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Let there be Light: A Hannukah Miracle

by Laurie Israel, Esq.

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

Well, just yesterday, I experienced a miracle (actually two of them) with my iTouch. This is what happened.

A couple of months ago, I purchased an iTouch. This is essentially an iPhone, without the phone service. (That way, I don’t have to spend $70 a month for it.) I bought it to get a certain art application (“application” now known in computer lingo as “app”). An app is essentially a program which you can download onto the iTouch, which is, itself, essentially a computer. The app I was interested in was “Brushes”, where you finger paint on the little iTouch computer screen. If you are a really good artist like Jorge Colombo, you can make New Yorker covers.

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Here’s the link:

www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/fingerpainting/2009/11/night-lights.html?printable=true¤tPage=all

If you’re like me, you make little fun things you can enjoy, and sometimes put them in the kaleidoscope program (Kooleido) to make them look every more funny and interesting. I was extremely pleased with my little iTouch, which in itself is a miracle. No, I am not on the payroll of Apple Computers, its producer.

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, music brought up a fabulous little ocarina, bringing back memories of a childhood where I was musically obsessed, a trip to Newark on the bus at age 10 with a friend, and the purchase of a wonderful little ocarina, which is a musical instrument made out of crockery for about $3, which was my life savings at the time. (During that period, I somehow obtained and poured through catalogues of accordions, mesmerized at the different pearlite finishes available. As a little Jewish girl, accordions and pierced ears were verboten 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 already gone.)

Anyway, back to the iTouch. The iTouch is also an iPod, so you can load from the (free) iTunes program on your computer CDs that you have purchased (otherwise, it’s a legal “no-no”, so don’t tell me about it). By yesterday, I had accumulated 71 apps on my iTouch. I just counted them, and to tell you the truth, I was shocked that I have so many! Most of them were bought (through my iTunes account) during the weekends, when I have some spare time for total abandonment to extremes of geekiness. I did what every self-respecting spouse does: I have been hiding the bills from my spouse which come through email, although I noticed one within her eyeshot recently. The bills are usually under $10, so I guess she’s giving me a pass. (Note for future marital happiness article: ok to hide things sometimes to avoid conflict.)

Anyway, yesterday, I was downloading more music CDs onto the iPod part of my iTouch. 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), 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.

Quite frustrated by this time, I started pressing 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 started wriggling meanly at me. It was like they were making fun of my problems! I must have tried this move another 50 times only to have those wriggling icons reappear.

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 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 is 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. 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 bodies were photographed for me to see, but their life force had been sucked out of them.

By then I realized, that my 71 apps, or at least the ones I really wanted, would have to be replaced. I started going through Elisabeth Kubler-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.

Then the miracles started to happen. Maybe it was when I let go, and gave up the idea of preserving or finding my apps. Whatever it was, that, or the Hannukah spirit, all of a sudden, the computer gods became aligned in my favor.

So I decided to reload and repay for my apps, and started first with the one that I love the very 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.

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 it worked! No more wriggling icons! And every single other icon I had on my iTouch now worked! Another Hannuka miracle had happened!

I have no idea what happened, and why I couldn’t find anyone else with this experience on the internet. My blog has a search engine plug-in so that hopefully this blog post will make it to cyberspace and help other hapless iTouch and iPhone users who inadvertently wipe out their apps with an iTune update. (I think a disclaimer of liability is now appropriate, and hereby make it: I have no idea what happened and why, so please don’t construe anything I’ve said herein as computer advice.)

But for me, a non-religious person in the prime of life, it was truly a Hannukah miracle. The gods of cyberspace did not want me to pay for something I had already paid for. That was the first miracle – they knew I had already paid for it and were being fair to me. And then, when the mercy given to me would have been enough (is Passover coming?) they (or it) lit up the lights of all my apps. Was it my letting go and accepting my fate that did it?

I do have some lingering reservations that it actually was a miracle, but I will wait for better minds than mine to explain the anomalies and phenomena I experienced yesterday. 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.

Copyright ©2009 Laurie Israel.

Laurie Israel

Laurie Israel

Laurie Israel, a founder of Israel, Van Kooy & Days, LLC, a law firm located in Brookline, Massachusetts. She combines a family law practice with estate planning, tax, mediation and collaborative law. Laurie is a former board member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation and the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council. Her writings include articles on divorce, mediation, marital mediation, and prenuptial agreements. You can find her articles on www.ivkdlaw.com, Huffington Post, and Mediate.com. She is the author of the forthcoming book The Generous Prenup: How to Support Your Marriage and Avoid the Pitfalls.
Laurie Israel

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