Technology Yin Yang

This is a story about the yin yang (not yin AND yang as most boorish Americans call it) of technology. Tech provides both vast opportunities to create and the equally vast power to destroy great craftsmanship. But first I must set the stage for this philosophical debate. It all started with Robert.

Robert is a quiet guy but thoughtful. He and I see each other now and then at parties and events because our wives belong to the same social club.

I had probably never had more than a two-minute conversation with Robert. Yet here we were at a party and he knows a lot about something I care about but know very little. Photography. Robert is a professional photographer. I, on the other hand, gave up even my minor amateur status when film died as the preferred medium for pictures. (I have a very nice Nikon I’d sell if anyone still wants to shoot film).

For a bit over two years I have limited myself to a point and shoot digital picture-taking devise that fits in my pocket. No changing lenses, no focusing, no worrying about the light. So I ask Robert, “What advice can you give to me about starting to get into digital photography?” This leads to the discussion about how digital has taken much of the craftsmanship out of photography. I will do my best to capture his points though I admit to you now I may not be doing justice to them or him.

He started with the technical and then moved on to the philosophical. Technically he tells me that digital cameras, and these are SLRs a professional would use, do not provide consistent shots the way film cameras do. Something in the technology of the camera or the software leads to different readings and pictures in identical lighting situations despite improvements in built-in light metering and other technological improvements. He spends far more time making adjustments than when he shot with comparable film cameras.

That was the tip of the iceberg. His next point was that looking at the small screen on the back of the camera was the wrong way to visualize a great photo opportunity. The artist/photographer should be looking directly at the subject checking the nuances of the lighting, the composition, the shapes, the colors, the shadows.

Additionally from a commercial side says Robert,  having sooo many pictures available to download devalues all pictures. Users no longer discern between the great and the not-so-great. Will this phenomena dishearten the skilled craftsman who can no longer make a living at his craft? According to Robert, the photographers that survive and thrive are the better business people not the better shooters.

As I was listening to his point of view I began to wonder if this is true for writers as well. Bogging, tweeting and Facebook posting has opened the door for written expression to millions who would never have done it or at least never had shared it. For every 100 no talent blogs there is the special one by someone with so much to say and that beautiful way of telling a story.

Yet has this hurt the truly great writer starting out. Can very many writers make a living at their craft. Do people take the time to create things longer than a post? Will the art of short stories, novellas, novels and well written nonfiction disappear, the light blocked out by the shadows from a million free three paragraph posts?

Only time will tell whether all of this technology brings greater creative force and beauty or just more stuff. Or maybe both. Yin Yang.

So That’s How It Was Done In The Olden Days

My son uses a version the title expression every time I refer to life without cell phones and texting or use some colloquial phrasing from my youth. An incident a couple of days ago brought that to mind.

I had just pulled into the parking lot of a client ahead of a big meeting. I get out of the car and push the button on my car door clicker to lock the door. I have one where the key tucks into the unit and pops out in jackknife fashion when needed.  Nothing happened. I try again. And again. Nada.

Momentarily I am confused, then panicked. For that instant I do not know how to lock the car door.  After this meeting I will be parking at the airport and I do not want to leave my car unlocked in the airport parking lot for 2 days.


All of this must have happened in a matter of seconds, maybe even a fraction of a second. It was, however, one of those instances where time stood still.

Then it struck me. I can lock the door with THE KEY. You remember keys. That is what in the olden days everyone used to lock and unlock car doors.

The even weirder thing is that this is the first car I have owned with remote entry. Yes it has been 7 years but what happened to the 45 years before that. It seems that once we embrace a technology we lose the ability to function without it.

There is a long, philosophical post to be written at some future date about the impact of technology and our ability to cope when it ceases to function and what that says about us. For now, just enjoy the shared moment.

…No, It Is Me

How often do parts of your life  not go as expected? When that happens to me I question why. External forces, some person or machine not working as expected…or is it me.

While most of the time I save this introspective analysis for the really important things. Sometimes not.

For me, biking is somewhere in that grey area between important and not. Life threatening, life changing, on the same scale as illness, work, family or plague? No. But it remains a focal part of my personal story. So it is not just something I do but part of who I am.

Two weeks ago I fell. Last week I just had no energy. No idea if the fall was more traumatic to my system than I initially thought or what the deal was. There were times last week when it felt as though the legs pumped hard and my speed was good and then I would glance at my trip computer to sees that I was more than 2-3 mph slower than usual. That’s a lot.

There were two potential reasons why the computer was showing a slow speed. One, that I was riding normally and the computer was damaged in the fall, this could be a technology issue.  Two, that it was me.

I held out hope for the former explanation all week. I rode this morning and discovered truth.

It was me.

Technocide: The Killing Of The Real By The Virtual

The convergence of many things this weekend have me thinking about what we lose, not just what we gain by going virtual. (Yes I see the irony of this being written by a blogger but really, blogging is already old technology.)

I tend to spend far more time in front of a computer than I used to in part due to work but even in my “free” time.  I check email, I blog, I read blogs and I check websites for news and information. Even occasionally I shop. But I am mostly old school. I call rather than text. I read print media, newspapers and magazines in part because there is a tactile experience. I ride actually rather than virtually. I talk to people face to face.

This latter activity, assuming that it is the right person(s) is one of my favorite things to do. Communicating through blogs or email is efficient and does not require two people to be available at the same time so it is useful. Just not as satisfying for me. I recognize the benefits of technology and social networking in particular. I am just worried.

So what got me thinking about this now.

First this article in the Chicago Tribune titled, “Social Media Ties, Technology Addiction Can Strain Interpersonal Relationships“. (BTW, this title had to be written by a techie editor with no social skills.) The article described how time on Facebook, email, games, etc. can keep people from forming relationships in the real world. Do we really need to check email, launch a Tweet and attach something to a friend’s Facebook wall the moment we awake?

This was also the weekend that the newest of the Terminator movies opened. This is the ultimate man vs. machine story.

There was also Tech company news. A story about Facebook recounted how a purchase of 2% of the company for $200 million values the company (with no profits) at $10 billion. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this valuation is down from the $15 billion valuation when Microsoft bought a piece of the company a couple of years ago. DAMN THIS ECONOMY.

Also in today’s Wall Street Journal was a story about Twitter. They are up to 32 million users form 1.6 just a year ago. The stuggle of the founders is to hire people fast enough to keep the twits going while trying to figure out how to make money on this. Fortunately they have raised $55 million to get this right.

Then there is one of my favorite bloggers, Pax Romano. Ok, blogging is technology and virtual–except in the deft hands of skilled bloggers like Pax. He makes the interactions personal if not in-person. His blogging has slowed as he discovered Facebook. Even Pax considers Facebook as addictive as crack. Luckily the first step to a cure is knowing you have a problem. We want more blog entries Pax.

I am thankful for sports, debate club and chess tournaments (real, not virtual ones). These are places where our kids still need to interact with people…for now. I have no doubt that soccer tournaments or triathlons done on Wii networks will one day be the rage.

Then I will know the machines have won.

Technology Workaround

My wife has been home with the flu and it has taken her voice. She had something important for me to know while I was at work so she sends an email. No big deal. Then I get a text asking why I did not reply to her email. Text back, “because it did not show up.

She does it again. Another text. Same reply. She tries my GMail account. still nothing. By now she is not just sick but fuming. I send an email to her hoping that she can just reply to it. Nope.

She is not in the mood and I do not have the time to walk her through various potential fixes. I call. Does the Internet connection work. Yes, she says in that small flu-voice.

OK. Here is what we will do. Go to 48facets and put the email in the form of a comment. Works. Respond. Rerespond. Communication happens. Problem solved.

Later on I am home and I get a text. Not a usual occurrence. It is my wife. She is upstairs. I think in the prehistoric times of my youth we used to use a bell. I kinda like old technology.


Note Passing In Class: 21st Century Style

I am in a business meeting with 4 other people. At one point two start giggling. They were emailing each other from one end of the table to the other about nothing that had to do with our meeting.

Some people never leave high school…but their technology gets better.

Brush, Floss and Go To The Dentist

The three rules of healthy teeth. I religiously do the first two, the third not so much. I assumed at my advanced age that cavities were unlikely. Wrong. Despite brushing 2-3 times a day and flossing regularly I am about to have a tooth extracted and a second one drilled big time. Extracted. Unless I am being airlifted out of a flood zone, that is one ugly sounding word.

Ahhh. The sound of a dentist drill. With all of the technology improvements of the last decade one would have thought they could have created a nano sized muffler for those things that if not made them silent at least got them to play show tunes.

It is not that I am afraid of the dentist. I do not dream of Little Shop of Horrors or Marathon Man. I just have trouble scheduling appointments given my ever changing schedule. Lesson learned.

I will update you on the painful journey of the next several weeks as this tale unfolds. Next Key date: December 17. Drilling. Can’t wait. Whrrrrrr. Gulp.

Jet Packs:Top On My Hannukah Wish List


Remember Sean Connery as James Bond in Thunderball. He had the coolest jet pack ever. Except it wasn’t real. Well now they are.

Now there is Jet Pack International marketing your very own jet pack. It uses three small jet turbine engines, powered by jet fuel, and a pack constructed with lightweight carbon fiber. Flights are short but flight it is. 

The next great holiday gift. Not made in China.No lead paint. So I am sure it must be safe. 

I Love When People and Software Do What They Are Supposed to Do

Too often people and/or things don’t work. Let’s start with people. Two weeks a go I had a plumber come over, fix nothing and charge me $125 for a service call. With hardware and software, given my relative ignorance I often spend hours trying to make things act as they should or with incompetent help desk folk.

Today things generally went well. A garage door spring sprang Saturday night and it took 2 hour for me to get the door manually open so that we could remove my wife’s car from the garage.  Called the repair guy Sunday Christmas eve day. Since this was not an emergency made an appointment for Tuesday morning. We have used the same one man shop for 12 years. He lives in a distant suburb and have contemplated finding someone closer. NEVER. This man shows up when he says he will, fixes what is broke, does it quickly and is always reasonable. He has talked me out of spending alot when he felt we could do as well for less. Once again he came, fixed, presented a reasonable bill and drove off into the day.

I then spent part of the day setting up Outlook to handle our email so that my wife could have her new Palm Pilot totally integrated. This was not the 1-2-3 process as I thought it would be but with liberal use of the help functions of both Outlook and our email provider I got it to work in less than a gazillion hours. This is all I ask of computer/software. That the help functions provide enough info to allow me to figure things out. Today I am smiling.