Lunar New Year (Tech) Cleaning

January 31, 2022

One of the traditions we honor from our daughter’s Chinese heritage is Lunar New Year, which starts today. It’s the Year of the Tiger, which happens to be the astrological birth year of my wife and me. Depending on what you read, it could be a good year or a bad year — I’m firmly on the side of epic goodness.

One of the traditions prior to New Year is to give the house a deep cleaning, to chase out all the evil spirits. In spite of the unseasonable mid-60s temps yesterday, we did that: laundry, dusting, vacuuming, floor mopping, baseboard cleaning.

One thing I HADN’T planned for was rebuilding my iPhone from scratch.

You see, last week I changed my iPhone passcode. Apparently, I wound up fat-fingering it, and thanks to the number of apps that are set up to use Touch ID I didn’t realize it until DAYS later. Sunday morning, to be exact when I restarted my iPhone.

I’ll not bore you (much) with the details and conflicting information related to the attempts at recovery, only to say that (a) it didn’t work, and (b) Apple is subtly stacking the deck in favor of iCloud over local backups of iPhones, which is great if you don’t have more than 5Gb of stuff on your iPhone that you intend to recover. In the end though, thanks to my LastPass password manager and how much of everything I store in the cloud, it wasn’t that bad. In fact, starting again from scratch allowed me to not reinstall a bunch of apps I no longer use. Kinda like chasing the evil spirits of my phone.

The opportunity to start fresh, with a new OS upgrade, is strangely liberating. Not only do you get to think hard about what apps to install, but you also get to think hard about how you interact with them. The new iOS 13.5, unshackled from personal history and with new versions, behaves just different enough to make me embrace all those new features that I scoffed at and turned off earlier. New approaches, when looked at fresh, open one to new possibilities.

This is perhaps the point of the new year, thinking about the future, and thinking about resolutions. Think fresh about yourself and who you want to be. Remember your shortcomings from the past but don’t dwell on them.

You’ve maybe heard that bit of trivia from Swedish scientist Dr. Jonas Frisen that every cell in our body replaces itself every 7 to 10 years. If you follow the two links above, you’ll see that this is more of a soundbite than a hard fact. But no matter: our physical bodies are constantly renewing, within the constraints of exercise, disease, genetics, etc. There’s hope after all for those resolutions about getting in shape! I’m still carrying some “COVID pounds.”

But the cells that define who we are — brain and neuron/nerve cells — are different. The great majority of the ones we’re born with we also die with, and brain science tells us that the mere act of recalling a memory and “reconsolidating” it back can create errors. No matter what, they say, each of us misremembers approximately 50% of what we believe from memory.

“That which we remember is, more often than not, that which we would like to have been; or that which we hope to be. Thus our memory and our identity are ever at odds; our history ever a tale told by inattentive idealists.”

Ralph Ellison

This scientific fact is not as dire as it sounds. I prefer to think of it as yet another opportunity for reinvention. Over our lifetimes, memories get rewritten and (perhaps) get a fresh veneer and perhaps make them more palatable, respectable, etc.

Here’s wishing “Xin Nian Kuai Le, y’all” to you, and wishing you a year of happiness, prosperity, and rebirth!

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