Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Technology’

Back to the Future

There are times in your life when you look back proudly at how far you’ve come. And in those moments, you know that you will NEVER be that old self again because you are now (you think smugly) a better version of yourself: more wise, more secure, more YOU. Then you go to a high school reunion and in an instant you are once more that insecure version of yourself all over again.

In the 1985 film “Back to the Future,” the main character travels back in time, makes a few inadvertent changes, and returns to a present that is altered from the one he left.  This week, I have done the opposite: traveled ahead to the past and returned to a present that is somehow changed.

Just 9 days ago, a Facebook page was created called, “I Grew Up in Hudson, Ohio.” This page quickly became a repository of shared memories for  people who attended school in Hudson. The snippets posted there – and the discussions that arose as a result – are addicting to read. Over the last week, I’ve found myself spending hours each night lost in a sea of memories.  I’m not alone – in 9 days the group has amassed over 1600 members!

At first, the online space was like a giant class reunion that erased the artificial barrier of graduation date. People from many graduation years – and even decades – were posting memories and those of us who shared them chimed in. Of course, as more people contributed, more familiar names from the past popped up and more memories were rekindled. Once we all got past some of the surface reminiscing, the “where are you now” and “what do you do” started, similar to what happens in a face to face reunion.  But at a face-to-face reunion, that’s about as far as you ever get before the hour gets late, the alcohol is cut off, the kids need attending, and everyone drifts back to their lives.

But in our online space, something more started happening than ever happens at face-to-face reunions. Something…well…magical.

The people we are today started talking about how the people we were then had felt. (Yes, that’s a confusing sentence, but important. Go read it again!)

Popular kids confessed their insecurities and how unpopular they felt. Apologies were made to kids who were bullied decades before. Gratitude was expressed for little things that carried meaning far beyond what could have been imagined. Crushes that had been secret for decades were confessed – and some people discovered that they had been reciprocal! It sounds trite and mundane, but the stereotypes and boxes we were in then disintegrated and we discovered that we were more alike – and less alone – than we ever imagined, if only we’d realized it all those years ago.

Some of us started chatting more deeply through post replies. One thread had a discussion that went on for HOURS in real-time, through consecutive text replies. Then the questions posted got more introspective, like “what were your biggest regrets in high school?” And the answers weren’t flip or sarcastic – not one. They were serious and poignent…and real. After 20 plus years, most of us have “grown comfortable in our own skin” as one person put it. We were now discovering that these people we thought we’d known, with whom we shared our formative years, had been strangers to us all along, much as we’d been strangers to ourselves as we struggled to find our place in the world.

Then another deviation from a standard reunion: teachers joined the group. Long retired most of them are, and struggling to connect new and old names with new and older faces. (“I am reading this and picturing all of you as I knew you at 13!” someone said.) But their students – still addressing their teachers as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” started posting heartfelt thanks for what was taught.

Here’s what one former teacher, who must be in her 70’s by now, posted : “Dear ex-students, I am STILL growing up, near Hudson, and you now know our secret: all of us adults weren’t really all that adult. !!!!!!!!”

And some of the replies she got:

“I became an English teacher because of YOU, (and against my family’s influence.). Through your quarter course in creative writing senior year, I found my voice. Thank YOU.”

“I have taught my kids how to diagram sentences and a few of their teachers have commented on that method. I remember learning so much from your class. You made a great impact in my life. I enjoyed the speeches. It has helped me with my career since that is what I do everyday, getting up in front of people and speaking. Thank you!”

“I still have my first Yamaha guitar and the folk book that started my love affair with music that continues to this day. Thank you for your patience, inspiration and guidance when I needed it most.” [Yes – same teacher, who taught ENGLISH, but evidently inspired someone in music!]

“The impact you had on our brains is hard to put into words, but thank you so much for making me think and care and stop just going through the motions. You recommended I read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” outside the novels required in class, and the experience changed me tremendously.”

It moved me to tears.

But then something even more amazing happened, at least, to me.

My facebook profile has my married name, with my maiden name in the “my info” space. Someone put two and two together, figured out who I had been, and was genuinely delighted to see me! She said she’d thought of me over the years and wondered how I was, and how my mom was. Me? You wondered about ME? And my mom?! I honestly didn’t think I was that memorable to much of anyone.

And then the conversation turned to my sister, who was killed when I was 12. Someone who had been her good friend posted. People started chiming in about how horrible it was when she’d died, how bad they’d felt, how they still remembered that, and how it impacted their lives to this day. THEIR lives – now. My 8 year old sister who died 29 years ago.  Mind = blown. I got more than one personal message of people recounting their memories of that time in their lives. I am still processing what those messages mean to me, but it is profound.

I frequently hear people talking about how impersonal technology is, how sad it is that our kids spend so much solitary time online, how we as a society can’t possibly connect like we used to “back in the day.”  I’ve never believed it, and now I’ve added one more personal example of the profound ways technology can connect us in deeper ways than we ever imagined.

So forget “Back to the Future.” I’m going to keep going ahead to the past, rewriting the old story to incorporate the new perspectives I’ve gleaned.

That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be

I understand now how people “get behind the times” or “out of date.” It’s how we were taught.

In the ongoing educational debate over the so-called “21 century skills,” I’ve argued that we need to change how we learn without enough cogent, eloquent thoughts addressing WHY we needed to make that change.  But earlier this week, Kate at Sweet|Salty tweeted a link to this article on typography that rocked my world and really brought together in a personal way my thoughts on this subject. The article states – unequivocally – that putting two spaces after a period while typing is outdated, unnecessary, and just plain WRONG. There are few things I hate more than being wrong, let alone wrong AND outdated, so I applied my skepticism and my 21 century skills and set out to prove that I, who ALWAYS puts two spaces after a period, was NOT a dinosaur. To my shock and horror, I discovered that my name should be changed to Sue.

When I first read the article, I was so shocked by this revelation, and so sure it was wrong, that I only read the first 6 paragraphs. But then I started wondering why I use two spaces after a period? My eager-to-please, perfectionist, school-girl self immediately wondered if I’d *gasp* LEARNED IT WRONG?! But then I read the article in its entirety and realized that no – I’d learned it right, but the definition of “right” has changed. [The practice actually goes back even further than the typewriter, as explained in this article, for those of you REALLY interested!] The bottom line is this: what I learned had become outdated and because I’d never learned WHY two spaces were “right,” I didn’t know when it was time to change.

With a startling burst of insight, I realized that this problem – knowing what but not why – permeates our society (and our educational system) right to the core. I started thinking of other examples of things we do here and now because we were taught that way. Then I solicited examples from others and the floodgates opened.

My friend Rhi (say REE like “Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup”) on Plurk shared my favorite hilarious anecdote: “My mom was over at a friend’s house once, while her friend was preparing a whole turkey for roasting. Before she put the turkey in the pan, she cut off both legs and threw them out. My mom was surprised and asked her why she did that. The friend’s response: ‘Well, that’s how you’re *supposed* to do it. My mom always did it that way.’ So my mom told her that *nobody* else did it that way, and had the friend call her mom to find out why. Turns out, the friend’s mom never had a pan big enough to hold an entire turkey. For decades, the rest of the family had been throwing out the turkey legs just because they thought they were supposed to!”

So let us all be reminded that change is constant, youthful inquisitiveness imperative, and single spaces after full stops the new standard – for now!

[Note: typing this blog post with only one space after each period was insanely hard. Sometimes re-education is painful!]

Let’s Get (a) Physical!

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com inspected my blog stats for 2010.  Here’s a high level summary of my overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ says my blog is fresher than ever!

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,900 times in 2010. That’s about 17 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 8 new posts [really?  only 8?  I need to blog more, I think!], growing the total archive of this blog to 85 posts. There were 5 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 3mb.

The busiest day of the year was November 22nd with 94 views. The most popular post that day was Billy Elliot: Dancers Soar, Writing Falls Flat.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were playhousesquare.org, plurk.com, scrapbooktreff.plusboard.de, twitter.com, and digital-photography-school.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for scrapbooking, dodge charger, dodge charger 2007, unicorn cake, and dodge charger 2006. [The dodge charger stuff STILL cracks me up!]

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Billy Elliot: Dancers Soar, Writing Falls Flat November 2010
1 comment

2

How to Make a Unicorn June 2009
3 comments

3

Baby, You CAN Drive My Car! October 2007
6 comments

4

Dodge Charger April 2008

5

(Inter) National Scrapbooking Day May 2008
4 comments

WordPress further reported to me that, “Some of your most popular posts were written before 2010. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.”

Over My Minutes

Here’s a conveniient website I found recently for folks who want to keep some money in their pockets by eliminating cell phone overage charges. “Over My Minutes” tracks your cell phone usage and sends you customized alerts. You can choose to receive alerts daily via email or text message. You can also receive alerts at two different levels of minutes remaining, as set by you.

After having tracked our phone data monthly for over 5 years now (yes, I am *that* detail oriented!), I have a pretty good handle on our usage. That made the move of our home number from a land line to a cell an easy one to justify based on cost when we made that switch almost 3 years ago.

But I can see lots of uses for this website. For example, when our girls become old enough to get phones, I’ll be able to keep close tabs on their usage so we don’t have any unpleasant surprises at the end of the month. And my mom is forever trying to keep tabs on her minutes, too, to stay within her allotted plan minutes. Now she won’t need to log into her carrier’s website to do it.

Dangerous Technology

According to e School News, the Ohio Education Association is recommending that teachers in Ohio remove themselves from social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. They say that, “the dangers of participating in these two sites outweigh the benefits.”

They go on to cite examples of inappropriate teacher profile content to back up their recommendation. But to me, the scariest sentence in the article is this one: “The union also worries that students will create “impostor” sites, pose as adults and engage in conversations with teachers, or use online communication to make allegations later against educators.”

So they are saying that students might pose as adults and talk in an inappropriate way with teachers?  By “online communication” do they also mean email?

Of course, teachers and future teachers should be smart enough realize that everything put online stays online, but to me, this whole recommendation sounds like the fearful older generation warning the next generation about technology with which it is most likely completely unfamiliar.

This commentary on Wired Magazine’s website pretty accurately describes my view of the OEA’s recommendation. This blog post from Cleveland Scene takes a more humorous approach, but raises an interesting question about a teacher’s right to engage in and discuss legal adult activities.

Me? I’m just glad when my child has a teacher who is technologically savvy enough to know how to use Powerpoint. I’d love for my children to have an experienced teacher who has her own blog (like Traci Hricik). Any experienced teacher who is active on MySpace, Facebook, and/or Twitter is likely a teacher who’s not afraid to embrace new technology and a teacher who makes continuous learning a part of his or her career.

(Thanks to Rob Darrow, who twittered about his post on the topic to someone I am following in Twitter, which is how I learned about this OEA recommendation in the first place!)

Technological Pet Peeve

My greatest technological pet peeve used to be people sending me urban legends via email. I have pretty much nipped THAT problem in the bud (learn how I did that here). My current pet peeve has to do with people thinking the PDF equals Adobe.

For example, I was browsing a digital scrapbooking site the other day and came upon this definition of a PDF file in (ironically) a “Getting Started” PDF: “PDF: Theses are Adobe Acrobat Reader files. They are often used when the designer provides instructions on how to use a downloaded file. They are also used for eBooks. You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these files, and it is available as a free download on the Adobe website.”

WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!

PDF stands for “Portable Document File” and is a generic term for a document that can be read by any computer running any operating system. PDF has NOTHING to do with Adobe, except that Adobe has brlliantly cornered the mental market when it comes to its PDF reader. Nearly every site that contains PDF files has a notice saying that you “need” Adobe Reader to view those files and that it is available as a free download from Adobe.

That’s all well and good, but sometimes, free isn’t really free. I cam across a blog post recently (that I can’t find again or I’d post the link) where the author talked about accepting a ton of “free” items at a state fair. She got home with a bag full of stuff for which she had to find a place – and the time to put it all in its place. She quickly realized that “free” wasn’t always free.

It’s the same with Adobe Reader. Sure, your initial download costs no money, but then you have to put up with incessant upgrade notices, pop-ups asking if you want to buy the more feature-rich version of the program, and a program that hogs more memory and processor time than it should.

There are MANY no-cost programs that allow you to read and even create PDFs without the inconvenient non-monetary expenses of Adobe. I use Foxit Reader, which is small (under 3 MB), fast, uses little memory, and allows me to read, annotate, and create PDFs. My parents use CutePDF which works better with Vista.

So be brave, download and configure one of these other programs as your default PDF reader/creator, and then experience the great satisfaction that comes from freeing up space by REMOVING Adobe Reader from your system.

(By the way, when my parents adopted CutePDF and removed Adobe Reader, their “technical adviser” in Florida got very upset and told them that they didn’t know what they were doing and they HAD to use Adobe Reader because EVERYONE uses it. They quickly figured out that this person was not as knowledgable as she was touting herself to be.)

Looking Backward and Forward

I recently browsed through my own blog, reading past posts and comments. I thought it was interesting how I have a different perspective on some of what I wrote just 15 month ago.

For example, here’s an excerpt from one of my earlier posts from January of 2007: “There are even rumors that Hilary Rodham Clinton might start a serious bid for the U.S. presidency. Although I don’t particularly like her stand on many issues, I would feel it necessary to strongly consider voting for her in order to create history and further deteriorate the historic stranglehold on power men have and do hold in this country.”

Now we are less than 7 months from the general election and not only has Hillary started a serious bid for the presidency, but she and Obama are running neck and neck with both having already garnered more votes individually than any other past presidential candidates in a Democratic primary election.

And, yes, I considered voting for her early on, but after researching the candidates’ stands on various issues, listening to stump speeches, and seeing how they react in a variety of situations, I came to the conclusion that I just couldn’t vote for her, even though she is a woman and I sincerely do want to see a female U.S. president before I die. But I plan to live to be 101 years old, so there’s still plenty of time. (-:

So this year I am an Obama supporter and so have put away my, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Good Woman for President” button (obtained years before Hillary’s run), since I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression that I think Mrs. Clinton is that “good woman.”

An April 2007 post discussed my hopes for a congress that would stand up to President Bush. I wrote, “…my fear [is] that the Democrats, having gained power in Congress, would be unable or unwilling to exercise their people-given power to stop him.” Hmm…looks like that fear has come true.

I also discussed Sunshine Week, a movement to keep discussion alive about the important of open government and freedom of information. Unfortunately, I heard nothing about Sunshine Week this year.

In contrast to my changed perspective politically, my perspective on the importance of organizing your digital photos hasn’t change one iota! Memory Manager is still the best program out there – and unlike the price of just about everything else these days, the cost of this software hasn’t changed! Everyone I know who has this program is sold on the features and ease of use. Read more about tis fantastic program here.

It will be interesting what perspective changes next year brings.

Tag Cloud