebooks. I have no memory of writing it and I certainly have no idea where I was going with it, but it’s cute, so I thought I’d share it.

Sylvie’s desk was in the back of the classroom. Wood top, plastic seat, metal legs. The desktop bore the scars of many years of service. Scratches, gouges, and names carved into it surface. When Sylvie spilled water on it one day, a lot of it soaked right in before she could get a wad of paper towels to clean it up.

The next day when she came in, a branch had sprouted from the spot where she’d spilled the water. It stuck up and blocked her vision of her teacher. She wanted to move but the class was full and there was no place to sit but on the floor. Instead, she bent the branch down out of her way so she could see. Every time the leaves rustled, the teacher scowled at her.

The day after that, Sylvie came prepared. She had stolen a pair of her mother’s pruning shears so she could cut the branch off. But the branch had grown into a shrub. She tried to trim away enough twigs and leaves to look through. With every soft snip of her shears, her classmates gave her dirty looks. And it was no use. New branches grew in as fast as she could clip them. And every twig that fell to the floor sprouted its own growth. By the end of the day, a forest surrounded Sylvie that was so thick that she wasn’t even sure she was still in school.

Why Sammy Can’t Blog

I have been remiss in blogging for several weeks, in spite of my best intentions. I had a good run for seventeen days. I accidentally broke the streak when I wrote a post but forgot to publish it before bed. That set the stage for skipping a day, then two, and then two weeks went by in the beat of a hummingbird’s wings.

In spite of what this lapse suggests, blogging is important to me. That’s why I keep coming back to it.

I write at least one entry in my journal every morning. That exercise limbers up my mind. Often, those entries are not good writing, but the discipline of doing it prepares me for other forms of writing. Sometimes an entry helps me work through a scene I’m struggling with in my fiction. Sometimes I write about work problems and find a solution that way, or at least come to understand the problem better so that I can solve it later. Rarely, I can revise an entry for a blog post. (That’s how “Letters” began.) That’s never the intention, though. When I sit down at my keyboard with a cup of coffee at hand each morning, I am writing for an audience of one, and that one is myself.

I like the idea of blogging because I crave a different type of discipline. In the journal, I allow my thoughts to wander wherever they will. With blogging, I want to channel my thought into a specific topic and construct a coherent narrative or argument. Publishing that effort forces me to be accountable to an external audience.

Why do I struggle to do it, if it’s so important and I want to do it?

Fatigue plays a large role. I haven’t been sleeping well for the past few weeks, which means I start each day with limited energy reserves. I reserve mornings for writing fiction. I spend my workdays engaged in cognitive labor. By the time evening rolls around, I don’t have a lot of mental energy left to spend.

I don’t know how to solve my sleep problem. If I did, I would have solved it already. But I’ll keep experimenting until I find the solution. Until then, I’ll blog as often as I can muster the energy.

Think. Create. Teach.

For years, the tag line for my web site was, “Coach, Writer, Speaker.” I felt that those nouns best described who I am and what I wanted to be. I coached product development teams and organizations for a living. I write crime fiction as a hobby and aspire to publish novels. I had dabbled in public speaking and thought I would like to do it professionally.

Today, I’ve changed the tag line to “Think. Create. Teach.” Those three verbs better describe the activities that feed my soul.

They come from a conversation with a colleague not long ago when I said I could write my ideal job description in three words. I was being flippant, but as soon as I said, I realized it was true.

I love to think. I love to do research, to read, to learn, and then synthesize and evaluate what I’ve learned.

I love to write, but writing is only one way I create. I draw. I play music. I invent games. I build things.

For a while, I pursed speaking engagements at agile conferences. I enjoyed engagements I had. But when circumstances forced me to set that activity aside, I didn’t miss it all that much. The part of speaking that appealed to me most was the teaching aspect.

I’m fortunate that I can make a living doing the things that feed my soul. As a Professional Scrum Trainer, I can engage my desire to think, create, and teach on a regular basis. That’s why I’ve changed the tag line on this blog. I plan to focus more of my writing here on those areas.

Jobs

Today’s journal prompt: If all jobs paid the same, what would you choose to do?

Setting aside the question of what the economics of that would look like (that’s difficult because my wife and I have been watching the Paul Krugman Masterclass and so economics is very much on my mind), how I answer that question is what we mean by “job.”

What springs to mind when I see that word is “work for hire.” To “have a job” means to work for someone at a wage or salary. And if that’s the meaning behind this question, then I suppose I’d do more or less what I do now. I enjoy being a trainer and I enjoy coaching product development teams. It’s rewarding apart from the salary.

Another sense of the word “job” is a piece of work, a task. A brake job, for example. If all pieces of work paid the same, what would I do? I’d write fiction, almost exclusively. (Granted that, as a dude, I like to explain things, so I’d probably write advice, how-to, or opinion articles as well.) I like to tell stories even more than I enjoy my day job.

Advice for me in ‘83

Today’s journal prompt asks, “What career advice would you give your 16-year-old self?”

I imagine that younger me has been selected for an experiment where he can talk to an older version of himself, but the topic is limited to career advice. Otherwise, sixteen-year-old me would want to know winning lottery numbers.

Sixteen-year-old me wanted to be a best-selling science fiction author, and he would be disappointed to know that I don’t have a single novel published yet. “Why not?” he would ask.

“Mostly, because I let self-doubt stop me,” I would say. “You might want to do something about that.”

December 1

I’m stunned that it’s December 1 already. It seems as though I sloughed off July only a few weeks ago, and now the year is all but over. I haven’t even started my preparations for the War on Christmas! My comrades in the 13th Armored Anti-Elf Battalion are going to be super annoyed with me.

Career advice

I had beer tonight with an old friend. His adult son joined us, which was weird, because I still feel like I’m too young to have old friends who are younger than me who have adult offspring. I’m 50 but I view the world as if I were still in my mid thirties, whatever that says about me.

Anyway, the son wanted career advice, which was also weird, because again, I don’t feel like I’m old enough to be giving career advice. Also because my friend and I kept contradicting each other, then laughing about it, while the son grew increasingly frustrated because he was looking for words of wisdom. Sorry, kid, you picked a couple of idiots as advisors.

He wanted to know what being a Scrum Master was like. After a few relevant questions (and many more tangents, sub-references, and goofy questions), I figured out that what he was really asking was what he should do with his life to enable him to eventually chase his true passion, which is writing. I spent the rest of the evening arguing that he should not place writing on the back burner like that. Sacrificing what you really want to do in order to executing your backup plans is a recipe for regret. As much as I enjoy being an agile coach, I wish I’d taken writing seriously 25 years ago instead of waiting for someday to come when I could focus on writing fiction. I’d probably have a few dozen books under my belt by now.