Wednesday, July 22, 2015

One Small Step for …

Yesterday was the 46th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon.  I used my calculator to subtract 1969 from 2015.  Seems like I should be able to do simple math in my head.

Has technology helped us or hurt us?  Calculators and calculator apps on our smart phones, tech that was unheard of in 1969, is almost a necessity now.  Do you reach for a calculator for even simpler math problems, like determining how many days between today and Tuesday?
There is more computer power in a flip phone from 2010 than there was in the lunar lander in 1969.  I guess you could say boomers invented this time-saving, convenient technology, but did we intend for it to replace our brains?

I just read a newspaper article about maps; more accurately, an article about how teens in the GPS era might never have seen a map and probably wouldn’t know how to use one.  I grew up on maps, love looking at them, folding them, writing on them.  My road trip rituals used to include ordering maps and guidebooks from AAA.  Now I don’t even own a map, but I definitely know how to read one and I prefer larger format maps on a laptop to the tiny ones on my iPhone.
I don’t trust GPS voice directions, however.  I prefer north, south, east and west to left and right and I am silently horrified when travel companions can’t relate to compass directions.  A very smart travel buddy on a recent vacation didn’t realize we were south of our destination at one point; and his GPS routed him through the middle of a city on the way home, adding miles and time that I saved by mapping my own route.  He is much older than the teens mentioned in the newspaper article but he has also become dependent on modern tech.

By the way, when is the last time you read a newspaper on paper.  I read the afore-mentioned Washington Post story on my iPhone.
Am I a tech boomer?  Not so much.  I respect and use technology but my four year old phone is ancient by iPhone standards and I wrote the first draft of this post on paper.  In cursive.

One small step for man, one giant leap for my brain.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Generations Politics and the 4th of July

I spent Independence Day weekend with four generations of a family that is close to me. The age range was a few months to 82. One was celebrating an 80th birthday.

A few more statistics: three Democrats and 30+ Republicans. Two Marines. Seven trips to the grocery store over three days. Wine is 20-40% cheaper in this county, which is only 90 minutes from my county in the same state. Fireworks are illegal in my county but not in this one. Vaping is replacing smoking. Kids scream a lot. I am Uncle Bernie to the youngest kids, which is kind of cool. Some kids bang on the table when they can't get their way; so does the 80-year-old at times.

Independence Day weekend is an important time for many reasons: celebrating the birth of the greatest nation on earth, gathering of friends and family, taking a 3-day break from work, enjoying the mid-point of summer.

The people in this group are friendly, patriotic, loud and opinionated. They are not diverse; they are mostly white, Christian, republican and southern. I don't like to judge or label but this group is somewhat redneck. I understand the mentality and background but it is not really 'me'.

Why am I here? This is the extended family of a 'friend' (all I'll say about her at the moment). They love me and I love them but I am a fish out of water here and even though I can get along with and have a conversation with nearly anybody of any background, I have to take a break for a few minutes every few hours. I'm from a large extended family myself, but I've lived a large part if my adult life either alone or with one person and this large group is at the edge of my comfort zone. I don't have kids, so that adds to the out-of-sync aspect of this weekend.

On the other hand, I am getting more comfortable around kids, especially now that some of them know me by name. My diplomatic skills serve me well during conversations with the adults too. I am smart enough to keep most of my political opinions to myself, although I did get into a borderline argument over the meaning of the Confederate flag.

Most touching moment of the weekend: while 30 people in the room are simultaneously having ten different conversations, the National Anthem comes on the TV at the beginning of a Washington Nationals game. Two of the youngest kids walk over to the TV and stand at attention in front of it, the boy saluting and the girl placing her hand over her heart. Halfway through the song the adults notice this and we stop our conversations till it's over.

Four generations, wildly differing political views, all part of one nation. It works. Happy Independence Day. God bless America.