Let there be Light: A Hanukkah Miracle

They say miracles don’t happen anymore.  Miracles were in the Bible, like Judah Maccabeus, and the candle that burned without oil for 8 days and 8 nights.

A few of years back, around the time of Hanukkah, I experienced a miracle (actually two of them, back to back) with my iTouch. This is what happened.

In 2009, I purchased an iTouch.  This is essentially an iPhone, without the phone service.  (I bought it to get a certain art application (“application” now known in computer lingo as “app”).   The iTouch is essentially a little computer.  An “app” is essentially a program which you can download and run on it. The “app” I was interested in was “Brushes”, where you paint pictures with your finger on the little iTouch computer screen.  It’s really fun.

If you’re someone like David Hockney, you can create “Brushes” drawing on the iPad (a later version of the iTouch), and have art shows featuring them

If you are a really good artist like Jorge Colombo, you can make New Yorker covers.

If you’re like me, you make little fun drawing with your finger, which you can enjoy and share with friends.glass and chestnut on kitchen table

Or one like this . . . 108 copy

You can even transform them by using a kaleidoscope app program to make them look every more intriguing and interesting.kaleido-I-150x150

I was extremely pleased with my little iTouch and the “Brushes” app.  These are in itself is a miracle, for which I thank Steve Jobs and his team, and all the other computer people who made computer technology possible over the last twenty-five years. They have transformed and brought light to our lives in wonderful ways.

After downloading Brushes, I got hooked, and began to download more apps onto it.  The apps generally range in cost from free to $3.99.  The most common price is 99 cents, followed by $1.99.   You can get a lot of amazing applications by searching.  For instance, a search of “music” brought up a fabulous little ocarina, bringing back memories of a childhood where I was obsessed with playing musical instruments.  This made me recollect a trip to Newark on the bus at age 10 with a friend, and the purchase at a large musical instrument store of a wonderful little ocarina, a musical instrument made out of crockery. I think I paid about $3 for it, which was my life savings at the time.

During that period, I somehow obtained and poured through catalogues of accordions, mesmerized at beauty of the different pearlite finishes available. I wanted to play one so badly! But as a little Jewish girl in the 1950s, accordions and pierced ears were forbidden to me, although my almost-twin sister (11 months my elder) has become a Jewish liturgical accordionist, and I got my ears mis-pierced in a shopping mall in Chicago attended by my son and a niece and nephew when I was 40 years old and my parents were already gone.  (But that’s another story.)violin I

Anyway, back to the iTouch.  Within a few months, I had accumulated 71 apps on my iTouch.  I actually counted them, and to tell you the truth, I was shocked and amazed that I had so many!  (I’m generally not an accumulator, and by nature, I am quite unmaterialistic.)

These apps were bought through my iTunes account during the weekends, when I have some spare time.  They cost money (not a lot), but 71 of them added up.  So I did what every self-respecting spouse does: I hid the bills that came on my credit card statements.  (Note to self for future marital happiness article:  it may be OK to hide little things sometimes to avoid marital conflict.)

Anyway, at some point, I was downloading music CDs onto the iTouch (which you can do). I must have done something wrong, because afterwards, although I could listen to the music (particularly enjoying Mark O’Connor playing simple American folk songs on his new method for teaching the violin to children), I could no longer access any of my apps. They were there, alright, but every time I pressed on one, it teasingly showed me its homepage for a microsecond, and then went back to my app screen, where 71 apps were beaconing but playing very hard to get.  Like Pavlov’s dogs gone awry, I must have tried pressing them 50 times before I realized that it would not work, and I could not get my apps to open by pressing them the normal way.tessa I

Quite frustrated by this time, I started pushing down on the app icons more strongly and for longer periods.  For this, the iTouch punished me severely, like God in the Bible.   All the apps now appeared with little x’s on the upper left of the icon, and the x’s started wriggling meanly at me.  It was like they were making fun of my problems!  I must have attempted this pressing move another 50 times to no avail, only to have those nasty wriggling icons reappear to taunt me.

Deterred but not unbowed, I did what any self-respecting 20th century (whoops—21st century) computer novice would do.  I did a Google search which went something like this:  “iTouch apps won’t turn on.”   Generally this helps me with my computer (and other) problems, or at least find other frustrated computer compatriots dealing with the same issue.  I did find some things – depressing messages about the only way to fix this was to totally reboot the iTouch, which would result in losing all your apps.  Like someone hearing a bad medical report, I just wasn’t ready to hear this bad news – at least not yet.

So I kept looking. I turned the iTouch on and off.  This is no easy feat, and requires again a Google search to see how to do it.  (The Apple site was at the time too busy because of the rush of sales of iTouches and iPhones.)

Then I thought back to earlier that day when I downloaded the music to the iTouch.   Yes, that’s when the problem started.  I downloaded the CDs, asked the iTunes to synchronize (that’s “sync” in computer language) to the iTouch several times.  Maybe that had something to do with it.

After my limbic brain had time to think about this for a while, I realized what must have happened.  I must have synced my iTunes to my iTouch, and since the apps were not on iTunes the sync wiped out everything on my iTouch that was not “built in” to the iTouch, including the all the apps I had purchased. That’s why when I kept perusing them on my iTouch, they kept wriggling uncomfortably.  They had been dismissed, and now were invisible.  Or to put it another way, their little corporeal bodies were there for me to see, but their life force had been sucked out of them.after Bourgeiose

By then I came to the sad realization that my 71 apps, or at least the ones I really wanted, would have to be replaced.  I started going through Elisabeth Kűbler-Ross’ five stages of grief.  In computer speed, I went through denial (“this can’t be happening to me”), anger (Why me?  This is not fair!) bargaining (just give my my iWallFlower app and I’ll be happy), depression (oh, my God, I’m going to lose all my apps!), and finally, acceptance (yes, I can deal with it.  I’ll just repurchase all the apps I really want.  So what if I don’t have 71 of them anymore!).

Although Kübler-Ross originally applied these stages to people who were suffering from diagnoses of terminal illness, I think the stages are fully applicable to computer mishaps and struggles, especially when they threaten to wipe out computer programs or data.   When I analyzed the down side of all of this, I figured that I would have to spend another $30 to get the apps I really wanted.  This is not like a bad medical report.  I started putting all this in perspective.

When I finally let go, the miracles started to happen.  With the confluence of letting go, and maybe addition of the Hannukah spirit, all of a sudden, the computer gods became aligned in my favor.

I decided to reload and repay for my apps, and starting first with the one that I love the best.  It’s called iWallFlower.  (By the way, my new name is iLaurie. Please use it in all future correspondence to me.)   iWallFlower lets you make art by doodling in colors on the little iTouch screen with your finger, and then you can share your doodles with people all over the world.  It’s a good program for extroverts like me.pig

I deleted my iWallFlower icon (to find out how to do this took another Google search), and started to download the app again.  Lo’ and behold, as I was beginning to pay for it  (probably the best 99 cents I’ve ever spent), it told me I had already paid for it, and they would download it for free!   That was the first Hannuka miracle.

Then I looked at my iTouch, and, decided to once more try to start an app. I chose “ocarina”, a wonderful app that sounds just like an ocarina.  And all of a sudden, it too, worked!  Without even downloading it.  No more wriggling icons!  And every single other icon I had on my iTouch now worked! Another Hannukah miracle had taken place!

I had no idea what happened, and why I couldn’t find anyone else with this experience on the internet.  I posted this experience on my blog which I am told has a search engine plug-in. Hopefully the blog post made it to cyberspace and helped other hapless iTouch and iPhone users who inadvertently wiped out their apps with an iTune synchronization.  (I think a disclaimer of liability is now appropriate, and hereby make it:  I have no idea what happened and why, and how it got fixed, so please don’t construe anything I’ve said herein as computer advice.)  As I’ve since learned, computers can be a big sop of time, especially when things go wrong.

But for me, it was truly a Hanukkah miracle.  Just as God on high, shows mercy, the gods of cyberspace showed mercy, and gave back to me something they had taken away.  And then, if that mercy wasn’t already enough (is Passover coming?) they (or it) lit up all my apps.

I do have some lingering reservations that it actually may not have been a miracle, but I will wait for better minds than mine to explain the anomalies and phenomena I experienced on that day of yore.  Was it because I gave up and let go that the solution of the problem appeared?  Like a dream in the Bible that gives a message?  Does all this say something about life?  I’m not sure, but if it does say something, it must be very profound.

Happy holidays to all of you, and may all your apps shine brightly during the coming year.

Laurie-Menorah-150x150Laurie Israel

“Where Am I?”

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Chestnut and Glass on Kitchen Table

glass and chestnut on kitchen table

Menorah

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