I’m experiencing a frustrating problem with the carrier network on my new phone. For several days it would lose service at random times and for random durations. Now this morning, it seems to be permanently off, or as close as makes no matter.
There is a possible solution that involves “resetting network settings.” I am thankful that this might allow me to fix the issue without fully resetting my phone. However, it does require me to wipe out the data for all the WiFi networks my phone knows about.
Since Android migrates this data to my new phone when I upgrade, and since I’ve been on Android for over a decade now, that means I’ve got hundreds of credentials in there. I’m feeling unexpectedly emotional about the idea of losing so many of them. (I’m taking QR-code screenshots for the ones I really need to keep: I wouldn’t want to suffer the indignity of re-asking someone for a WiFi password.)
Many of them are either unimportant (“FanXP,” “Chase,” “Guest”) or inscrutable (“D1CE70,” “HCL_Public,” “hoaruint”). These I can stand to trim. Some, on the other hand, instantly bring back memories.
I certainly remember eating stroopwaffels at “BrusselsAirport” on our way to Prague in fall 2016, which is where I connected to “Dobra Cajovna Vaclavske namesti” on a cloudy day in St. Wenceslaus Square.
How can I get rid of “Caffeine Dreams,” a now-closed favorite coffee shop in Omaha? Surely I’m not the last person in the world with that network still lodged in their phone—but maybe almost? I’ve also got other shuttered Omaha haunts like “Dario’s Brasserie.”
“Eggspresso At The Glen” is where I enjoyed a nervous brunch while Ashley was in surgery for her broken wrist. Is “GIORDANOS FREE WIFI” from that 2012 dinner on our first-ever visit to Chicago together, or is it from 2019, when I grabbed pizza with my cousin Alex, a couple months before we bought a condo here?
Best network name contenders:
LAN Before Time
In the end, I didn’t take nearly as many screenshots as I thought I would. Maybe it’s like life: there’s a lot of data to store and process, but only a small amount is truly to be treasured. And sometimes, maybe more often than we think we can, it’s nice to make a fresh start.
I’m always on the lookout for great metaphors. They’re containers for residual magic. An effective metaphor should bring up a striking image in your mind—it should feel visceral. The whole point is to take something abstract, some inspiration you’ve had, and make it concrete enough that you can almost see it and touch it.
Metaphors are useful when it comes to sustaining personal change. It’s hard to think about the process of forming habits. You’re trying to imagine a behavior that you want to do in the future, and may have done in the past, but aren’t doing in the present. The past and the future are stubbornly abstract; they exist only in your mind. I’ll often have a moment of inspiration, during which the change I want to make crystallizes into a simple plan, and it all feels so obvious and promising. I wish I could bottle that energy somehow, because it can never last. (Bottling an epiphany is a metaphor for making a metaphor!)
The challenge is to find a potent image that you can think about later that will connect you, in some small way, to that energy you first felt. That’s why I got excited when, watching a run-of-the-mill football game on TV, I heard the announcer mention how one of the players, a recovering alcoholic, has been “stacking good days.”
Why did that image resonate with me? First of all, “stack” is a crunchy, decisive action verb (and a nice noun as well); it’s resounding, the noise of it cuts through the air. It demands attention.
More importantly, the idea of stacking a day concretizes the past. You could imagine that we each have a “stack” of our past and future days: we grab one off the top of the future stack in the morning and carry it with us as we go, inscribing it with our thoughts and feelings and activities, before placing it gently atop the past stack as we get ready for bed at night.
A big problem with habit formation is preserving a sense of accomplishment. Some habits (hello, writing!) are hard to build because the thing you’re trying to do is scary. It becomes easy to forget that you’ve done it 3 or 8 or 17 days in a row already. You only feel the anxiety and fear of what’s about to happen.
But what if you could see a “stack” of those good days, the days when you Did The Thing, even if it’s just a picture in your head you can call up when you need fortifying? Just like when you’re doing the dishes and you can see the pile of clean plates and bowls growing on the counter. Or when you’re reading a book and the number of pages behind your bookmark keeps getting thicker.
The cherry on the sundae is that you can also convert the image into something as real as that stack of dishes. You can cross off days on a physical calendar, or add a log to a pile of wood (I don’t know how I thought of that, but it sounds fun). Then, on a hard day, when you’re wondering why the hell you said you wanted to do this hard thing in the first place, you can look at your stack and think, “I did it on all those days, what’s one more?”
We just finished both seasons of The White Lotus on HBO, a show about different groups of well-off people who are all on holiday at a fictional resort. It’s thought-provoking and ambiguous and it takes a somewhat philosophical approach to contemporary issues in a way I found refreshing. I’m not the kind of person who always keeps thinking about TV episodes or movies after I see them, but this show had a way of worming itself into my mind.
One thing is that its characters are all highly realized, but you don’t get much detail about how they got to be the way they are and what their regular lives are like. You’re invited—or forced—to speculate. The whole experience feels thoughtfully designed, down to some unique choices in cinematography and sound design that, per writer/director Mike White (Jack Black’s dweeby roommate from School of Rock!), are inspired by his time as a reality show contestant. It’s a very fun and digestible series, and I’m psyched that it’ll be back for a third season.