Nathan's Laserium: How Do You Do

My mutant power is kind of an amalgamation of the worst aspects of Kitty Pryde's and Douglas Ramsey's. Doug Ramsey is a lesser-known mutant, not an X-Man but a New Mutant, one of Xavier's younger students. His power was he could understand any language at all. Which didn't make him terribly useful in a fight against the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Kitty of course can phase through solid objects, which I can't really do at all, but when she phases through anything electronic she disrupts it. That's the part I can do- wreck computery shit. And like Doug, this is a completely useless ability. At least Doug could read cool books. All my power does is cause me +10 frustration.

Like I can't get any songs off of my iPhone even though I did all the things it says to do. I have many many songs, some of which I don't like. Why the hell did I buy the new Mumford and Sons goddammit? It'd be nice to not have them taking space on my phone. And there's stuff like Tig Notaro's Live, which is amazing but not something I want popping up in my random play music rotation at work.

Back in 1996, for university, I made a fairly complex spreadsheet on Excel 97. I learned some tricks and it came out ok. Never have I had to make a spreadsheet ever since, though. I work in a coal mine running heavy equipment. So I'm a bit rusty. My wife had to make one for her Master's Degree she recently completed, and I was like, 'I can help you'! She was adding a row of numbers from the spreadsheet up on the calculator app on her phone and I swear I'm pretty sure that's what a spreadsheet is for. "Look, if you highlight all these numbers in this column here and then press this little Greek E button that should sum them all up, see?"

She didn't see. For there was now nothing to see. The column of numbers was gone, deleted down to number-limbo.

"Put it back!" my wife yelled.

Undo undo! I got mad undo skillz. You can't even tell but there was this whole slew of typos, a  veritable typo spree in this very sentence, and indeed in every sentence I write, and I just undo them and make them right and stuff. The ones that get by are Corinne's fault. So yeah. I can undo like a boss. It's the "do" part that's a little more tricky for me.

How do you do?

I'm not an old man, and I'm far from a Luddite, but this question looms increasingly larger in my life. Minecraft makes me a little uneasy, because it's something I'm pretty sure my daughters should do, and it will probably make them even smarter than they already are. But what the hell is it? As far as I can tell it's just a bunch of pixelated blocks from the Windows 3.0 age. But the kids who use it apparently learn how to build perfect utopian societies or something.

Hell, even the one computer application type thing I should know, word processors, are moving on without me. I sent a story to a friend for critique and she sent it back to me with this chaos magic of lines and circles all over it- they were notes in the margins. It was amazing. I had no idea you could do that. What else don't I know?

Obviously I can google how to do something. But you have to know that you can do the thing in the first place. I read an article on gizmodo the other day about being the last person in San Francisco with a smartphone. It was funny like you'd expect, but the author casually nailed exactly what is going on in the world for those of us who aren't at the front of the Early Adopter Express:

What this means to me is that everyone [is] learning to speak Technology. Once people gain fluency in that language, even if they’re just consumers, they use the language to have new ideas, and organize the world in different ways. It’s getting to the point where I literally don’t have the vocabulary to understand how other people see, and interact with, the world.

If I was sure I was going to be a coal miner for the rest of my life, standing in knee deep mud pulling giant electrical cable out of the way of a D11 bulldozer while trying not to get run over by it, for example, I wouldn't sweat about it. Fuck it, man, let's go bowling. But even mining is increasingly being overrun with robots and drones and GPS tracking and all that shit. And that's assuming my job has long-term viability, which in this economy it most definitely does not.

I guess what I'm saying is I feel a bit like one of the last of the dinosaurs, looking around and realizing the future is not so bright. I might be needing a new job soon. Who knows. But if so, I'm pretty sure my lack of computer skills might be a limiting factor in what's available for me.

Basically I'm screwed.

So. How do you do? Whatcha working on over there? Can I help? Is it an app? I can totally do this. Try the little greek squiggle lock with horns button there. That always works. How much royalties can I have? We're gonna be rich, right?

- Nathan Waddell