Modern life requires workarounds. Under the principle of Murphy’s law – whatever can go wrong will – there are many situations where having more than one way to do something will save your butt.
This is also an argument for redundancy, or, as I like to put it, using both a belt and suspenders. That may be an outdated metaphor – I’m not sure anyone uses suspenders to hold up their pants these days – but I’ve always liked it.
Both workarounds and belts and suspenders are at the heart of the way I deal with tech, but they can also apply to other things. I use workarounds when I cook, for example — if we’re out of one thing, I use something else.
Earlier this week, I needed to make granola. I like an easy cold cereal for breakfast, but it’s hard to find ones made from whole grains with very little sugar and a lot of nuts, so I make my own. My preference is to make it with mixed rolled grains — wheat, barley, oats, rye — but I have been known to make it with just barley.
We can usually get one or the other in bulk at a health food store, but my backup is Bob’s Red Mill 5-Grain hot cereal. However, we haven’t been to the health food store lately and our local store’s been out of the 5-Grain for two weeks.
So this week I made it with rolled oats. (No one is ever out of rolled oats, near as I can tell.) It makes very little difference in taste, though it doesn’t give me the perfect mix of grains I want for good health (barley is very good for you). Still, it will do and it’s still way better than the commercial brands.
Workarounds are often imperfect, but in a lot of cases, perfection isn’t worth all the extra effort.
A typical workaround in tech is saving documents as rtf if you need to be able to open them in different word processing programs. Or emailing them to yourself in addition to saving them. Or even printing things out just to be on the safe side. I save my taxes on the computer, but I also keep a print copy.
Another is having multiple browsers available because one of them won’t work for some things you try to do. For some reason, I can’t pay one of my health insurance bills in Firefox, but I can in Safari. That’s the sort of thing I mean.
Making extra copies and having multiple browsers are both redundant, but that’s where the belt and suspenders point comes in. It’s a lot easier than spending hours trying to find something that should be saved online but isn’t or even more hours figuring out what’s causing the problem. Redundancy can be very useful. Continue reading “Workarounds, With Belts and Suspenders”…