Monday, January 31, 2011

Things Ain't What They Used To Be

I just started reading a book, and in the foreword the author says "Like all journalists, I'm a voyeur. I write about what I find fascinating."

So it is with me, although I have yet to write in this blog about that great experience we call technology. We had no clue 50 years ago what we'd be launching into today. This morning I finished a Scott Turow novel, Ordinary Heroes, that I had downloaded to my Kindle. When that was done I noticed my Blu-Ray player sitting there, fully aware that since I bought it about 6 months before they began to build in a wireless internet option, that I should upgrade that software, so I went on-line, downloaded the upgrade, and while it was working I headed off to the library to pick up the book I ordered on-line a week ago.

Our school library (wasn't Celia Ramsey the librarian?) was located on the stage of the study hall where Billy Roberts showed me how to blow bb's with abandon. It had electricity, I'm sure, and that's as close as it got to today's technology. We checked out books that we most likely found by browsing the hard copies, or occasionally thumbed through the index cards of the Dewey Decimal System.

Honestly, we shouldn't be putting down that Dewey Decimal System since to a large degree it's the forerunner of all the sort options utilized in the modern computer. But we've come a long way, baby.

In grad school in 1975 I had this feeling that I should learn more about computers, so I took a basic computer class, one centered on programming, if you remember what that is. One of the requirements was to build a program that works. With program cards. If you remember what they are. The net outcome of my program was to sort a dozen or so cards into a matrix that would reflect the data on the cards. And I could not believe that it actually worked when I ran it. I did NOT try it twice because I had indeed met the requirements and there was nothing left for me to do but look humble when I got an A.

I tend to be curious and persistent, thus leading to the strategy that "by golly I'm going to figure out how this works", as Marilyn Ulve and I have discussed. That's the demon that drove the creation of this blog, and having a compelling mix of left- and right-brain attributes I figured it out, hopefully with some artistic view that people will enjoy seeing and reading. And I guess it takes a certain discipline. I am bothered, for example, that the Turow novel mentioned above is in italics, not underscored as it should be, knowing that Wilma Helgeland would give me that sideways look that I did wrong. Hopefully she will forgive me when I insist that the blog post does not have an underscore option.

As to my curious side, the book I mention that started all this? It was a suggestion of my brother Kevin, who does research at the University of Iowa. The title is Stiff, the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. I suppose you have to be curious to read a book like this one. It's probably not available in the Northwood public library but you can get it through cooperatives such as the Western Wisconsin Indianhead Federated Library System. Email me at if you want to know how I liked it. With this one I'll be flipping the pages, but will check my online library account from time to time to be sure it doesn't go past due. Past due: the practice that will never go away. Maybe things ARE what they used to be.

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