Things I used to do without and can no longer

It’s slightly disconcerting how in a relatively short few years, I’ve become so hopelessly dependent on objects, services and technologies (and one food) that I can’t imagine doing without them.

This is not a long list, but I’ve thought fairly hard about it and while it is probably hyperbole to say I couldn’t do without them, it would be traumatic to say the least!

  1. Air-conditioning in my car. 30 Degree plus weather and a full suit really don’t mix. But I survived 5 years of suit-wearing and heat-bearing so surely I could the same again? No, I prefer my shirt not sticking to my back!

    My car before the age of A/C
    My car before the age of A/C
  2. 4 mbps ADSL and a wireless router at home. I still view uncapped access as a luxury, but the basic idea of being able to open my work laptop or my mbp and just browse, quickly, is addictive. My mac mini pulls down software updates and iTunes TV shows quietly in the background. Nokia Messaging pushes email to me E71 over 3G  on the road but switches to WiFi when I’m home. Whether it is keeping track of news, IM and Skype for friends overseas, keeping software always up-to-date, resolving arguments instantly or updating my blog, pervasive, fast internet is an integral part of my life.
  3. Mobile phone. Ok, I know this is probably common to many, but it’s still very true. My need is probably exacerbated by my bad habit of phoning to see whether a restaurant has a table for me as I’m driving there rather than planning in advance! While we’re at it, I better add push email, mobile web browsing and installable apps too. The endless waits for luggage at ORT airport are made more bearable but having distractions available.

    Sushi at Shogun in Beirut
    Sushi at Shogun in Beirut
  4. Spellcheckers. And more than spellcheckers, automatic typo correction. I used to think I could spell quite well. Maybe I still can on some relative measure, but I rely on a machine to scrawl red under my typos and spelling mistakes almost constantly. OS X’s increasing use of pervasive spelling correction through various apps is a boon.
  5. Sushi! It’s insane to think that for the first 21 years of my life I never tasted sushi. The first time I had sushi I was surprised that it tasted so much like ginger. Then the actual sushi arrived.
  6. Online banking. I’m not one of those who thinks online banking is sometimes useful – it’s the be-all and end-all of banking for me. There simply is no good reason to ever have to queue in a bank during crazily limited bank operating hours. I don’t want to pay for branch infrastructure and I want to interact directly with my account rather  than through some poorly trained, disinterested teller who is only available at certain times. Why can’t banks at least have a counter of secured terminals for those who don’t need to interact with a person but don’t yet have internet access  at home? At least this way might help transition more customers toward non-branch banking.
  7. Excel. It bothers me that I can’t say generically, “spreadsheet” here. The reality is that nothing else I’ve used comes close. Not OpenOffice’s Calc, not Mac’s iWorks Numbers or Google Docs attempts and not Gnumeric – not even Excel 2008 for Mac (what a waste of energy). It’s also been a while since I did without Excel or some spreadsheet. I discovered a copy of VisiCalc for my Commodore 64 sometime during the 80s and have never looked back since. As an actuary, I can barely function without Excel, but I’m sure this isn’t the only profession so dependent on a reliable, functional spreadsheet application.
  8. Enough sleep. It doesn’t seem so long ago that late nights and early mornings could be brushed aside with relative ease. Definitely no longer the case!

I’ve actually had to do without a few of these on my month-long visits to Lebanon. Rather than prove I can do without these, it cemented in my mind how difficult it would be to go without them indefinitely.

So, what’s on your list? What on my list is pure decadence?

Published by David Kirk

The opinions expressed on this site are those of the author and other commenters and are not necessarily those of his employer or any other organisation. David Kirk runs Milliman’s actuarial consulting practice in Africa. He is an actuary and is the creator of New Business Margin on Revenue. He specialises in risk and capital management, regulatory change and insurance strategy . He also has extensive experience in embedded value reporting, insurance-related IFRS and share option valuation.

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    1. Sleeping is a waste of time! Doing, achieving, learning and interacting are far more rewarding. The sad reality is that I do have to sleep, and more now than in my “younger days”!

  1. Agreed on all accounts:-) – yeah, having a decent internet connection at home is a necessary luxury (it should actually be a utility like electricity)….

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