125 Comments
Feb 6, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

seems like a thing both of them have going for them is being really comfortable w being alone/quiet - makes it a lot easier to be with yourself! not everyone can live like these monks full time but their practices can be incorporated by us lay-people.

(also noticing that just like the monks, these guys have a dedicated support staff of women connecting to outside social networks more regularly!)

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That is an interesting observation, Katy. Maybe the "problem" that the cell phone "solves" (as David would put it) for many is being uncomfortable being alone and quiet.

And yes, it also occurred me that both these fellows have wives with cell phones, and that this likely makes daily life a lot easier than braving it alone without a phone.

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Feb 9, 2023·edited Feb 9, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

Yesss this is just like Wendell Berry having his wife type his books

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Also, Mrs. Tolstoy, who famously took care of everything on the estate so Leo could traipse around in his weird caftan and hang with the peasants.

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Katy -- this is an interesting observation. I think it is interesting that Mr Haaga spends a lot of time connected to his TRUE passions on the Internet (reading via GoodReads and running) and perhaps CHOOSES to not be bombarded all of the time -- instead he merely CHOOSES when to engage with his outside social networks! It seems he has selected the level and method of engaging socially and doesn't feel the need to repost his running and reading insights on Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / texting circles. I have a feeling his wife is not there to guide him how he engages with his preferred social circles. I also might guess he doesn't NEED his wife to love to run or read a lot for him to pursue his interests. He seems to me to have a settled mind without being preachy. Kinda cool. I laughed when he explained how much he loves reading but doesn't feel the need to have someone randomly on the street reading to him aloud.

I remember how together my Mom's life was as she aged. We gave her a phone, encouraged her to use it, be connected, etal. She MIGHT pick it up and graciously refused after buying something at the drugstore to provide her email address even though the promise was "savings". I don't think it ever made her uncomfortable, less engaged with the world, etcetera. She had a settled mind and didn't NEED to have a cell phone to be comfortable and fit in. When she was with any of us, she was always pleasant and made even the simplest moments memorable.

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Feb 11, 2023·edited Feb 11, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

While raising my kids who are now in their late 20s, I made a rule, no phones at the dinner table so that I could teach them to engage with people instead of constantly being on their phones. I am proud that they grew up to be adults who do not use their phones constantly, especially when having dinner with others. I hate to see families in restaurants who are all on their phones instead of talking to each other. I see cell phones as generally good for society but with limitations. We used to read magazines in waiting rooms, now we read on our phones. People should not be on them all the time.

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Very fortunate kids you got Maria!

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Maria -- this makes so much sense to me -- our children are late 20s / early 30s and we managed to arrive at a similar place. It seems mobile phones are amazing supplements to how we live with an opportunity to make us smarter. When I think of my hobbies, clubs, and get-togethers, getting the most out of them means we put our phones aside and take advantage of the people we choose to engage with in the first place! You describe this VERY WELL. I hope the next time we are out to dinner, I can avoid seeing what you describe.

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Feb 9, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

wow i love this analysis! i kind of hope mr haaga gets to see it and respond, i have a feeling he might have some more interesting things to say about it :)

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I wrote to Mr. Haaga yesterday and already got his response, along with a note from his wife Candice Haaga! Will include in the next issue!

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Thank you katy, very kind. My sense is who knows, as this is just my guess and I have my biases just like all the rest of us :) I happen to consider the following three questions similar as each are about US being challenged by something that someone else is doing for their OWN reasons:

(1) Why don't you have a cell phone

(2) Why don't you have an iPhone?

(3) Why don't you have an Android phone?

The magic of Ms Kadet is she asks such questions in a way that is fun, illuminating and ultimately heartwarming. It is why I, at least, carve out time for each issue.

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Feb 6, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

Last time I was in a subway bathroom it was the 80s, and people lived there. Maybe that’s why the video reminded me of a bad industrial release from that time; it just needs a few rapid cuts and some jumps, and of course, lots of grinding and clanking over a stolen beat. “Dispenser Truth, the only release from NYC’s little-known Unverwüstliche Toilette Papierspender, is default ringtone on the new Cafe Anne modular phone.”

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Denise! I DID use the bathrooms at the Port Authority back in the day, and there was often another lady (or several) using the sink for bathing purposes. But no one had moved in.

I love your DISPENSER TRUTH suggestion. I am working on the ringtone as we speak!

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Love this! As the father of a 16 y/o who has her iPhone surgically attached, the mobile phone is the bane of my existence - though seemingly essential to hers. It’s a double-edged sword: just this morning on the way to school I had to make her look up to see the incredible sunrise. She did - and promptly took a photo and sent it to a friend. Of course, I’m writing this on my phone at the moment while waiting for parents evening to start, was able to arrange an appointment between lessons and have sorted numerous other things .... all while lamenting the very thing I’m using. 🤦

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I feel much the same Bryan. What we don't really know is how it would actually FEEL to have no phone with us all the time vs. what we know we would lose by giving it up. We can only sort of imagine. I've gotten really good at having the thing off MOST of the time, though, and I have to say it makes a HUGE difference. The less I use it, the less I want to use it.

Love that your daughter looked up and snapped a photo with the phone. So funny!

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Feb 6, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

so delightful to read my dad's interview, and his fellow no cell phone comrade! :) the story of the time he successfully made a cell phone call has gotten a lot of play lol. i'm also curious to find some of this OPS in the wild!

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Megan, thank you for offering your dad as EXHIBIT A. He is a delight!

Also, I love your idea of spotting OPS in the wild. EVERYONE: If you see an OPS dispenser in your area, send photos! (Provided it is not on fire.)

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I read this on the C, heading towards Manhattan & almost got off at Metro Tech to check out the bathroom situation. Maybe next time.... although by then it’ll probably be really gross!

Also: how do these people read all the Substack newsletters without a smart phone!? I couldn’t possibly read s as many as I do if I had to wait to get in front of my computer😂

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Good point Jillian! Would Substack even be a thing without the smartphone?

One thing David (or was it Peter?) brought up that I did not include was that he used to use a PDA (remember those?). Personal digital assistant. Like the TREO. They stopped making them after the iPhone came out. I can't recall if you could use them to read stuff online...

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Ooo- I never had a personal digital assistant. But I did have a Filofax, and I loved it!

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I was an early adopter Apple guy, Apple Newton, iPod and in an unusual specialized work environment an Apple Lisa.. Eventually got a Sony Clie. My nerdish and techy friends (scientific company) thought I was crazy. Once I explained all of the things my Sony Clie could do that my Newton could not, they understood. There was a small sales surge in my office :)

Not that different than today. When people see all of the convenient things my phone can do they stop asking why did you get that??? The Sony Clie was kind of a Apple Newton that could do more stuff, you could put memory in it, was a bit pricey but not as much as a Newton, and not have to buy branded nonsense like chargers, cables, memory from one place. I abandoned the mothership a long time ago. I am still amazed that two of my favorite Substackers read mostly on their phones WTF! I am unexpectedly surprised on a Tuesday morning!!!!! I would estimate of the 20 Substacks I read every week (~10 subscriptions) I might read 1-2 of them on a phone and only enough of those to know I will finish them later on my Kindle or tablet.

As for reading stuff online, do either of you have and use Kindles??? While I still like physical books, my Kindle long ago transformed my reading experience and could not live without it.

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How do people read all the Substack newsletters? I limit myself to ten and survey the rest as time avails. Both of you happen to be in the circle :) I almost never use my cellphone to read Substacks. I autoforward them to my Kindle. Lot easier on the eyes and less scrolling. It does, however, mean giving up a little bit on those physical books though...

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Mr. Dolan, this is one of favorite topics. I have subscribed to more than 100 Substacks at this point, mainly because I subscribe to every newsletter that recommends mine. And they are filtered into a series of inbox folders: the must reads, the would like to reads, and then everything else.

I LOVE reading and commenting on Substack newsletters and it could easily be a full time job but I limit myself to a few hours a week. I am always tweaking my filing and reading system in an effort to make sure I don't miss anything great, and always feel like I am failing at this.

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I subscribe to 10 ; have the rest in some electronic shortcuts in my browser. I never see my Substack subscriptions in my email Inbox as I have rules to put them away also. I had gotten up to about 25 subscriptions and decided that was too much. I sent a note to the ones I still like to read and now manage them if I have the time. Since my browser is magically shared across my tablet, my phone and my Kindle (I have a phone that makes me smarter not a SmartPhone :)) I am alwways in the same place I left off. I don't use the "Substack App" and only read them on a large screen except in a pinch. I am sure I could subscribe to more but find I still read the others anyhow. It makes sense to subscribe to those that recommend and that makes sense in your circumstances. I read a lot of Substacks more as a lurker. I don't think I comment any less as I think for people who are taking the time to write something I enjoy, the least I can do is comment.

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After reading about this idea somewhere, last year I made and collaged a special box that my phone was to go into when I was working in my studio and didn't want to feel the pull of its siren call. It was a great method! It worked! But I haven't used it for over a year 😅. It's truly frightening how seductive our phones are. I feel sad when I see, for example, young mothers pushing their babies down the street in strollers but they have their heads down, looking at their phones. Excuse me but, don't you have a BABY with you? Or anyone really who could be taking in their environment, but instead they're looking down at their phone. Yikes. Not good.

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I have those same reactions, BA, but then on some days I'M the one who is texting while walking the dog.

I would love to see your cell phone cage. Did you ever write about it in your newsletter?

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Oh yes, I'm definitely guilty of using my phone while walking the dog, too! Though I at least stop in my tracks to do it, rather than blindly stumbling along the street with my head down.

I haven't mentioned my "cage" in FTM before, no. I don't know if the thing itself is worthy of a photograph, but the idea is an important one! My husband and I have even had to make a rule of no phones at the dinner table—before the rule we could all too easily find ourselves both looking at our phones while eating. What madness!

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Feb 13, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

I am one of the 3%. And unlike the two people you profiled here, I am a woman and in my 40s. I am an introvert and would not want to be contactable everywhere I go (except by my husband, but he doesn't have a cell phone either). I like being alone with my thoughts, and I always have a book with me in case I want distraction. I also have privacy/tracking concerns around cell phone use, something neither of these men mentioned.

The way I see it, I have not changed -- everyone else has. They decided to sign up for this., while I continue doing things the way I did 20 years ago. I phone and email people. I arrive at the agreed-upon place on time. I rely on my own sense of direction, or use a paper map, or look at an online map before I leave home. I take pictures only when I have deliberately brought a camera along. I think I should get to decide how much technology I want in my life. I do use the computer a lot, actually more than I would like, but even from that I take a weekly break as I observe a digital sabbath.

Some things have become more difficult as society has decided to assume everyone has a cell phone and sometimes fails to provide alternative ways of accomplishing tasks. Pay phones are becoming rare. My work did provide me with a token for 2FA. I print out concert tickets and the like. When something is impossible to do without a cell phone, I just abstain from it.

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Wow CP this is fascinating, thanks for commenting. I admire your commitment.

It will be interesting to see how things what things look like in five or ten years, if you keep this up—if you'll find more and more things impossible to do without your phone, and how you navigate that.

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Feb 6, 2023·edited Feb 6, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

Another great Cafe Anne! My father used a flip-phone for many, many years. He would get frustrated by the group chats he was in and couldn't see emojis or get/take any good mobile photos. He was a staunch flip phone guy. My family finally just said screw it and we bought him a smart phone. He now loves it. He can take quality pics, listen to the Mets with his phone on the beach and do just about anything. I commend these guys for not having a cell phone but it has to be a giant pain at times.

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Thanks Justin! Yes, that was something I had not thought about until I interviewed these guys—What a pain it would be, and so much more now than five years ago. You really have to be DETERMINED.

My dad , who is 80, still has a flip phone and I like that about him. But us sibs got together during the pandemic and bought him an iPad so he could Zoom with us and he really likes it. We call it the DAD PAD.

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Feb 6, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

Full disclosure: I am Peter Hirsch IRL. Hoping that being both a commenter and featured subject is not so egregious a conflict of interest that it creates a black hole vortex and turns the universe inside out (though that might be interesting to see).

Seeing that the post that I am in starts with a hard-hitting investigative report on subway bathrooms and toilet paper, subjects dear to my heart (or - wherever) was very encouraging. Even those incurious about what sort of weirdo doesn't have a cell phone would find themselves seduced in by the information packed at the head of the article.

I was anticipating (hoping for?) some degree of scorn and mockery while awaiting the post going live, so it was surprising how polite and positive the comments have been. And this is New York (assuming even those non-residents reading this are virtual NYC'ers). I'm sure there must be some out there affronted by my willful eschewing of the universal core value of being always connected and always available. There must be some out there looking at me walking around and wondering "since his gaze isn't affixed to a index card sized screen in his hand, what the hell could he looking at, and why".

To close this overly solipsistic comment, I'd like to share an interesting factoid that did not come up in the zoom interview with Anne. - Believe it or not, you do not need a smart phone or any other type of cell phone to receive a text. I have no idea how it was done, but I once checked my answering machine (my kind of hi-tech) and found a message delivered by an inanimate voice. It told me that I had been sent a text and then proceeded to deliver it. I have no memory of the content, just that the voice had trouble pronouncing the text as words that resembled anything recognizable. Who sent it and how they did it remains a mystery to this day.

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Peter! So happy to see you commenting here! Black hole vortexing and all.

And yes it is true. CAFÉ ANNE commenters are the most considerate (and fun!) of any commenting community the online universe.

It's interesting—I've gotten some of those weird text to phone messages that you mentioned in my landline voicemail. And of course, people can send a text to your email as well, though I think not many folks know this is an option. In short, there is always a way.

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Feb 6, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

I once wrote a column ranking public bathrooms in Philadelphia award plies of toilet paper. The Four Seasons, for example, was awarded four plies of toilet paper. Our public transit restroom got half a ply. Macy’s received three and a half ply. I gave them a extra ply because you had to walk through women longerie to get there.

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Half a ply. So sad!

I was originally planning to visit and rank all nine that had reopened but then I calculated how long this would take and revised. So hats off to you!

Is there a link?

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Oh man Phil that had to be a treacherous walk through the lingerie section if you were anywhere between 7th grade and Medicare!

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Feb 6, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

I have to start with this: That gottdamned "Luke C." is a genius!

As for a Cafe Anne phone, I think it should record the phone numbers of any potential mate who comes within arms-length at a dance-club; especially when drunk. It will prevent "Frankie X Syndrome!"

As for the new "modern" public restrooms: "Not really—the hand dryer was definitely old school"

Well that would be all I needed to know!! It has to have one of those new, jet-propelled, hand-driers, or it might as well be a restroom without a lock on the door at an old ESSO gas station in the hinterlands. https://youtu.be/kcBnJm14r6s

WOW!! That Archer OPS system is other-wordly!! It's punk-ass proof!! What a Brave New World we live in!

**Which brings up the issue of girls trying to go their entire lives without using a public restroom; physiology and God's curse of a monthly cycle makes it almost de rigueur for girls to use public restrooms more than boys, yet boys will park their asses on the dirtiest toilet seats without a blink.

As for going without a cellphone I agree with David's sentiment: "I only need so much stimulation, and then I need recovery." After I read the Cafe Anne newsletter on Monday, I'm wiped-out for the rest of the week!

Peter must have a great internal navigation device because I think the navigation function of a smartphone is akin to the discovery of fire, the wheel, and the Archer OPS!

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JRB! You really outdid yourself with this comment. It's like one of those crazy Seinfeld episodes where everything ties up together at the even though it really, really shouldn't.

I am glad you are admiring the OPS system, and the genius of Luke C., as much as I did.

Happy recovery!

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Feb 6, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

And to beat the Archer OPS dead horse; no one will be able to "spare a square!" https://youtu.be/Gysu0kgFwT0

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Feb 6, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

You provide the inspiration Anne! I forgot to add one more thing that REALLY ties it all together. David Sedaris commenting about cellphone use when using the toilet!

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/241/20-acts-in-60-minutes/act-eleven-7

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Feb 7, 2023·edited Feb 7, 2023Liked by Anne Kadet

If you are only going to read one Newsletter this is a VERY good one Mr. Bean.

One comment re: bathroom availability. It is 2023 -- is the best the MTA can do is bleach the floor & clean the grout and install bulletproof dryers & towel dispensers? That stall picture without toilet seat covers? I understand if you are at an outdoor music festival and using a portable but come on! BTW Sedaris is a king -- got to see him twice, he makes everything funny.

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Thank gawd the public restroom had toilet seats, let alone covers! Really they need to make mildly-adhesive "butt-cheek" covers because toilet seat covers never stay in place! I too have seen Sedaris in person a few times! His observations are priceless!

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I wrote a lengthy comment to Ms. Kadet. Having traveled a lot in my life, I am always at a loss why LARGE American cities struggle with simple stuff like bathrooms. My favorite juxtaposition is to compare Chicago and Toronto as their metro areas are similarly sprawled and similar in population. Toronto, if anything, is MORE diverse than Chicago yet it seems only Chicago would be a candidate for buying post-apocalyptic paper dispensers. I also shared that I have had a post about bathrooms in draft for a long time and that is where it will likely stay. I believe people choose their reality. If somehow bathrooms need to be militarized why can I walk into Yankee Stadium and the bathrooms are not war zones? The Washington DC Metro, while far from being as extensive as NYC is a different experience and more "normal" feeling. When things get to a certain size is that the "reason" they have to become bad? It seems inconceivable to me to be willing to accept the idea "I need to take a #1 or #2" but I better wait till I get home because this tube in the ground that I use for transport is not a safe place for that. That seems so far beyond something I could accept as reasonable.

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Mark, like David Sedaris, your observations are priceless!

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Speaking of NYC public bathrooms, have you been to the bathrooms off of the Bethesda Terrace staircase in Central Park? The stall doors are TINY and barely came up to my shoulders when standing. I felt like a farm animal!

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LOL. Emily I love all those funny places around the city that were clearly designed before "they" started "thinking" about "design."

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Emily your comment reminded me of the time my brother myself and my mother were returning from a college visit in 1972 and we went into a rest stop on the Ohio highway and my brothers five years younger than me and I was only 19 and I don't have much more sense now than I did then but to scare him I said watch out there's a snake when he was at the urinal. At the moment I said that a guy jumps straight up who was in one of those half-door stalls and thought the snake was a real thing coming after him!

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It’s time to start making tanks out of OPS paper-mache.

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Eisenhower would be proud.

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Really really funny comment!

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I wrote a bittersweet farewell to nyc. Thanks for covering the city with optimism: https://yuribezmenov.substack.com/p/escapefromnewyork

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Thanks Yuri! Looking forward to reading your farewell!

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Great post Anne. The paper towel and toilet tissue thing is amazing. I applaud the company who invented the Ops. I have often noticed how much paper waste is found in public restrooms. Not to mention clogged toilets. You would think that anyone with common sense or respect wouldn't clog the toilets like they do. But anyway, The gentlemen without cell phones I get. I do carry a cell phone but I don't feel the need to be on it constantly. I often wonder myself if people who are walking around with their face to the screen are aware of anything else. I am a person who likes to observe nature and hear it as well. Not to mention being aware of what's around you is important to prevent the possibility of a criminal attack. It bothers me when I see women running or walking with earbuds in their ears. People may call me paranoid but I'm just cautious. When you can't hear what's going on around you, you are a possible target for a crime. There are times when I wish cell phones were never invented but then, they do come in handy when your car breaks down or need to call for help.

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Pennie I admire what you're doing. t's true there are lot of downsides to having a phone glued to your face. I don't turn on my phone until 8 am every morning (I get up at 5 am) and I also don't allow myself to don earbuds until after lunch, so I get at least half the day before turning into a robot. It's a compromise!

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Thank you, and that's good that you also take time away from your cell phone. Take care up there Anne.

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This was fascinating and worth a reread. I like that the two men seem like the type to wander. Distance running or hiking... they’re discovering what Wikipedia won’t tell them at that very moment. It’s nice to be unplugged, not always on the unconscious hunt for content. I read once we remember things better that we don’t take pictures of. And it’s true about GPS. London cabbies had parts of their brains shrink once they got GPS. Imagine memorizing a chicken wire map of streets, remembering each little alley or shrub, then missing it all because you’re minding a voice prompt. There’s a bit of tragedy in that. Then again, some things are not in everyone’s capacity so it helps us all. As always, great job, Anne.

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Thanks Chevanne and OMG that is fascinating about the London cabbies!

Also interesting about the pictures. I don't take many myself (except for this newsletter) as I hate feeling torn between experiencing the actual thing and attempting to capture it. And so of course I depend on friends and family to photograph everything and send me photos later. I fam or sure indulging in this "outsourcing"of labor that has been brought up elsewhere in the comments about folks who refuse to use their smartphones.

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