Thursday, November 11, 2010

The color of silence

I must be the only person in the world without an iPod. And if I ever received one as a gift, it would quickly be re-gifted to someone who might actually use it.

When it comes to listening preferences, mine are natural. I like to open my office window and hear the birds rather than music. It helps me think -- and write.

But things can get too quiet. So quiet, in fact, that the hum of my computer sounds loud. The guy across the street with the leaf blower gets annoying. The kids playing after school become a distraction.

My solution? Noise. Simply noise. Or, should I say The site is billed as "The Best Free White Noise Generator on the Internet." I don't know if that's true; all I know is that it works. Phenomenally. At least for me.

I often switch between white noise, pink noise, and brown noise -- you know, for variety. And I can choose to have the sound oscillate at different speeds. It's like controlling the waves of your own ocean. Or rainfall. Or wind through the trees.

In a few seconds, the sound fades into the background, masking other distractions, so I can focus on the project at hand.

I'm hoping SimplyNoise does the trick for those days when I share my office with my telecommuting husband. Just in case it doesn't, I've ordered an assortment of ear plugs to test. It's a low-tech approach that could simply work.   

Monday, November 1, 2010

Living forever

Science, science fiction, and dreamers continue to explore ways of living longer. I would say that my 97-year-old mother-in-law, who passed this summer, was proof of longevity. Even now she lives on, after a fashion. Today, she was summoned to jury duty. Her bank wants her to download a mobile banking app for the iPhone. She's also gotten a few proxies and ballots in the mail, so she can vote at corporate shareholder meetings.

OK, so it takes some time for computers to catch up with the realities of mortal lives.

Same goes for social networking sites. So far, I know of two deceased colleagues whose profiles continue to appear on LinkedIn. LI addresses the issue in its FAQs, but I feel funny about being the one to erase the last footprints of their digital lives.

Facebook takes another approach, memorializing deceased members by removing certain personal information and leaving the page accessible to confirmed friends through search. I'm not a Facebook member, so I don't know the details of this policy, but it can be anything from troubling to eerie to know that even "until death do us part" doesn't apply here. 

Twitter has yet another approach for its deceased-member policy, which requires an "interested party" to send in bits of information before it takes action.

CNET compares the Twitter and Facebook policies and comes to this appropriate conclusion: "...policies about a user's death can end up being just as important as those you agree to when you first sign up."

Apparently there's an element of social networking to be considered even in death.