My wife and I live in a Technology Vortex.
Things that work for everybody else go dumb and useless in our hands, which means just about everything these days: computers, phones, clocks and TVs, coffee makers, stoves and children's toys.
Our hard drives fizzle, wither and die. Our Wi-Fi connections wander and fade. Our Internet connection drops out more than John Edwards. My wife and I reboot more than most jockeys.
This time of year, we get our daughters dolls and mechanical animals that are supposed to cry, laugh and yelp. But most of them just sit around, as sad and silent as discarded department store mannequins.
The philosopher Jonathan Schorr coined the term "Technology Vortex" for an invisible whirling mass that hovers over some of us to suck the vitality out of our technological devices.
I know there are some Technology Vortex deniers. But my wife and I are confronted with many inconvenient truths.
I have so many computer problems at work that our Information Technology department gave me a Frequent Caller card. When I do interviews during the week, we think we've made a satellite link to famous authors or film stars in London or Paris, then suddenly hear a lot of stomping boots from a live performance of the Ukrainian Army National Ballet.
At home, my wife and I spend as much time talking to Mac technical support personnel in Bangalore as we do our cousins in California.
Our Tivo routinely ignores our careful instructions to record Law & Order reruns, and instead saves us the weekly meeting of the Mississauga Town Council.
Every time we try to use a Global Positioning System to get to Canarsie or Skokie, it routes us through Katmandu.
We have a couple of atomic clocks that tell time to the millisecond — in Tajikistan. Our clocks are locked on that time zone. The most advanced timing technology, and we still have to count on our fingers, "Well, if it's midnight in Dushanbe, then it's 1 in the afternoon in Des Moines, and noon in Moab." Some technology.
We have a digital oven thermometer that always seems to read 850 — the average temperature on Venus. Interesting, but not relevant for our rye bread.
When this vortex descends, its arch powers suck the energy out of all that surrounds us. Our mobile phones run out of power, our land line goes down, our Internet connection goes ker-thunk, and the clock on our microwave starts the countdown to North Korea's next missile test.
The other day, my wife reached up to pull the string that turns on our pantry light. It broke in her hand. We have to hire a highly paid professional engineer to reconnect a string to a light bulb switch.
She went downstairs to retrieve some holiday decor from our storage room. When she reached out to turn on that light, that string came off in her hand, too.
When the vortex strikes, no work of science or technology is safe. 1910 or 2010 mechanics, it doesn't matter in the Technology Vortex.