I hate hate hate hate hate hate the way the Kindle tells you how far you are in the book

I’m reading Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (on a sidenote, I bet that last name really hurts his citation count. Misspellings alone must cost him big time). And it’s pretty excellent. I read it once before, when I found it in my dad’s study. But I was like twelve, so all that I retained of it is that there is this thing called flow (which is where you’re completely lost in an activity and time stops and you feel like the master of time and space and the universe opens up and everything’s amazing).

What I find interesting is that the book has both a normative and a descriptive component. The descriptive part is just describing flow: when it occurs, how to make it occur, what it’s like, etc. The normative part consists of the assertion that flow is “optimal experience”–basically that it’s the best thing ever, and that the purpose of life is to get into flow.

Obviously not a provable assertion, but certainly thought-provoking and more convincing than most philosophical standpoints, because flow is actually extremely pleasurable, but doesn’t have the same downsides as most pleasurable activities. It’s the best kind of pleasure.

I am enjoying the book. It resonates with me. I experience flow fairly regularly, both when I write and when I read.

For years, writing didn’t involve anything even approaching flow. It was actually extremely painful. But now that I’ve gotten better and refined my techniques, I’m operating on a bit of a higher level. And, true to the lessons of the book, I generally get into flow whenever I’m pushing the limits of my abilities.

Anyway, none of that is the point of this article. The point is that at some point the book started talking about your attention and about how, in order to get lost in something, you need to restrict your attention to just the matter at hand. And I realized that I really really really really hate the way the Kindle tells you what page you’re on. I mean, I always knew that I hated it. But now I knew that I really hated it.

kp-slate-05-lg._V358033061_If you don’t use one, then you don’t know: the Kindle has two progress counters. On the left side, there’s a percentage. And on the right side there’s one of four completely arbitrary numbers: time left until you complete the book (based on your reading speed), time left until you complete the chapter, location (a weirdly arbitrary Kindle-centric number that’s usually in the hundreds or thousands), and page number (but this doesn’t refer to actual page turns on your device…it refers to some weird arbitrary page number, so that it might take three or four Kindle page turns to get this number to change).

All of these numbers are awful! It’s like they were put in there by someone who doesn’t actually like to read books.

The time markers are awful because they focus on when you’re going to finish the book, when you’re supposed to be losing track of time.

The location marker is awful because it makes me keep glancing down and performing quick math to see how many page turns it takes to go up how many locations and how many page turns I’ll need to get to some arbitrary location.

And page turn is the worst of all, because it just makes me glance down with each page to see if the page turn number has gone up.

Oh, and don’t get me started on percentage completion. This was the worst of all, because it made me continually do mathematical operations to try to relate this to the other number and to how many page turns it’d take to make the percentage go up.

It took me awhile to figure out why all these number bothered me when the page number on regular books does not.

It’s because the page number on a real book increments in an orderly fashion. You turn the page and the page number goes up. There’s no uncertainty there. You don’t need to keep looking at it, because you know you’re just one page above the last page you were on.

Anyway, I put down the book, got out some tape, and solved the problem. Since tape doesn’t conduct electricity, it doesn’t trigger the Kindle’s capacitative touchscreen and, thus, there’s no problem putting tape on the screen.

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Problems In My Life That Have Recently Been Fixed By Scotch Tape

1. My Credit Card’s Faulty Magnetic Strip

I had taken a picture of my credit card and was about to upload it before I came to my senses.

For at least the last twelve months, my credit card has been getting refused at gas stations, grocery stories, drug stores (including every CVS, for some reason), and anywhere else that requires you to swipe yourself through. Sometimes a friendly cashier would go through the rigamarole of swiping the card through again with a plastic bag wrapped around it, which somehow allows it to miraculously work (I tried to do this once myself, and made a total hash of the procedure). I kept meaning to call in and get my card replaced, but day after day, month after month, I put it off. The result: literally hundreds of minutes of my life lost to fumbling for a different card or swiping again or messing around with a plastic bag.

Then my savior appeared! At the CVS here in Charles Village, a cashier gave me a contemptuous look and then pulled out a few inches of scotch tape and stuck it onto the magnetic strip. Shouldering the load of her disgust, I swiped the card again! And it worked!

Since then, I’ve had zero problems with the card. This much-put-upon woman was, admittedly, not very friendly. But her grumpiness was a creative grumpiness. Out of a desire to never again deal with my stupid card problems, she utilized a simple piece of folk wisdom (or, I dunno, I’m just assuming this is folk wisdom…maybe it’s her own invention?) to solve my problem forever!


2. The little percentage completed indicator at the bottom left corner of my Kindle

For years, I haven’t been able to complete a page on my Kindle without a quick glance at the progress indicator to see whether this page turn made the percentage completed number go up. Although a small distraction, I found that it repeatedly broke my absorption in the given text. Oftentimes, I’d waste some seconds in calculating how many percentages I was reading per hour and how many percentages I’d get through by the end of the day and how many page turns it’d take before the percentage went up. It was all just a thorough-going waste of time.

But it wasn’t until I began to read Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit that the percentage sign became truly an impediment to progress. Little Dorrit is really fucking long (more than 250,000 words), and there was just no way I was going to get through the thing unless I could forget how long it was. And there was no way to forget how long it was when I could read for half an hour and see that little percent only go up by three or four points.

Something had to be done!

After remembering the credit card miracle, I realized that my answer was close at hand. I went back to that same CVS and bought some scotch tape. Then I came home and taped a tiny black chit of paper over the place where the percent sign goes.

Voila! Ever since then, I’ve been blowing through the book (I’m almost halfway done).


3. The blinky LED on my phone charger

Okay, this just poor design. People charge shit at night while they sleep. And they charge shit in their bedrooms. And the last thing you want in your bedroom is a surprisingly bright LED light. And yet, every damn thing in the world has an LED light on it. With a charger, this is particularly silly, because you can just see, by looking at the phone, whether the charger is working.

Anyways, tape to the rescue!!!


4. The battery cover on my laptop

My HP Laptop is magnificent. But it just has one problem. The battery cover comes loose whenever I slide it backwards. Since my hands rest on the front of the laptop when I type and exert a constant (though slight) forward pressure on it, the damn battery cover is always slipping out.

Well, no longer!

Okay, I kind of added in that last one a bit gratuitously, since by that time I was wandering my apartment with tape in hand and looking for things to tape. But the other three are pretty legit, I think.