Thursday, August 30, 2012

Creeping Geekness

Over eight years ago I bought a laptop computer with money from my part-time web business. While that web business has long since ceased operations I still have the laptop.

It is a bit slow and clunky, just like me.

“What did you expect, you’re old,” my wife would say.

This week I took the laptop to work so I could write this blog at lunchtime at the nearby Barnes and Noble and struggled with a few of its annoying quirks. I battled several of the quirks while I edited the blog at home later that night.

Notwithstanding the computer’s shortcomings it gets the job done. But beneath the surface I have a nagging feeling that the time is coming soon for the laptop to go to computer heaven or the recycling center.

Lately it seems I have been suffering from a typical masculine disease, the need for gadgets. Less than two years ago I bought an early model of the Nook Touch Reader, and then within six months I upgraded to the Nook Tablet. To my delight my nephew now has my old Touch Reader; I even gave him a starter gift card with the reader. The tablet is a much superior product whose main purpose is still to only read books (which could be purchased at the half price book store for much less money). While it can perform other functions, it is just an expensive book reader. But calling it a reader is a misnomer; I am the reader, the tablet is just a book repository. You could buy a bookcase for less money.

Twelve months ago my ancient desktop PC computer gave up the ghost after a few major and minor repairs and years of diminishing performance (blame Microsoft). I took a giant leap of gadget acquisition – I bought an IMac. It is a fantastic machine which I use to write, surf the Internet, create my website and organize my photos. In 1990 I received a used Mac computer from my brother-in-law as a result of one of his upgrade episodes (he also suffered from the need for gadgets). My brother-in-law also gave me an old 60” projection TV and a Canon 20D digital camera. The TV lasted several years before it quit working; happily the Canon is still completely functional and used frequently.

At my sons’ urging I retrieved the from Mac storage; the old Mac, to my surprise, booted up and was somewhat useable. The printer no longer works, we can’t export any data and it doesn’t connect to the Internet, these factors make the Mac an interesting desk ornament. The black and white display is smaller than an IPad (which I don’t have, yet).

App I really need!
Last week I succumbed again to the urge for gadgets. I bought an IPhone. Now this was a totally selfish purchase since I already had a free company phone. The need for gadgets conflicted with my desire for free things.

Gadgets “one”, free “zero.”

I searched the Top 10, Top 50 and the Top 100 apps on-line and downloaded several interesting apps. There are 1000’s of apps available, way too many to use or even evaluate. Despite the dearth of confusing choices I am sure I’ll find other apps to download and use soon.

They are free! Free gets a half a point.

I downloaded MapMyRun, which tracks my weekend walks. It displays the route I’ve taken, produces various statistics on time, pace, distance, calories and elevation. I can share this information with my walking buddies (if I had any that use this app). MapMyRun duplicates, to some degree, my last father’s day gift (aka – gadget) of a Garmin GPS Training watch from Iris. The watch is actually more useful and easy to use. The watch is safely strapped to my wrist whereas the IPhone needs to be firmly gripped in your hand while accessing data. Using the IPhone is somewhat harder and risky to do while walking fast. Twice I broke LCD displays on other gadgets (a Palm PDA and my first digital camera) while trying walk and chew gum at the same time.

Several other apps now on my IPhone can connect me with public radio news and another is a GPS map program give verbal directions.

Just what I need: another person telling me where to go.

I’ve downloaded a flashlight with a compass and an app that converts the camera to a magnifying glass. I really have no idea when I might use these two.  My favorite free app is Pandora Radio. Pandora Radio is already on my IMac and I previously created several radio stations that feature music from artists and genres of my choosing. Pandora even connects to my car radio and allows me to listen to my own radio stations rather than the local ones. This will be come in handy when we travel to Galveston in November; the Galveston trip always finds us searching for a good radio station and we don’t need to carry a stack of CD’s (how 20th Century) with us.

My favorite station is 50’s Radio; nothing like enjoying music from the past when these fantastic gadgets didn’t exist.

Perhaps we old geezers are into gadgets. But I hate it when I have to ask for help, which is worse than asking for directions.

By the way how do I use my talking GPS map program?

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Return of the Blog

It’s been two months since I last posted to my blog. 
My how time flies when you’re having fun or too busy.
In reality we can chalk it up to writer’s block, discouragement or a changed work environment.  Maybe just a bit of laziness also.  The reason is more complicated than a single item; the reality is the hiatus was a combination of all of those points and even a few more unknown reasons. 
I didn’t go to any meetings of the Sun Poets Writing Group meetings during the past two months.  Group meetings sounds like therapy.  Many writers are in therapy, just finished therapy, want to return to therapy or avoid therapy.  Some writers think writing is therapy, with or without a group.  A blog is self-therapy.  So you might say I am back in therapy for now. 
Last month I emerged from a long, self-imposed shell of not participating in community activities.  The reasons for my non-participation in communal activities are complicated and go back to the cause of my last career change in 2001.  The most prominent reason for my re-emergence was being asked and accepting to serve as a board member of a non-profit organization (Golden Manor) that aids senior citizens, at the right time in my life.  I had served on that board in the past when it operated a nursing home.  Now Golden Manor’s mission is completely changed.  The nursing home was sold and the role of Golden Manor has changed to that of an agency that provides grant money to other non-profits serving the senior community and providing some direct services.
Now back to the blog.  In October of 2011 I wrote about things seniors need.  The weakness of the logic in that blog was it was merely a list of separate items.  Each item was written as a stand-alone topic (and I even wrote two blogs about two of the items).  But life can’t be dissected into discrete segments.  Life is everything as a whole.  A magnifying glass or microscope can only fathom bits and pieces.  Analysis of life requires a wide-angle lens.
A fisherman with a pole and hook can only catch one fish at a time.  The fisherman with a net can cast into the sea and gather so much more.  Not just one fish or type of fish, but many fish and many different species of fish.  A few tires and plastic bottles in the process will be scooped up in the process.
So too, I must be like the fisherman with the net.  Throw the net out into the world and see what I can pull in or what will pull me out of rut.  So my list of ten items needs to be unified with a Zen-like approach.  Sentient beings need variety.  But we also need unity, a philosopher’s dilemma and a writer’s dream.  Interesting stuff to write is stuff worthwhile taking time to read.
“65 and Alive” is whatever I want.  Not just senior issues.  Not just an old fart pontificating. 
See you next week. 

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