Monday, November 28, 2011

November 2011: The Internet Makes it All Easier

Technology, namely the Personal Computer and the Internet, have made me more organized, competent, and rigorous than I ever was.  I write more.  I write more effectively.  I maintain three blogs and am a heavy contributor to our business blog.  It is cool and a lot of fun.  
Truth be told, however, I am not the most organized person.  Also, I have had a major gap or disconnect between my ambition and my track record of realizing those ambitions.  For example, up until recently (recent being 2002), I hated to write.  I hated to do research.  I wanted to do both but they were tedious.  They were not just tedious; they were incredibly and ridiculously tedious.  When I was coming of age, writing meant pen and paper, editing drafts and then typing it into a typewriter, onto paper.  Simple changes to almost final drafts were unbearable.  It was boring.  Writing and re-writing drafts, typing and re-typing drafts and final products, was a major pain.  Therefore, I rarely did it.
Research was the same way.  It involved going to the library.  Sometimes it involved going to specialty libraries at a university as the journals I was searching for were not available at the local libraries nor were they available at the main university libraries.  Then, I would have to pore over telephone book sized tomes of journal summaries taking copious notes.  The next step was to take those notes and go find the journals in the library either on the shelves, on microfilm, or perhaps having to order the journal from another library and wait weeks for it to come in.  For me, this was mega-complicated and, I am not sure if I have used this word to describe it, tedious.  Therefore, I rarely did it.  
There is an inherent laziness at work here.  I know and admit this.  The laziness is greater than the ambition when the path to realizing the ambition is overly tedious.  Overly tedious is essentially boring and thus anything else is more interesting.  I have always wanted to get things done quickly.  Even as a kid, I tired of anything that did not be done in one sitting.  All my model airplanes and cars were horribly done because I could barely wait for the glue, paint or decals to dry.  Any long term project in elementary school?  The same thing.  
In junior high, we were taught how to use 3x5 index cards to do proper research for a term paper.  Then we were taught how to create an outline while amassing more and more cards.  Then after all this, we could sit down and type the rough draft of the paper.  Upon editing and reviewing with the teacher, we would type the next draft.  Upon another edit, we could finally type the final paper.  Mind you, all of this was done on a typewriter... multiple times.  Oh my!  This was not for me.  It was not for anyone.  I waited until the last minute.  I typed up the only draft of the paper with books and magazines all about it.  It was chaos but essentially done in real time.  Then, and only because the teacher required it, did I also type an outline and hand wrote enough 3x5 cards to give the appearance that I actually followed directions.  
The PC and the Internet has made this all easier.  Case in point, take an example form a few paragraphs ago.  I wrote “I would have to pore over telephone book sized tomes...”  I was not sure if pore, pour, or maybe a third word, poar, was correct.  In days of yore, I would have opted for pour and let the teacher or professor decide.  Sure, I could have looked it up in a dictionary or  style and grammar book but then I would have had to get up, find the book, the research my question.  Blame it on attention span, but if I were to do that, the chances of coming back to my writing would be minimal.  As I pondered the question tonight, I simply typing “pour over” into Google and quickly found ample instruction that led me to use the proper word, pore, and also realized there is no word poar.  It was easy, though there is still a risk that I could have been diverted by what a friend of mine calls “shiny things” that always seems to pop-up in my Internet searches.
For me and certainly many others, technology has helped.  I love the ability to research almost anything from my easy chair or desk via laptop or iPad.  I was talking with another friend on the phone a few weeks ago.  Somehow, don’t ask me how, we got to talking about a game that was played way back when by children.  It was a basic, simple, and seemingly boring game.  It involved a wheel and a stick.  The stick was used to keep the wheel rolling.  That’s it.  Sure it was an odd thing to talk about but we had somehow gotten there.  The next question was, “I wonder what that game was called?”  Who cares?  Who knows?  In the pre-internet days I would have simply let it go.  It is a small matter.  That day in front of my laptop, I simply typed in “wheel and stick game” and voila, sever listing for hoop rolling, hoop trundling, simply trundling.  Trundling?  Yes, trundling.I  am trying to fathom youngsters who could be amused, for who knows how many hours, with a hoop and a stick.  I wonder about the trundling youngsters of yore the same way young people playing the amazing graphic video games of today wonder how my generation  could have been so fascinated with Pong.
My first realization of how liberating this technology would be for me was back in the early days of the Internet.  I had arranged for Senator Joe Liberman to visit our church: The Armenian Church of the Holy Ascension in Trumbull, CT.  We were very excited as it was the highest US Government official to ever visit our church.  Our priest, Father Untzag Nalbandian, asked me to be the emcee for the event for being the driving force behind this auspicious event.  In truth all I did was contact the Senator’s office.  It was more do to the Senator’s very good policy of engaging the community.  We tried to do the same thing a few years later with Senator Chris Dodd.  We did not even get a reply from his office.
But I digress.  I was travelling to Argentina the week before Senator Lieberman was to visit our church.  I returned late Saturday evening.  I was expecting mail from the Senator’s office that was to include his biography.  There was no such mail.  It was 10 pm and I was wondering what I was going to do.  I did not want to embarrass the Senator, our church, or myself by not having a proper introduction for such a distinguished guest.  I then thought that perhaps they emailed me.  So, I checked my first email address, the kind that came with whatever dismally slow dial-up Internet service I had.  Again there was nothing.  
What to do?  The public library did not open early enough for me to get there and get to chruch on time.  What to do?  I then thought of using that new thing I had just got... what was it... ah yes... Netscape.  It came with what was then a new computer.  I typed the Senator’s name into the search box and hit enter.  Soon, I was at the Senator’s website.  He had a bio tab.  Wow.  This was amazing.  It was like midnight.  I was able to get and print his bio that I could read verbatim if I had to.  How cool!
It was incredibly cool.  I realized the power of where technology was going and what it would allow me to do.  The information world was literally at my fingertips.  From that moment on, the availability of information and the speed of retrieval has only gotten better, broader, and faster.  It is easy to learn about almost anything and everything really quick.  If you have any rights at a university library, the entire world of journals and papers are on-line.  The most classic papers in almost any field are available in pdf form on-line, this includes the Harvard Business Review which is probably the best in the world at trying not to provide free content.
I wanted to learn about alternative oud tunings.  A short internet search and voila:

People with any passion share their knowledge and lore on-line with, basically, the world.  I am amazed with the volumes of people who read my blogs and which pieces are most read.  The ones most read are not necessarily my favorites.  
There is a negative side of all this freedom.  I can do easily get lost for hours.  The Internet is full of shiny and distracting things that can lead to hours of not doing what I originally intended.  Case in point, consider November 16 and 17th of this month:
    • On November 16th, I learned that Karl Slover passed away in Georgia at the age of 93.  Karl who?  Karl Slover was one of the last surviving Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz.  Karl Slover played the lead trumpeter in that classic film.  Karl Slover NYTimes
    • The distracting bit for November 17th was just as obscure.  Yahoo News informed me that the composer of A Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini, Lee Pockriss, also died.  Besides the bikini song he also composed the music for Johnny Angel and Catch a Falling Star.

I am not even sure what I had set out to do when I ran across these stories and veered well off my intended path.  Apparently some degree of focus is still needed.  Yeah, I just searched on “maintaining focus” and then clicked on the sub-choice of “maintaining focus to achieve goals.”  There is a lot of sites in this topic many of which point out in their abstract that maintaining focus is important in helping one achieve ones goals.  Yes, the Internet certainly can hammer home the obvious.  It does, however, seem like the kind of topic I may want to blog about at some later date.  
Technology is not standing still.  Voice recognition will one day rule the way we input into our various electronic devices.  Of course, that is only until we develop an interface for brain waves.  Right now, voice recognition  it is mostly on cell phones.  It can be very useful when driving to either text someone or have the phone retrieve a phone number from the web or one’s directory and then make the call.  It is useful for activating the GPS on one’s phone to provide guidance to a destination.  It is quite useful and much easier to use then in the recent past.
Almost every phone I have had has been equipped with voice activated calling.  In the early days, it was simply a matter of luck when it worked.  I would activate the system and speak the name into the phone, such as Jim Davis.  It was a surprise if it dialed Jim Davis instead of Jim Clayborn or perhaps Jerry Danville.  I used to get quite frustrated with it.  I would try to speak more clearly on the next few iterations.  When that didn’t work, I would speak more forcefully a few times as if that would have any impact on the software.  Often, I would give up and just look up the number using the keypad.  One time in the car with my daughter, Armene’, I was trying to call home to inform Judy of our whereabouts.  I said, “home.”  Nothing.  I said, “home” again yielding the same results.  After a few more times, I began to speak more clearly and also more forcefully resulting in the following chide from my daughter that she still brings up frequently, “Dad, if saying ‘home’ didn’t work, what makes you think constantly repeating ‘homa’ is going to help.”  She was absolutely correct.
Someone told me that my first edition Droid phone had voice recognition.  I thought I would give it a try.  So, with out glasses, I dictated a short text message to Armene’ and hit send.  She wrote back saying, “what are you trying to say.”  I was trying to say, “hey look, I am using voice recognition to text you.”  That was not anywhere near what the voice recognition system interpreted and filled into the text box.  Only the word ‘look’ was correct.
I let voice recognition go for a while.  A few months ago, I tried it again on a whim.  It is working much better.  I am convinced they have made a software upgrade unbeknownst to me.  I use it all the time now and am quite happy with it.  It is only a matter of time before we will be giving voice commands to our home appliances, entertainment systems, cars, and even computers.  It is inevitable and possibly the last minor information before the systems that help us self-realize and maybe self-actualize.  Well... the latter may still be on each of us individually.
I appreciate what technology has done for me.  I look forward to future innovations to enhance my ability to more easily research and communicate.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had some ADD "issues" when young. From whom do you suppose you got this tendency/affliction? One guess. Ha ha ha!!!