The hamster was actually the smart one...

If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger. --Frank Lloyd Wright

When I was a child of ten, I had a hamster named Pedro. He wasn't of the lazy, obese, hairy persuasion, but instead was about as energetic and lithe as a hamster presumably gets. He enjoyed crawling endlessly through the tubes I constructed all over my bedroom, a bizarre concoction of plumbing and modern architecture, and I would watch, fascinated, at this little creature who was under the impression that he was actually going somewhere. And then he would drop down into his cage from another angle and look around in that peculiar hamsteresque bewildered way, wondering why he was back where he started. He would avoid his wheel, though, since even that little mind could clearly conceive that he wasn't advancing in any direction.

Recently, I feel rather like a hamster.

I've been a techie of one type or another for well over twenty years. I don't actually say that because I'm proud of it. Heck, I find that a roughly-whittled whistle (my hands wrapped in bandages) is more cause for chest-puffing than almost any website I've ever produced. Nevertheless, technology calls to me, not only for its possibilities for employment, but with the constant lure that there is something new out there under the sun. A new gadget to improve my life. A new cell phone to extend my reach. A new camera to capture the world in its memorable instants. Perhaps a new laptop with WiFi that will clarify some vague and fleeting understanding of what it means to be a part of something greater, no matter where I am.

And then a week hits me, like the past one did. My newish digital camera stopped working. My ailing G4 Mac (alas, my chief design computer) rasped a horrible death rattle or two, and its mouse, keyboard and network interface stopped working. A new USB card reader refused to comply with my ancient laptop. The printer ceased to function. And to cap it off, all the sites I manage disappeared for three days.

Was this the inevitable result of a Gypsy curse, thrown upon a far-flung ancestor generations ago, or perhaps a misalignment of the stars? Perhaps an energy pulse effected by the whirling Aurora Borealis dancing here every night? Or maybe I just drew a bad ticket in the cosmic lottery. Whatever the case, it was a wake-up call. How much faith have I been putting into technology? Why was I not able to function? Stress mounted, and it was the sort of stress I imagined was felt by the White Star fleet representatives as the Titanic shuddered and tilted, or the stress that the Baron felt as his creature escaped his bonds. Suddenly isolated, jarringly torn from my belief system and my daily habits, I tried to compensate. I wrote in my journal, I read books, I made a good meal.

But nothing helped, and still, I returned to my ancient and creaking laptop every hour, clicking on DIYPlanner to see if it would magically appear. I phoned the tech support line again and again. I went into the administration section of the host, looking for clues. I scoured the forums for fixes. Ultimately, the only thing I could do was wait and feel horribly alone and uncomfortable in the life I had created.

I thought of my father, and his father. They were horticulturists. They raised plants in a nursery and sold them. I still remember my father, fidgeting every few years because a new type of tomato was offered in the seed catalogue, a type that was almost the same as the last variety, with the same growing conditions and same taste, but with a different name and a slightly different size bloom or stem build. His professional skills didn't change much during his lifetime, except --just like his father-- he just got better and better at raising plants, giving joy to gardeners and farmers and dwellers in public parks. Skills could be accumulated over a lifetime, and not outdated. They never atrophied.

Compare that with techies. We multimedia professionals and programmers often run endlessly in our hamster wheels, learning technologies and techniques that are out of date within six months to a year. We need countless hours to develop the skills we do have, spending many hours in front of computers experimenting with barely tangible languages and applications that may never achieve fruition, or --if they do-- will soon pass into the otherrealm of discarded tech fads. Sometimes I can admire poor Pedro, who knew that --no matter how fast his little legs would propel him-- he'd never move forward, and so avoided his wheel.

Of course, I should probably mention that my grandfather flushed "the dirty little thing" down the toilet while the rest of us were away on vacation. I think my metaphor breaks apart there.

Thank you for listening to my little rant. Sometimes I have to rail against technology, especially when its deficiencies conspire against me. And then, bound to my mast, I hear its siren song again.

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If that "dirty little thing"

If that "dirty little thing" you referred to that got flushed was Pedro, I think I'm going to have nightmares for weeks...and if so, hoping you sent grandpa packing, since he was too big to flush :-)


ah...the joys of an analog system. I'm loving my
work journal all the more now.

circular motion

"And then he would drop down into his cage from another angle and look around in that peculiar hamsteresque bewildered way, wondering why he was back where he started."

This line reminded me of one of my cats' first trip to the vet. Scotchy was about 8 weeks old, and my daughter and I had taken him and his sister to meet Dr. Bob. After his turn, while Dr. Bob examined his sister, my daughter sat on the floor holding Scotchy. Looking for somewhere to hide, and possibly escape, he crawled into the cuff of her hooded sweatshirt. From there he traveled up the sleeve, across her back, and down the other sleeve. You can imagine his surprise to find that his journey had led him right back to where he'd started.

But I know what you mean about working so hard just to keep up with technology. Kind of like treading water, eh?

poor dear

I've been a hamster lover since a very young age... Even still have the occasional dwarf one as a pet still. (now I have Betty the black mouse...)

My grampa used to call my hamsters "rats" and offered to 'deal with it' for my mum and dad should they want him to. He said he'd take it out to the garage and deal with it properly with a shovel. Used to make me cry... your story brought that all back. lol

Sorry for the loss of Pedro...

and sorry for your recent turn of fortune. Hang in there; there is always balance in the end.
my artwork


Your story also brought back childhood memories for me. My dad cornered a mouse in the garage after my mom shrieked "kill it, kill it!!" I remember thinking the mouse looked a little different...

A few days later, a neighbor girl cautioned us to be on the lookout for her escaped gerbil. We never told her.


Years ago, I was a wiz at

Years ago, I was a wiz at dtp. There was nothing I couldn't do (somehow) with Ventura. lol Then another program arrived on scene - this time Corel Draw - and I was a total wiz again, then another program... until I remember making the conscious decision that I just didn't want to learn html to be able to deal with web pages. By then, Ventura had long since died, I just toyed with Pagemaker, and I had completely stopped buying the bloated Corel "upgrades"... which left... not a lot. I did get very good at Word. lol Still am, but now I'm probably going to move to Scrivener. I look at Devonthink Pro Office (which I own) and start to deal with it, then back off because it's so overwhelming. Same with Omni Outliner Pro, and, well, I couldn't even get beyond the demo of Tinderbox... So I totally understand your weariness.

I wish I had an answer for you. I wish I had an answer for myself. My passion for tech isn't going to go away, though. My Mac Mini couldn't get here fast enough. I literally danced when I got a video iPod for my birthday. It makes me happy. It's a great rush when you figure something out, when it all comes together, when you're grinning like an idiot and saying to no one in particular, "This is soooo cool!"


If you're using a Mac and need a good "put all my stuff in it" program, you can't go wrong checking out Journler at The developer is responsive, there is an active community forum, and I feel it is the best program of its type. Best of all: it is free! I've tried Scrivenver, Mori, Notae, KIT (Keep It Together), Yojimbo, and DevonThink Personal. They are all good programs, but Journler just feels more natural to me. It feels like iTunes for your information: tags, smart folders, etc. I've tried them all. I actually own KIT and DT Personal thanks to MacZot but have completely dropped them both in favor of Journler.

That being said Scrivener does have some features that would be great if I'm a writer, but I'm not. Now if I can just talk the Journler author into adding a drag n drop index card view...


techie hamster wheels

I think I have some idea how you feel. I have been into computers for over 20 years - since my parents got a Commodore 64 and Atari 2600. I decided I wanted to make video games. Turned out the college I went to only taught command-line and web programming, no gui. So I turned into a web developer.

About three years into my first programming out of college (with my nice new 4 year degree in computer science) I got depressed one day. I thought "All I do is pull data from somewhere, do something with it, and put it somewhere else." Well, duh. What else CAN you do with a computer?

Fast forward thru a couple years and a layoff and some unemployment... I had a realization that the reason I wasn't enjoying my job was my attitude. As long as I am creating something that people enjoy that is either useful or fun, I'm making the world a better place.

As far as new stuff goes: there's always something shiny and new to play with. And learning a skill and then that technology getting outdated, that is not wasted. I look at it like learning a new language (literally, if you're a programmer!) Every technology has some good ideas and some stuff to learn. And I think the more you know, the faster you can learn something new.