Things We Can Live Without

Video Games ruined my life. Good thing I have two extra lives.

We have a tendency to over-exaggerate what will make us either happy or sad. That gadget, clothing, car, etc. probably will not turn the world into a Utopia. So I found this Profhacker post, “Things We Can Live Without” interesting.

I don’t mean annoying things we could do without, like complaints about grades or being stuck in traffic. I mean things that we thought we couldn’t live without but which it turns out we can. I mean things that held such great promise for happiness, completion, or freedom but which turn out to be useless, disappointing, or even enslaving.

Here is my list:

  1. Hybrid car – I rationalized at the time the battery life cycle was not well defined enough for me that going hybrid was that much better. My car gets pretty good miles per gallon. Enough so that with the same size tank of gasoline it can get from here to my hometown and back 1/3rd of the trip where I was used to having to fill up when I got home to even go visit a friend. However, I don’t care about the mpg as much as I thought I would while deciding on the purchase.
  2. iPod – Almost a year ago I bricked the Windows install on my home laptop and went Linux. My iTunes associated with the iPod was on that old Windows install. The hard drive still worked, so I tried moving the library to another Windows computer. Unfortunately the paths were different and Windows is not as good as Unix at symbolic links. I was still missing the only thing that mattered to me: ratings and play counts. So I tried to download the ratings off my iPod and fix it. That bricked the iPod. Rather than go out and buy another iPod, I made MP3 CDs to use in the car.
  3. eBook Reader – It seems so sexy to have my entire library on a tiny device. The reality is I have about 100 paper books to finish (growing faster than I read them) before I can consider switching over to another medium. Until all the bookstores switch to digital and prevent me from buying paper, the odds are low I’ll switch.
  4. Video game console – I used to play more video games than I watched television. However, for the past 4 years I have not had a console hooked up. (For a couple weeks in March-April 2006 I did have my Nintendo 64 hooked up, but I did not have cable or Internet at the time.) Ultimately, I no longer play as much as I used to play as the Internet, socializing, work, Netflix, and even television sap too much of my time.
  5. Home phone – When a company “had” to have my phone number they got my parents’ number even after I moved out on my own. Then I moved to another city. So I got my own home number thinking this is what I needed to interact with companies. Certainly I wanted to keep my cell phone pure and not get a dozen useless calls a week. Then along came Google Voice (especially the call screening specific numbers feature) to make it so much easier to appropriately handle corporations and political candidates who cannot email relevant information.

The list of things I probably should live without or at least reduce usage despite feeling obligated to do them. Thing is…. Will I?

  1. Television and movies
  2. Facebook, especially apps and memes
  3. Restaurant eating
  4. Eating meat
  5. Time spent online

Library Netflix Model

I tend to buy books. As Heather pointed out on Flickr, I could save lots of money by checking books out from the library. I don’t for one big reason. I am lazy. Most of my purchases fall within a sweet spot of wanting to read more about something because I heard about it on the radio, saw a television episode on a topic, read something in another book, or talked to someone about it. My memory is poor so I only buy a book if I happen to hit the bookstore prior to forgetting. For most of these that means Amazon. To get a book from a library would be mean remembering to go there AND the book I wanted which is unlikely.

However, books sit on my shelf for sometimes years before I get around to reading them. I also tend to read several at a time which slows my pace on any particular book to about 250 pages a month unless I devote more time to it.

Netflix works similarly for me. I add things to the queue and maybe eventually get around to getting the disk. I’ll watch a disk a week maybe. Netflix’s Watch Instantly is much better for me as I can pick whatever I want off the list and see it then. Even then I might watch half and watch the rest later. I’m watching 3x more with the Watch Instantly model than I did off the DVD model.

While I would like an eBook Reader, I don’t find the purchase model compelling.  Take the Netflix concepts of:

  • A watch instantly queue (more a list of everything I am interested in watching)
  • When I am ready to read it downloads to my device.
  • When I am finished, I no longer have access.
  • Do not limit me to one out at a time.
  • A monthly charge for the privilege of all of the above.

With that kind of model, I would be willing to buy a Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or whatever for anytime access to an enormous library of books. They could even charge me $10-15 depending on how many I can have out a time.