Thursday, December 29, 2011


Call it the December Blues.  I went on a vacation cruise just before the holidays (timed to beat the family holiday surge) and then came back in time for the final holiday shopping binges.  Couple these two factors with end-of-year work and a bout of the notorious South Texas Mountain Cedar Fever and the result was no blog updates.

Now a few days before the New Year begins I still have nothing to end the year with.  No list of resolutions or projects to boast about or reveal.  Although Cedar Fever could remain an issue until February I am happy that it is under control right now. 

I have a list of topics that I will cull and my sole resolution is to have a new post on-line January 2.

Happy New Year.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Reflections on my first interview

Linda and I picked a table in a small side room of the restaurant; there were two long tables for eight and two tables for two.  We sat at one of the large tables; I spread out my notebook and folders to prevent anyone from interrupting us.  I placed three napkins under my tape recorder to muffle any sounds of our plates and utensils.  I was ready to go. 
My first interview. 
Right off the bat I violated one of the rules of interviewing: no restaurants or public places.  Lunch time was the only time our schedules allowed and I was anxious to get my new blog project started, so I settled for a noisy locale.  The napkins didn’t muffle the lunch sounds very well; later when I played the recording back the waitress could be clearly heard several times asking if we needed more tea or how did we like the salsa.  Each of our phones rang a few times.  We took two calls each and ignored the others after a quick look at the caller ID.  I hit the pause button during these brief interruptions. 
But I persevered and continued with my questions and let Linda ramble on.  Linda’s verbal wanderings provided answers to multiple questions with only one prompt.  I let her move the conversation in any direction she desired; my questions required more than a yes or no.  Linda revealed inner thoughts that filled my interview notes with material that screamed to say, “I’m interesting.”
We laughed and lamented about the pleasures and pains of senior citizens living in the new retirement, called work.  Both of us have different reasons for working, but have accepted our fate.  Rather than mere acceptance, we relish our current situations.  Linda says today is the best day of life.  Tomorrow is the best day for me.
I learned several valuable lessons about recording techniques from my first interview with Linda.  Napkins don’t muffle sounds, use something more substantial to reduce table sounds, and you can’t turn on the table recorder soon enough or turn it off too late.  The best comments are sometimes left unrecorded. 
Of course my mind wandered on occasion.  The smell of eggs and sausage on the grill created delicious distractions; wonderful aromas drifted from the kitchen.  Never go to your favorite Mexican restaurant for an interview. 
Go there for huevos rancheros.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Count Your Blessings

How many times have we been reminded to count our blessings?  My parents often used that phrase when I was a younger.  Their lives were influenced by the Great Depression and the tough times they endured and this indirectly affected me. 
My father was too young for WWI and too old for WWII but he lived his 30’s during the depression.  Likewise my father-in-law knew the depression era first hand.  Both of these men influenced my life at different times.  While neither became destitute or homeless then, neither lived a financially comfortable life.  They taught me valuable life lessons about work and character.  I started my work career around 15 years of age delivering newspapers and for the first eight years of my married life I worked two or three jobs (and went to college fulltime for three of those years).  Both my father (Henry) and father-in-law (Charlie) retired and then went to work at other jobs for several more years. 
As a teenager I knew that I would have to pay for college on my own.  That’s just the way it was.  I paid for my car insurance and gas in high school, worked for nine months between high school and college, and every break thereafter.  Later, my father-in-law found work for me as a temporary parking lot attendant when I returned to college after my 3 years in the army.  Surprisingly enough, last week a volunteer at a local non-profit agency’s holiday fair complemented me on my parking ability as he directed traffic.  He gave me an A+, thanks Charlie.
Now many years later I feel that work is part of my life.  I can’t imagine not working; it doesn’t seem like a chore.  It is just something I do.  Thanks Henry and Charlie.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Technology Adoption: A Slippery Slope

Did you take typing class in high school?  Did you own a fountain pen?  Do you have memories of Kodak Brownie cameras, Princess phones, the Ernie Kovac’s show, or Roy Rogers?  If you do then you may be a member of the Low Tech Club.
Many senior citizens prefer things they way there were when they were young.  Comfortable and familiar aspects of our youth, you knew how they worked and how to use them.  You refilled your pen when it went dry, no need to reboot or call tech support.  Life was easy, maybe a bit messy but easy.
If you called someone and if they didn’t answer you knew they weren’t home.  Now a message comes on and asks you to leave a message.  Are they home, screening calls, busy or on with someone else and don’t care to answer?  You just don’t know and that is perplexing.  Likewise, if you email or send a text message to a friend and don’t receive a quick response you get annoyed. 
Many seniors avoid the lure of high tech gadgetry.  Someone I know has a smart phone and all they can do is make phone calls.  Twenty-five years ago they couldn’t program a VCR (a device that has virtually disappeared).  Now they exhibit some of the same attitudes towards email, text messages, smart phones or online social media services.  Too many options, choices or strange terminology make them feel uncomfortable and inadequate.
The stereotypical view is:  Seniors don’t do technology.  Assistance is often required when they do make a leap in technology usage.  Usually a younger family member or friend is contacted for help or advice.  Or they totally foul things up and then they make that dreaded call for help.  I too make those calls to my sons on occasion.
But many senior citizens embrace technology.  One of my earlier interview subjects uses email extensively in her new enterprise and accesses extensive real estate data bases for information.  Only a few short years ago she would have laughed at the thought of her dependence on a computer for her livelihood.
While my wife, Iris, verbally eschews the Internet and computers she actually is very adept at online shopping, researching cruise line information, finding coupons for restaurants and communicating with her friends via email.  Iris appreciates the benefits of our new iMac™ compared to the now defunct PC.
A former co-worker (70 years plus) uses the Internet to display his artwork and has an online resale web site.  Another of my contemporaries has a business that relies on his computer skills to publish a coupon calendar and a portion of a second business relies on the Internet.  On the personal side he is in constant contact with his family for pictures of his grandchildren (5) and communicates sports news back and forth with his son via his smart phone.
While I manage three web sites for my personal enjoyment and now write this blog, use a new iMac™ computer, a Nook™, a laptop and rely on computers heavily at my 8 to 5 job I have not embraced all of the newest technologies.  I still use a flip phone without a camera, don’t have a social media presence and don’t send text messages.  In addition, I still pay for cable service because I don’t watch TV on my computer.  I write checks to pay my bills, but access my savings and checking accounts online. 
I use technology in limited doses.  I am addicted to Yahoo news and google for information regularly.  My Palm™ is retired and my contact and calendar information are stored on the Cloud, for access wherever I go (as long as I have a computer to use).
But as a self-proclaimed member of the Low Tech Club I hold true to some core values.  I still like reading a printed book.  There are no used book stores for my Nook™.  While many classics are available, there are still many books that are not available in print or for the E-reader.  But I will load my Nook™ with several E-books to read on my next vacation, especially the new Stephen King hardback book that is too heavy to carry or hold.  My mix and match approach to technology use is my style.
Crossword Puzzle App
Somehow last week I slipped deeper into a new technology.  I purchased the new Nook Tablet™, which adds web surfing and a variety of apps to its book reader and passed my older (6 months) Nook™ to my wife.  Adoption of gadgets and that life style commences with a trip down a slippery slope, start small and gradually increase.  I just hope that my recent purchase doesn’t lead to more gadgets.   

Oh, listen to that!  Pandora Radio (google it and find out more), it’s great.
Sorry, what did you say?  My cell phone is dead and my Internet connection just dropped.  When I get home I’ll call you back on my land line, if I remember.
KISS:  Keep innovation selectively smart.