Category Archives: technology

It Ain't Easy

Very few phrases fill me with dread and/or irritation as the response, “Oh, it’s EASY!” And it bugs me on two separate but related levels.

I had this colleague who was very smart but I don’t think she recognized her own intellectual gifts. When I would ask her for help, she’d say, “Oh, that’s EASY.” It was as though, if SHE could could do it, it must not be all that special. But, in fact, it was, and in her profession, she is now quite accomplished. It seems that she has recognized the value of her talent.

The other version is when a techie or someone doing something technical or mechanical says, “Oh, that’s EASY.” Implicit in this one is that “anyone” can do it it. Well, obviously, they don’t know ME. While I have mastered which end of the hammer is the one you generally hold, there is nothing in this arena that comes easily to me. If there are four ways to put something together, but only one correct way, you can be sure I will have tried at least two of the other three first. I have absolutely no innate spatial reference capacity.

And it also extends to my absolutely DREADFUL capacity for remembering names. I’ve tried all the tricks. Someone named Mr. Dole is wearing a pineapple shirt; I’ll remember him as Mr. Pineapple.

Now there ARE some things that I do do easily, but I don’t assume that others can, or should be able to do the same. I specifically remember 9th grade algebra, which I was rather good at (97 on the final – I’m also pretty good at remembering numbers generally). There was a particular problem that this kid Sid was trying to do on the board. The teacher was trying to explain it to him, but he just wasn’t getting it. Then she let me try, and the light bulb went on in Sid’s head.

What got me thinking about this was the daughter in kindergarten. She’s fairly smart. Her teacher is having the students spell out the words phonetically, and she knows most of her letter sounds. What happened last month was that she spelled the words incorrectly, of course, and burst into tears. Her mother and I had to emphasize the fact that English isn’t easy.

I mean I am a pretty good speller. A lousy typist but good speller – 100 on my 5th grade final (really) – but I don’t know if I ever knew WHY most words were spelled as they are. Why do “giant” and “jelly” have the same starting sound? Or “cat” and “kitten”? Or “school” and “skill”? The silent e has some rationale – long vowel sound – but what about the silent b in climb or silent g in gnu, the latter of which appears in one of her picture books?

She HAS mellowed since then, but does have a perfectionist streak that doesn’t seem to come from either her mother or me.

“Well all the people have got their problems
That ain’t nothing new” – It Ain’t Easy

It Ain’t Easy by David Bowie video. “Dedicated to The Big Easy with much love.” ROG

Segues

My sister Marcia informed sister Leslie and me last week that our mom’s been at the doctor’s office, addressing some of her health issues, such as weight loss and pains, which could be for lack of eating and NOT DRINKING WATER. Perhaps she’ll start taking those Boost-type drinks.

Yesterday, my mom was at the doctor’s office for several hours, getting an IV for her dehydration. Marcia was driving mom home when she tried to avoid something on the road, left from some road construction, and hit something else. This briefly propelled the car into the air. The landing initiated the deployment of the airbags, which forced my mother’s glasses into her face, cutting her, which made her scream, which unnerved Marcia.

Bottom line is that my mom went to the hospital to get checked out for a few hours, but did end up returning home. The vehicle, on the other hand, was towed and is probably totaled. Marcia notes it could have been worse.

and speaking of lack of water

Our office, indeed a bunch of offices, got e-mail notices recently that state contracts could no longer pay for water. Now, we’re not a state agency. Nevertheless, our water dispenser was carted off yesterday. When I saw someone wheeling one machine, I knew ours would be next, and alerted everyone to get as much water as possible.

Odd thing is that we still have three bottles of water, but no real way to consume them. I used to have messages pop up on my computer to get a glass of water four times a day; I have to shut those down, and find a new way to stay hydrated.

and speaking of my office

We have been in our present building for 4.4 years. Never have I seen so many ladybugs on the walls and windows outside our office as I did yesterday after none noticed a couple days earlier. THOUSANDS of them, yet very few around the rest of the building. What is going on?

and speaking of checking thing out

I ordered checks by phone for the first time in over a year and a half. $32 for 150 checks? Don’t know what they were before, but it wasn’t NEAR that much! It’ll prompt me to do more online transactions, though most of my bills are autopay already.

and speaking of the unexpected

I was riding my bike downtown a couple days ago when I saw a woman riding a Segway down Western avenue in Albany. I had actually never seen one up close before, only on television. We happened to catch the same red light, and I engaged the young woman who rides it in conversation.

Seems that she won the machine in June in a drawing, a total fluke. Now she rides it to work twice a week, rides her bicycle twice a week, and drives the car once a week.

I checked the Segway site, based in New Zealand, and found five dealers in the state of New York, on Long Island, Queens, western New York, Poughkeepsie (mid-Hudson) and Coeymans (around Albany).

A bus driver said that one will see the Segway more often because they were once not legal to ride on the streets but now are, traveling in the same stream of traffic as the bicycles. I didn’t independently verify that, but it seems right.
ROG

Roger Answers Your Questions, Jaquandor and Rebecca

Jaquandor of Byzantium Shores, the finest blogger in western New York AND a fashionista ahead of the curve, asks these questions:

Does David Paterson know what he’s doing?

More often than he’s given credit for, I think. On his Day 1, he’s all funny and charming. On Day 2, he admits that both he and his wife were unfaithful, a brilliant move designed to make sure the state was not suddenly surprised by another sex scandal after Eliot Spitzer’s downfall. It was a calculated risk that worked.

He was right to note the fiscal disaster the state was going to be suffering after the Wall Street collapse, as it affected our state disproportionally; not only was the state heavily invested, but a lot of New Yorkers lost their jobs on Wall Street in the market meltdown. Of course, the state, unlike the federal government, cannot operate in a deficit, so cutbacks and layoffs were inevitable. Part of Paterson’s problem is that he was bearer of bad news.

He was also stifled by the second most dysfunctional state legislature in the country – I’m convinced California’s is worse – and threw a Hail Mary by picking his own lieutenant governor in order to break the state Senate deadlock. I found and read the state constitution and decided that the lower court was right; that picking his own replacement, essentially, was beyond the scope of the emergency powers he was citing. I thought they would be used in cases where the legislature was wiped out by war or disaster that the state couldn’t be allowed to flounder. Apparently, the Court of Appeals (which, for you non-New Yorkers, is the state’s highest court) decided that the gridlock that took place for a month beginning June 8 WAS enough of an emergency that picking his own lt gov WAS kosher. So kudos to him.

Now, he royally messed up the appointment of Hillary Clinton’s replacement for the US Senate. Don’t know what that whole Caroline Kennedy dance was. But while Kirsten Gillibrand was not a popular choice downstate at the time, notice how her primary opposition has melted away.

This is not to say that I’ve agreed with all of his decisions. His unilateral decision NOT to tax the rich more, lest they leave the state, seemed tone deaf to me.

So his abysmally low poll numbers surprise me a bit. There is a local public radio force named Alan Chartock of WAMC who believes part of his problem is him being characterized as a bumbler on Saturday Night Live a few times, much the same way that Chevy Chase’s portrayal of Gerald Ford established the President as clumsy. There was a poll a while back (Siena or Marist College ran it) that said that 7% of the population felt negative towards Paterson because of how SNL portrayed him. Wow, didn’t think that SNL still had that much pull, outside of Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin last year.

I’ll be curious how he does on Meet the Press today, rerun on other NBC networks during the week. You KNOW that David Gregory has to ask him about the report that the Obama people didn’t want him running for governor in 2010, which would not come from legitimate channels right before the President visited the Capital District on Monday.

Photo by John Hebert

To what degree is the eBook the way of the future? (I assume we all grant that there will be eBooks, but how much will they take over?)

Actually, I’ll ask you this, since you read and watch science fiction: do you EVER see people reading books or newspapers in the futuristic portrayals? I don’t recall any.

I think more the question is how much will paper products stick around? There were a couple pieces in Entertainment Weekly recently – pretty sure Stephen King was one of them – that discussed the visceral pleasure of the book – how it feels in the hand, how it smells, how it is laid out, how you can fan the pages to create a breeze (I’m doing this from memory and may have made up that last one) – that the electronic equivalent can NEVER replicate.

There’s a private high school in New England that in 2009 got rid of all of its books, replaced by eBooks. The headmistress said that the students were thriving. If experiences like that “take”, then the books will become like vinyl records; they’ll still be around, but marginalized. Conversely, if there is a pushback from educators who say our kids NEED the actual manipulation of pages – and, IMO, they do – then the flow will be stemmed, though not stopped.

Of course, eBooks might be replaced by something else – remember how ubiquitous the VCR used to be? – are replaced by some sort of computer chip that goes directly into our brains.

There are, by my rough estimation, about fifty thousand books about the Beatles. Can you recommend a couple, to help narrow it all down?

You are a relative newbie to the Fabs, so I’d start with The Beatles by Hunter Davies, one of the first. It’s pretty thorough without overwhelming (e.g., the Beatles Anthology), though ends before the end of the group, if I remember correctly. Beyond that, it would depend on what you’re really interested in: their songwriting, the recording techniques, their lives, Beatlemania. Many dismiss Philip Norman book Shout! as anti-Paul, but few doubt his thoroughness and it’s a good read; he has a newer book I haven’t read that seems to be better received. Peter Brown’s The Love You Make is “an insider’s story”, and is interesting at that level. There’s a relatively recent book Can’t Buy Me Love that has reviewed really well, but I haven’t actually read.

My personal favorite, actually, is The Beatles: An Illustrated Record by Roy Carr & Tony Tyler. It was about the recordings, and it was at the point where I (thought I ) knew everything about them, but I was basing my knowledge on the US LPs I bought; this book totally upended my understanding. But now the CDs are out in the “British” order, so it wouldn’t have the same effect, I imagine.

I’d love to hear the opinions of sages such as Fred Hembeck and Johnny Bacardi on this topic.

Rebecca from 40 Forever, who is intelligent, attractive and personable – naturally she’s a librarian – asks:

How many guitars are in Rochester’s famous House of Guitars?

37,326.

Actually, the website says “it’s home to an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 guitars and 4 million albums, CDs and tapes.”

Meant to get to Scott’s questions, but I still feel not great and I may be the healthiest of the three of us. Certainly feeling better than the wife, who took a three-hour nap yesterday. Anyway, Scott, before the end of the month. as the J5 title goes, “Maybe tomorrow.”

Not So Fast QUESTION

There is an article in the Wall Street Journal online – it was in the paper last weekend – by John Freeman, adapted from his book “The Tyranny of E-Mail,” that really spoke to me. It was titled: “Not So Fast: Sending and receiving at breakneck speed can make life queasy; a manifesto for slow communication”.

Cogent points:
1. Speed matters…
The speed at which we do something—anything—changes our experience of it. Words and communication are not immune to this fundamental truth. The faster we talk and chat and type over tools such as email and text messages, the more our com­munication will resemble traveling at great speed. Bumped and jostled, queasy from the constant ocular and muscular adjust­ments our body must make to keep up, we will live in a constant state of digital jet lag.

This is a disastrous development on many levels…

2. The Physical World matters.
A large part of electronic commu­nication leads us away from the physical world. Our cafes, post offices, parks, cinemas, town centers, main streets and commu­nity meeting halls have suffered as a result of this development. They are beginning to resemble the tidy and lonely bedroom commuter towns created by the expansion of the American interstate system. Sitting in the modern coffee shop, you don’t hear the murmur or rise and fall of conversation but the con­tinuous, insect-like patter of typing. The disuse of real-world commons drives people back into the virtual world, causing a feedback cycle that leads to an ever-deepening isolation and neglect of the tangible commons.

This is a terrible loss…

3. Context matters

We need context in order to live, and if the environment of electronic communication has stopped providing it, we shouldn’t search online for a solution but turn back to the real world and slow down. To do this, we need to uncouple our idea of progress from speed, separate the idea of speed from effi­ciency, pause and step back enough to realize that efficiency may be good for business and governments but does not always lead to mindfulness and sustainable, rewarding relationships. We are here for a short time on this planet, and reacting to demands on our time by simply speeding up has canceled out many of the benefits of the Internet, which is one of the most fabulous technological inventions ever conceived…

This is no Luddite screed but a cautionary observation: “This is not a sustainable way to live. This lifestyle of being constantly on causes emotional and physical burnout, work­place meltdowns, and unhappiness.”

But what do YOU think? I think that *I* need to turn off the computer for a while and go for a walk.

ROG

Roger needs

Google your name and the word “needs” in quotes (“Roger needs”) and see what you get. List the first 7 entries. In my case, several were the same and one I kinda edited to make it a sentence. But the point is the fun, right?

Roger needs a new JBoat.
Roger needs Rafa.
Roger needs help!!! some would agree with that.
Roger needs a coach.
Roger needs to be with a family who has a large yard.
Roger Needs Facebook.
Roger needs to finally realize, although he knows how to get a woman’s attention, he needs lessons from his own nephew.

Lots of references to Roger Rabbit, someone called Roger Needs, the movie Roger Dodger, and especially Roger Federer.
***
What Kind of Information Technology User are You?
I’m a Connector
The Connectors’ collection of information technology is used for a mix of one-to-one and one-to-many communication. They very much like how ICTs keep them in touch with family and friends and they like how ICTs let them work in community groups to which they belong. They are participants in cyberspace – many blog or have their own web pages – but not at the rate of Omnivores. They are not as sure-footed in their dealings with ICTs as Omnivores. Connectors suspect their gadgets could do more for them, and some need help in getting new technology to function properly.
[The last part is DEFINITELY true.]

ROG

100 Things I Love

May I just write music, movies and massages and leave it at that? Probably not. From Jaquandor. Again. In no particular order. Took longer to compile than 100 things that bug me. What does THAT say about me?

1. Government and association websites/databases with a lot of good, free stuff.

2. Blogging. It practically saved my life, created connections I would not have otherwise; among others, it’s how I reestablished with Fred and Deborah.

3. Cranberry juice. Often mixed with orange juice, sometimes with a splash of ginger ale.

4. A good massage.

5. Albany will probably withstand the forces of global warming better than most places.

6. Oatmeal raisin cookies.

7. Cinnamon raisin bagels.

8. Music in harmony – it could be Bach or the Beach Boys. I love it. I know unison singing has its place, but it’s not my favorite.

9. British invasion music and its American counterpoint.

10. The blues and folk and rockabilly that led to the 1960s music explosion.

11. Pizza. Good pizza, not the stuff at the work cafeteria.

12. The answering machine. Yes, I screen my calls. Got a problem with that? Now, the phone number will appear on my TV screen for me to (usually) ignore.

13. The DVR. We still have in the queue Raisin in the Sun from February, ice skating from April and Thursday night comedies from May. Back in the VCR days, we’d have to keep track of what tape to watch or tape with. I’m also pleased with the limitations of the DVR, about 50 hours, which forces one to watch or delete, thus limiting the amount of TV we can watch. We see very little in real time.

14. The Billboard books Top Pop singles and Top Pop Albums.

15. The World Almanac, which I’ve been reading since I was 9 or 10.

16. Woody Allen movies of the 1970s and 1980s.

17. Candlelight. The power has gone out in my neighborhood two or three times a year.

18. Hess trucks for Christmas.

19. Oatmeal.

20. Gud grammer.

21. Cats. Used to own them; maybe, someday, I will again.

22. Reading the funnies in the paper, especially Pearls Before Swine.

23. Playing racquetball.

24. Watching baseball, especially at the stadium; maybe I’ll see the Cubs in September.

25. Watching football on TV from November on.

26. Pie. Apple or blueberry or peach, slightly warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

27. Builders who seem to have meshed form AND function into design in “green” ways that are accessible to all.

28. Joni Mitchell. Some other singer-songwriters too, but I’ve seen Joni twice, so we have a track record.

29. Cottage cheese. Goes with everything – fruit, eggs, cold chicken, apple sauce.

30. Maps. My grandfather used to give me his National Geographic maps. I’ve long been fascinated with how the US and the world changed geopolitically over time.

31. White wine, served with a slight chill. The red stuff gives me wicked headaches.

32. Walking on the beach as the waves roll in. My favorite time was in Galveston about a decade ago.

33. Intentionally getting “lost”, just walking somewhere with no particular goal.

34. Newspapers. I like to read, and they’re useful for drawing on, etc.

35. The late 1970s music movement: Police, Talking Heads and the like.

36. Giving massages.

37. JEOPARDY! daily calendars.

38. From JAQ: “Older women with long hair. Too often, when women head into whatever it is we consider ‘elder years’ these days – for purposes of this post, to pick an arbitrary figure, over fifty – women tend to cut their hair short or make liberal use of curlers or something like that. There’s always something striking, though, about an older woman with a full head of long, silver hair. Or red. Or blonde.”

39. “Picking songs and pieces of music for mix CDs. I like to think I’m pretty good at this.” I get rather invested in it.

40. Doing square root by hand. Because I can.

41. License plate math. Thinking of a license plate as an equation and solving for an unknown factor. (Has many rules, listed in the 8th paragraph http://rogerowengreen.blogspot.com/2006/05/pastiche.html here.)

42. Rack of Lamb with Mint Jelly.

43. Cheerios and spoon-sized Shredded Wheat, together.

44. Spinach lasagna.

45. Ice cream.

46. JEOPARDY! But Alex HAS to stop mentioning Ken Jennings every time someone wins more than three games.

47. Hell. The book series by Matt Groening that predates the Simpsons. Especially Love Is Hell.

48. Librarians are wonderful people.

49. Neil Young, just because.

50. Green. Green means go, in the money, environmentally friendly. Green’s the color of spring.

*****
Brian Ibbott of Coverville re: someone’s controversial opinion: “When you stir the pot, do you prefer a wooden or slotted spoon?”
*****
51. Excellent short-lived TV series, such as My So-Called Life and Once and Again. Maybe they would have eventually gone downhill, but we’ll never know, will we?

52. Dictionaries, the less abridged, the better.

53. The Complete Directory to Prime Network and Cable TV Shows by Brooks and Marsh.

54. Hymnals. It’s a great way of seeing the transition of the way religion is enacted. I have one nearly 150 years old, with just the words; it was ASSUMED you knew the music.

55. The Simpsons. One of those things I like that my wife does not

56. Romance language, especially French and Italian. I just like the way they sound.

57. Fireworks.

58. “Footbridges and boardwalks.”

59. The color blue.

60. Real maple syrup. Probably won’t be available in New York and Vermont in the next century.

61. “Sausages.”

62. Bill Moyers’ Journal. It speaks truth to power.

63. Rum. Don’t drink NEARLY enough of it anymore.

64. My birthday, which I share with Jenna Fischer, Rachel Weisz, Luther Burbank and many other fine folks.

65. Taking a bath. I do it rarely enough that it’s always special.

66. Jazz, of many kinds.

67. Automatic bill payments.

68. Song of Solomon. A horny little book of the Bible that’s hardly ever in the lectionary.

69. The Twilight Zone and Rod Serling.

70. Montreal. I’ve been there twice and loved it.

71. Motown, especially 1963-1972.

72. The Dick van Dyke Show and everyone associated with it, from Carl Reiner to Earl Hagen.

73. “Popcorn. My favorite of all snacks! I tend to prefer it with butter…”,

74. Slippers.

75. “Ms. Pac Man is still my favorite video game, however many years it’s been since I first played it.”

76. Sorry, the board game I most like to play with children.

77. SCRABBLE, which I used to play with my great aunt when I was eight.

78. The train, my favorite form of transportation.

79. “Shrimp.”

80. The promise of the U.S. Constitution. That it sometimes falls short isn’t its fault.

81. Many card games, including hearts, spades and pinochle.

82. Comic books. I don’t read them much now, but especially that period from
1972-1992, I devoured ’em.

83. The bicycle. In spite of the accident.

84. Thunderstorms when I’m home.

85. Books about movies and the industry.

86. My rain stick. It relieves stress.

87. City buses. I love how the daughter has learned to hail them.

88. Good Italian restaurants.

89. Intelligent movie comedies such as Groundhog Day.

90. Non-chain movie theaters.

91. Headphones, so I can listen to music but you don’t have to.

92. Dreamer politicians, such as Dennis Kucinich, who recently took action to have Bush and Cheney impeached. May history judge him more kindly.

93. Sunrise.

94. Sunset.

95. Learning new things almost every day on my job.

96. Optimists. Not sure I’m one, but they’re good to have around.

97. Cynics. They have their place, too.

98. Friends I’ve met, and friends I know only know electronically.

99. Being the alpha male of my tiny tribe. Didn’t like it initially, but now I’ve grown accustomed to it.

100. “You. You know who you are.”

And there we have it: 100 things I love.

ROG

Would Have Been A Meme, If I Hadn't Overthought It

So Kelly Brown had a meme about 10 things to accomplish. Should be an easy post, right? Not for me.

One one hand, at one of my recent conferences, I saw this futurist named Ed Barlow, who made me think that I ought to be be doing all sorts of technological things that I’ve had zero internal interest in, from podcasting to using an XBox, from learning Mandarin Chinese to reading more (specific) books. 10 things? How about 100? 1000?

On the other hand, I was struck by this story about how the consumption of cereal and toast have gone down, not for reasons of carb counting or the like, but because they TAKE TOO LONG. A bowl of cold cereal takes too long, and it’s (presumably) faster to get an Egg McMuffin from the drive-through. This hurts my head.

Not unrelated, there is this guy who is releasing a chapter per week of his book on the Internet, for free in order to try to stimulate sales of the book. While somewhat successful, a recent article notes that he’s “receiving some complaints from readers who felt they were being ‘teased’ by the incremental release of the book”. Oh, please. Wasn’t Dickens originally released that way?

So I’m trying to find that balance.

What DO I want to learn, right now? Just how to operate the technologies I already have to their fullest extent. I believe there is programability on our phone; I’ve never used it, but then we’ve only had it for three years. There is a way to record the DVR to VHS tape; can’t do it yet, and don’t even know what kind of cable I need. You know, stuff like that. That’ll keep ME plenty busy.
***
A friend writes:
“I’d thought it was the best idea since sliced bread:
(1) No backaches from overloaded backpacks
(2) no more “I left my book in school and can’t do my homework”
(3) IT IS CURRENT TECHNOLOGY, AND OUR KIDS NEED TO LEARN TO BE TOTALLY COMFORTABLE WITH IT!!!

Well, I guess not. <a href="
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/04/education/04laptop.html?th&emc=th&#8221; target=_new>Not yet, anyway.

ROG

Techno QUESTIONS

I saw this article a while back: “According to the Consumer Electronics Association, the average home has 26 consumer electronics devices — anything ranging from a radio to a PDA.” The writer decides the cellphone is the most important item he owns and would be the leasst likely to give up. Also, I read in Parade magazine this article in which the cellphone is on the Top 10 of the Most UNWanted Inventions.

So what devices do you have? What do you need? What would you give up? What would you couldn’t live without?

I have no cellphone, but I do have a phone that I can remove from the base, something my wise parents-in-law bought for us just after Lydia was born. Its best feature, though, is the homing device at the base which I push to find it. (I ‘d love that for the remote on the DVR.)

Have a DVR. Don’t NEED the DVR. I do like the DVR, a lot actually. Still have the VCR, which is good because I still have a bunch of VHS tapes, which the child watches on occasion.

I have a stereo with a turntable that’s in need of repair. The turntable operates only when I spin it manually, then it catches. I also have a 78 player in the attic in need of a cartridge. (Yes, I have 78s. No, I’m not THAT old. I was living in an apartment building, and the nice old ladies who lived upstairs gave them to me when we all got thrown out of the building so the landlords could renovate and go upscale.)

For me, I suppose, my technology keeper has become the computer. I communicate with it (e-mail and blog), I watch stuff on it (videos, though rarely), I listen to music on it (well, the one at work), I keep track of my schedule with those Windows pop-ups. I could watch TV on it, and did, a little, for college basketball.

What says you?
ROG

Roger (Finally) Answers Your Question, Greg

Sir:

I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I have a question about black people. As a foolish white person, I have noticed a certain comraderie that black people share even when they don’t know each other. This is something I have rarely seen among us whiteys. I wonder if you notice this too, and if you have any explanation why it’s a phenomenon. It’s very interesting.

You can ignore me if I’m just stereotyping and need to get my head out of my butt.

Greg

Sir? SIR? Really! We’ve exchanged music. I know I’m about two decades your senior, but still…

You my have heard of a term called “white skin privilege”. (I’d look up a reference but I don’t have Internet access – see below). Whether you do or don’t, and I’ll contend that there is something to it, the greeting you see, I suspect, is an acknowledgement of a people looking after their own. Beyond that, there was the fact that there was the common experience. When Nat Cole had his short-lived TV show in the mid-1950s, I will practically will guarantee that 90% of the black people were watching (and obviously, not enough of the white people); ditto with I Spy or other shows with black stars, when that was extremely rare.

You don’t see that many white people doing the head nod with unfamiliars because the white male system is still the dominant culture, even as it becomes less so, statistically, in this country. But it’s interesting that you ask about it these days, because I see it far less often than I used to, when I was in my teens and twenties. There was a sense of solidarity in the common struggle, not just for justice, but occasionally for survival. Maybe it’s because the racial dynamic has changed in the country. So I’m going to assume the correctness of the premise of your question, as far as it goes, Greg. But I don’t think it’s just a “black” thing. I think it’s an “other” thing.

I have seen the nod with south Asians who don’t know each other, but feel – I surmise, since I didn’t ask them – that shared experience of feeling somewhat like the outsider.

When I was going to college in the 1970s, all the long-haired hippie freaks gave the head nod. They surmised, probably correctly, early on, that the values and experiences of those other people were not dissimilar to their own. (Later, though, when hair was not such a sign of rebellion, that assumption went right out the window.)

I find that I get it with bicycle riders, an “us against the motorists” salute.

Find a room of one businesswoman and a dozen or more businessmen. Another businesswoman enters the room, and more often than not I’ve seen it. The look. The “I’m not alone here” look, the “you may have some idea what I’ve experienced” look.

I got on a bus this year with a bunch of teenage, mostly black kids getting out of school, who were, to be generous, rather boisterous. Immediately, a middle-aged white woman and I caught each other’s eye, and in fact, ended up sitting together in our little cocoon from youth. We were surely The Others in this case.
***
I didn’t plan to stretch the question-answering for three days, but I’ve been having technical difficulties with my computer at home. I try to get on the Internet; it doesn’t work; I call Time Warner Cable and a technician puts me through all sorts of exercises with the computer, the end result of which being Internet connectivity. For about ten minutes. I did this exercise thrice on Tuesday night, and once on Wednesday night. A techie is coming to my house today. Between 12:30 and 2:30, smack dab in the middle of the day.

ROG

Am I a Luddite?

Twice in the last week, actually within 18 hours, I was referred to as a Luddite. Once, you can ignore; twice, you have to think about it.

Time number one was Thursday afternoon, when I was expressing frustration with some technology at work, how it changes often and not always for the better. The young woman said, “And you just want it to work.” “Yes, and I don’t want to have to look under the hood,” to use an automotive metaphor. Of course, even car mechanics can’t look under the hood anymore without complicated diagnostic computer technology anymore. If wanting it to work without hassle makes me a Luddite, then I am.

Time number two was Friday morning, when one of my racquetball partners was going on about the wonders of being able to watch cable television on his cell phone. I furrowed my brow and said, “Why would you want to watch TV on a two-inch screen?” Informed that the screen was larger than usual, I corrected myself; “OK, a three-inch screen.” If not being an early adopter of technology is being a Luddite, then I’m so there.

I had to laugh when I read this from Lefty Brown: “I’m behind the curve when it comes to technology. I’ve just started listening to podcasts.” And he’s thinking of starting one of his own this year. I’m planning a podcast, too…in 2011.

Truth is, mechanical stuff has never come easily to me. I need to be shown. I cannot be told. I cannot Read The Manual. Just this week, I was trying to design an e-mail template. I was sent instructions, which I was following, until I realized that I had to keep some window open that I had closed – NOT EXPLAINED IN THE MANUAL – and I had to start all over again.

Also at work, we’ve been putting together PDF files to send to clients. Well, I couldn’t get this AT ALL. Then, someone SHOWED me, and I discovered how easy the task was. But reading about it simply did not help me.

In my first days of my job, some 14 1/2 years ago, I was operating something called an electronic bulletin board, which involved doing a lot of things at the C: prompt of my computer, i.e., in DOS. This despite the fact that I had no idea what an EBB was, or what it was used for, or DOS commands, for that matter. Fortunately, this very patient guy named Kevin showed me a lot of stuff over a two-day period, and I became rather proficient at it. A useless skill now, but it showed that I am teachable.

I LIKE some technology, but some technologies don’t like me. I remember that wife Carol has gotten a lovely VCR from her brothers, but we never used it except to play tapes, because the tuning took three people three hours and it still wasn’t right. Whereas MY VCR was so idiot-proof that, with the onscreen instructions, I was able to set it up in about 10 minutes. The DVR is wonderful, because I can easily watch programs out of order of when I recorded them and easily switch from skating (my wife’s primary interest) to JEOPARDY, e.g.

I never got an eight-track because I realized what a stupid technology it was when I was in someone’s car, listening to The Beatles Again, when the song “Rain” stopped in midsong to change tracks. It’s a three-minute song, FCOL! A stupid technology.

I never got a Betamax machine, but that was only because the competing technologies made me nervous; I didn’t own a VCR until Beta was essentially dead. I’m feeling similarly disinterested in BluRay or BluTooth, or whatever is competing with something else; I’ll wait until it all shakes out before deciding that I need it.

Need. So far, I don’t NEED a Palm Pilot, or XBox. Or even a cell phone, though virtually everyone says I will when Lydia gets older, and maybe that’ll be true. Or maybe there will be some other technology to replace it. Cell phones: a mixed technology. Useful in cases of emergency, but I’ve never wanted to be available 24/7, thank you.

Anyway, I don’t think I have anything on Ned Ludd, the original Luddite, who used to smash machines to try to forestall the Industrial Revolution. Though I did write a little cheer for him:
Captain Ludd
He’s our man
If he can’t do it
Don’t need to be done.

ROG