Can you imagine a life offline?

John Gushue
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As I write this, darkness has just fallen in St. John’s on Tuesday evening, and our living room is illuminated by tealight candles that are flickering in some old glass shades that my wife has collected over the years.

Out the window, there’s practically nothing to be seen, except the shadows of trees that survived the worst that hurricane Igor could throw at them. The moon has never looked brighter.

A large candle is burning in the corner, and a small battery-operated lantern — our son’s pride and joy, newly revered by his parents for the light it can cast — helps us navigate the newly dark corners of the house.

Oh, and there’s the screen of my Macbook, which I’m using to write this.

And, um, my smartphone. And my wife’s. They light up too, now that I think about it, especially as we risk draining battery power to check for e-mails, tweets and Facebook activity.

And, uhhhh, my iPod, which is also standing by.

I wrote all about hurricane Igor on Tuesday, and came home like many others to a house without electricity. I’m not sure how long the outage will last; maybe it will end any second.

I do know this: it’s very hard to go cold-turkey when so much of your life involves an online presence. Forget TV, the washing machine and the stove; the item we noticed we were missing most was the connectivity we’ve come to take for granted.

It’s actually been a quiet evening: a few simple things to eat, a board game while the natural light lasted, magazines or books for each of us, and a well-deserved nap for Mom. Pretty idyllic, especially as my son mused about what people did at night not that long ago. A teaching opportunity emerged, as they say.

We had another similar experience this past week. On the weekend, we darted up to the Eastport Peninsula for a break. My wife and I each packed our laptops, ready to clear some tasks if an idle moment presented itself.

That didn’t happen. We had idle moments, to be sure, but we found ourselves quite enjoying the fact that we were, well, idle.

We still had our digital tethers, with phones that allowed us — if we wanted — to be as digitally connected as we ordinarily are.

By and large, though, we kept them away.

It seemed odd that hurricane Igor kind of took away that decision-making option for us, effectively telling us to sit back and catch our breath.

Could I imagine a life offline? Sure, I can imagine that. After a tiring day, it even seems quite appealing. But I’ll confess to wanting to check my phone more regularly than normal. Cut off from things, I realize how firm my digital attachments have become.

Elsewhere this week

More Cowbell

Ten years ago, Christopher Walken appeared on Saturday Night Live, playing a fictional producer who purportedly recorded the Blue Oyster Cult classic “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” His advice always came down to this: “More cowbell.” The phrase has been a staple on

T-shirts, bumper stickers and a bazillion parodies. Now, there’s a site that takes that fever for the cowbell and bangs the bongos out of it.

15 Things You Didn’t Know

About Outer Space

This infographic is light on details, but it’s got eye-catching appeal. Kids will eat it up. Trust me. OV Guide

OV stands for online video. This is a site that aggregates video, from movie trailers to hit TV shows and much else. You may have trouble, for copyright reasons, watching everything here, but you may also quite enjoy poking around.

John Gushue is an online editor with CBC News in St. John’s. Twitter: @johngushue. Blog:

Organizations: CBC News

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