Too Much Entertainment

Once upon a time, I was in ninth grade and there were two things I liked more than almost anything (besides reading): music and video games (namely Pokémon and Unreal Tournament). So when I came home from a rough day of being a freshman in high school, I would blow off steam by sitting in front of the family computer (that is, if the seat wasn’t already occupied by my brother) and destroying pixelated soldiers in Unreal Tournament.

One day I had the brilliant idea to enhance my killing sprees by listening to music while playing the game. So I was merrily running along in a fictional militaristic world, flak cannon in virtual hand, blasting enemies into freshets of imaginary blood while listening to Bon Jovi. Pure nerdy bliss. My blood pressure was low, my ears were filled with the sounds of the game and the music, and then my mom looked over at me and said, “Maggie, that’s too much.” (Or something like that. At the time, I was angry at having my joy interrupted and didn’t bother to remember her exact words.)

That was back in 2002, before everyone on God’s green earth had a cell phone, before social media really took off, before mp3 players and iPads and Kindles, and before video games looked so realistic that you couldn’t tell the difference between animation and a live-action movie. I feel sorry for teenagers today, who have three or four times as many modes of entertainment and thus three or four times as many distractions. It’s not just too much. It’s way too much.

I help with my church’s youth group, and this past Sunday’s session was about how we are consumed by technology, social media, materialism, and other modern-day distractions. The teenagers were given a slip of paper on which they were asked to estimate the number of hours per day they spent on social media, browsing the Internet, texting, and so forth. The findings weren’t shocking to me or any of the adults present, especially because a few of the teenagers were tied to their phones during the night. Even so, we hoped the exercise made them realize that there was a lot of unnecessary “noise” in their lives and that the noise can prevent them from being able to sit in silence, to meditate, and to pray.

We taught the teenagers that there is a simple solution to escaping from all the “noise,” and that is spending time before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, AKA Eucharistic Adoration. Just a few minutes of silence and/or prayer per day can put things back in perspective and stop the noise long enough to help one remember that the world and all its distractions will pass away, and all the “entertainment” we have can never fill the gap in our souls that yearns for God.

Desktops and Laptops

It’s Cyber Monday, the online version of Black Friday. In other words, conduct all your holiday shopping on the Internet on Cyber Monday and you could find massive deals, discounts, and promotions… without the utter chaos of going to brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday.

Cyber Monday got me thinking about laptops. For a few months now, I’ve been thinking about buying a laptop, but I’ve been dragging my feet and getting all wishy-washy over the decision, like it’s something of huge importance. But the thing is, my desktop computer works perfectly fine. I have an LCD monitor, excellent speakers, a big subwoofer that doubles as a footrest, a gaming mouse with a zillion buttons that my brother let me have because he got an even better one, and a keyboard with illuminated keys that won’t rub off. It’s not like I’m working on some ancient machine that barely boots.

So why did I even want a laptop in the first place? The main reason was so I wouldn’t feel chained to my desk all the time: the portability. The fact that laptops are cute and sleek and fashionable. (Maybe all those repetitive ads on Hulu are getting to me! *gasp*) Minimalism; so instead of having all those hardware components, I could just have the laptop itself and clear off space on my desk. And… the fact that everyone seems to have one, which is never a good reason for buying anything. Now that I realize the reasons I want a laptop aren’t very good reasons, I think I’ll stick with my good ol’ desktop. (And besides, I made a post a few days ago about gratitude, so I’ll follow my own advice and be happy that I have what I have and not go around wanting more. :))

Do you prefer a laptop or a desktop computer? Do you have both?

Back It Up!

I know the title of this post sounds like a lyric from an obscene rap song, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about how important it is to back up your computer files regularly (I was about to type “religiously,” although that word would be appropriate, too).  I think it’s good to have both hard copies and electronic copies of your files; if your computer goes kaput or you lose your flash drive, then you’ll at least have the hard copy — or if by some chance, your hard copy gets eaten by your dog or gets destroyed by termites, then you’ll have the electronic file.

I back up my files once a week (although, I recommend that you do it more often than that). I have quite a few flash drives, and I also keep hard copies of every draft of my stories. It’s a lot of paper, and it’s a lot messier than all those neat little electronic folders, but it’s a huge help when there come times that I leave my flash drive at work or when my computer decides not to behave.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of “I don’t feel like backing up today, so I’ll just do it next week,” but then weeks turn into months and you’re stuck with just one copy of everything. Then some electronic disaster strikes and months of work are lost and never to be retrieved. So back it up. Print a copy and keep it somewhere safe from moths, termites, children, dogs, etc. When your computer fails or when you’ve accidentally sent your flash drive through the washing machine for the sixtieth time and it refuses to work, you’ll be glad you did.