Back to Analog From Smartwatch

I’ve owned two Pebble smartwatches, the original Pebble and Pebble Time. I found it’s minimal nature appealing. Excellent battery life, and the ability to receive notifications from Android and iPhone. I’m not the type of person who is constantly on my Android phone. But it was annoying to pull out my phone for every alert. I liked the idea of seeing these alerts on my wrist. I was able to triage the ones I needed to deal with then, and leave the others for a later time. I’ve been happy with the Pebble.

My first Pebble was acting a little strange after the warranty period expired. This was a good excuse for me to upgrade to the Pebble Time. After resetting my original Pebble, I gave it to my daughter. It was working, but I didn’t need two Pebbles.

I don’t own an iPhone, so an Apple Watch was out of the question. The Apple Watch is overkill for me. My wife enjoys hers, but for me, less is more.

Pebble announced that FitBit would be buying their “key assets”. But Pebble, as a company, would no longer exist. As of now, there is no support for the product. No further software updates will be issued. I felt a little disappointed. The Pebble fulfilled my smartwatch needs. It did just enough for me, and didn’t cost as much as the competition.

After some thought, I decided that I would follow the same path I took in adopting fountain pens. I would follow suit with my timekeeping. I was going back to a good old-fashioned analog wrist watch.

I remember seeing an article on the Art of Manliness Web site that talked about watches. I was trying to decide what I would buy. What features did I want in an analog watch? What style would I get?

Then I remembered that we might have some old watches from her late father and brother. I asked if we still had them. She went into our bedroom and returned with two boxes.

I found three watches that would still run. Two of them were automatic winders. The third was mechanical. It had to be wound up daily. The idea of a watch that didn’t need batteries appealed to me. Why buy a watch when you already have one that is functional?

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Friendship

Lately, I’ve been on a quotation-collecting spree. I came across the following statement on friendship, attributed to the Stoic philosopher Seneca:

One who seeks friendship for favorable occasions, strips it of all its nobility.”

Am I Kidding Myself?

I’ll admit that I’m ashamed of my failure to produce content. I keep wrestling with what writer Steven Pressfield refers to as “The Resistance“.  Aside from a personal journal, I haven’t been writing.

When I see how little I know about being a writer, I become overwhelmed. I have no education, no MFA, not even so much as membership in a writing group. I’m not worthy of the aspiration of being a writer. I just need to pull up my big-boy pants, focus on what is important, and put this pipe dream out of my head.

“Are You An Idiot?!”

This is a story that I posted on Medium:

“Jesus Christ! Are you an idiot?!”

The words stung Mark’s ears, as he hung his head in abject shame. He was only 11 at the time. But he should have known better.

The ice in the cooler had melted, leaving three inches of water at the bottom. He was sure that he had twisted shut the plastic bread wrapper, and secured the twist tie. He placed the bread on top of the remaining ice. He did everything right.

But he was wrong. The bread had fallen from the ice into the water. The water had seeped into the bread wrapper. Every slice of bread had absorbed the cold water.

Mama had returned to the van to make a sandwich. As expected, she was not amused by the discovery of the waterlogged loaf. She knew that Mark was the last person to have opened the cooler. He would be the sole recipient of her vitriolic outburst:

“What the hell were you thinking?! How are we going to have sandwiches now?! Are you a Pollack?!”

Mark winced at every word. In the mid-1970s, “Pollack” was a racial slur that referred to people of Polish descent. But it was often used as an epithet for people with little or no common sense. That era was rife with Pollack jokes. A common example would have been as such:

Did you hear about the Pollack who went around the block 64 times? His turn signal was stuck.

This was the precise effect that Mama intended to achieve. Her son was a fucking dumb-ass for ruining the bread. He needed to know it. How else was he going to learn?

Deep down inside, Mark knew Mama wasn’t evil. She may have learned her abusive manner of speech from her mother. Mark could still remember riding in the back of his grandparents’ car. Grandma would berate Grandpa’s driving with a tirade of ‘passenger-seat driving’:

“You’re going too slow! You’re following too close to that car! You just missed the turn!”

Grandpa always exhibited the patience of Job. He would just tune her out. Grandpa never raised his voice to Grandma. Mark could not remember a time when his grandparents argued. Grandpa wouldn’t even say anything negative about Grandma when she left the room.

Mark assumed it was normal that women always berated the men in their lives. He could remember how he would cringe as Grandma chastised Grandpa. It was so embarrassing. But that’s just how life was. It was a part of everyday family dynamics.

The mission Mark faced each day was simple: get through the day without raising Mama’s ire. Don’t be stupid, or at least, don’t be stupid around her. Most of the time, he was able to do just that.

But God help him when he fell short of the goal. He would hear about it. At least she limited her abuse to words. She never raised a hand to Mark. He was grateful for that small favor.

The words, however, were still painful.

Who Am I?

My name is Mike Ester. For the past three years, I’ve been considering taking up writing as a hobby. I do have a day job. I am a senior IT technician at a community college in Texas. I also play music as a hobby. I don’t have dreams of joining the ranks of Stephen King, James Patterson, or Steven Pressfield. But I would like to learn more about the art of storytelling. The Craft, if you will.

I wasn’t always the best student in school. But I was a voracious reader as a kid. I was reading articles in National Geographic by the time I was in 4th grade. As a result, my best grades were in English. But that was cruel irony. I hated school, and hated English class. I never could reconcile that. The instructor of a required freshman writing course told me that I had the potential to be a good writer. Once again, I was excelling in a class that I didn’t want to be in.

I started keeping a journal a few years ago. I wish that I had started that when I was a child. Journaling made me realize how many thoughts and memories I’ve lost forever. It’s a habit that is easy for me to maintain. I cherish taking pen to paper to record what is on my mind. I always make it a point to have pen and notepaper with me at all times. I don’t have the references at hand, but I’ve heard of studies showing that writing by hand uses parts of the brain that aren’t utilized when typing on a keyboard. My mind feels better when using pen and paper.

I prefer starting my writing with analog tools. I’m a recent convert to fountain pens and good paper. There is no battery to charge, no danger of data loss from a power outage. For most of my life, I have been using block print when writing by hand. I was introduced to cursive writing in primary school. But I never did very well at it. It was assumed that I just didn’t have the knack for it.

The penny finally dropped when I started using a fountain pen. I needed to slow down, and lighten my pressure on the pen. A ballpoint pen makes you put too much pressure on the paper. That isn’t writing. That is engraving. These days, I eschew ballpoint pens. I don’t deny their existence. I just don’t like using them.

I have reached a point where my cursive writing is legible. It’s not beautiful calligraphy, but I don’t care. I can go back and decipher what I wrote a month ago. Even my wife has noticed the difference.

I still recognize the value of digital tools. After all, a blog is digital; is it not?

Now, the hard part begins. Overcome the resistance, and start writing.