DINOSAUR


I started using my first cellphone in 1990, but even as late as 1999, I still used a pager.  When I tried to replace it, I was told nobody used them any more.  I did, and I liked it.  A pager was easy, I knew what number to call, and usually it was something important.  The cell phone finally supplanted my pager, and I no longer know where every pay phone is (or have a pocket full of dimes—er… quarters), not that there are any of them around, but many of my incoming calls are either spam or wrong numbers.  Every technology has untoward, unforeseen side effects.

I have never tweeted.  I do have an account, but I’ve never seen a need to follow somebody on Twitter, since I have my own life to live, not follow somebody else’s.  I haven’t missed much, although I did stun a few people when I admitted I didn’t know anything about the Kardashians. I’d rather know how to backpack, read the sky, start a fire when it’s pouring rain, how to canoe trip, or how to do basic math than worry about somebody famous.  I can’t write well and quickly.  I need time to think; technology does not play to my strengths in this regard, but rather to my weaknesses.

On a recent hike, a few of us saw a flower we couldn’t identify. Somebody asked me if I had an app to identify it. Being a dinosaur, I don’t have such, any more than I have an app to look at the night sky or the types of clouds overhead.  I usually ask someone or look it up when I get home.  Dinosaurs do those sorts of things. I need to get better at flowers; I know my way around the night sky just fine.

Nonetheless, I looked at flower identification apps, found one that seemed useful, bought it, after having to change my password for the app store, because I couldn’t remember it, since I don’t buy apps very often, and took a picture of an Oregon Grape as a test.  I figured the app would match it to a known picture, just like on my computer, where I kept seeing unwanted pictures of people in the background of my photographs whom I couldn’t get rid of until I got lucky with a few buttons (which showed me where the strange face came from–it was a high jumper at the Olympic trials in 2012).  If we can match faces, I reasoned, certainly we can certainly match flowers.

I had to fill in information about the plant, which bothered me, because I thought the flower would be matched with a database. Come on, if American Airlines can send me an ad offering “up to 30% off” sharing miles, two days after I viewed the their offer (20% for under 25,000 miles and nothing off on the fee), we ought be able to match an picture to a plant.  I was informed that I would get an answer within 24 hours from a botanist, to whom I could pay $0.99.   In other words, the identification is not by matching, and I have to pay for it.  Bluntly speaking, another fee, explained as “Many experienced botanists make effort….It is a process requiring their time and knowledge.”

OK, I understand the idea that I’m getting a service that has worth.  I won’t use the app.  I’ll teach myself from now on.  Having answered more than 5300 math problems for free on algebra.com, until now quietly and with no fanfare, I wonder why I am such a chump Dino when I could easily charge a dollar or more for each problem solved, three dollars for showing work, which takes maybe a minute longer, and ask for renumeration for my “efforts” using PayPal. More than one student has wanted me to help them. I won’t charge for two reasons: first, I am a chump. I believe I should to give back to the community by helping people, and second, I quit using PayPal ever since they took a deposit on an outdoor trip I paid, said they could only dole it out $500 a month, so that I had to come up with more money to pay for the trip by check, and meantime I could, if I wished, donate my money held by them to a charity of their choosing.  I don’t know how many of my buttons PayPal pushed with that maneuver, but it was plenty.

I was not the only Dino at Rowe Sanctuary when the new young paid staff had an online sign up sheet for volunteer jobs.  We had signed up online for years, and it worked fine until this year, when they used a free web site and stopped using the jobs Board listing three consecutive days of who was doing what job.  I made the jobs Board back in 2008, and it had been, until this year, a quick and easy way to see what jobs needed done and what one’s responsibilities were on a particular day.  The free web site is slow, because it’s free and oh, we’d also like you to look at the ads.  I don’t like slow loading web sites, because I don’t know if it is the website or the computer has locked up.  Once the site loads, then I have to scroll through every job listed for one day.  It’s slow and inefficient, unless one is young, I guess.  I also didn’t like the volunteer orientation with PowerPoint slides that I can read in 3 seconds then have to listen to somebody else read them over a minute or two.  That drives me crazy.  PowerPoint has been shown to do bad things: Tufte’s article about the Columbia space disaster and the concerns raised by PowerPoint presentations beforehand makes compelling reading.  General McChrystal once said that if he could understand a single PowerPoint slide about Afghanistan (amazing to see), he could win the war. I loved Tufte’s comment: “Why are our presentations operating at 2% of the data richness of routine tables found in the sports section? ” Indeed.  In seconds, I understand the NHL or NBA playoff picture, and I follow them only peripherally.

I’m a Dino, because I recently heard that email is passé.  Well, not to me it isn’t.  I like to read what I have written, make changes so it sounds better, and put in little things like “Dear xxxx,” and “Sincerely yours”.  To me, platforms like Skype, Messenger, and WhatsApp, which I have used a lot, while useful, can be huge time wasters.  Skype is horrible for email.  Get somebody on one of them who is lamming—chatting with somebody else online or in person simultaneously, for example—and if there is a gap in the chat, one doesn’t know whether to stay online wasting time or do something else, like read a paper book, feeling rude to leave.  Dinosaurs have different values.

I realize I am falling further behind the technology curve. I still have a decent idea of what technology is good and not good for.  I no longer need Bartlett’s book of quotations, I can find lyrics to any song I wish and even listen to one, and I can write faster than I could on a typewriter.  Calculators are great for the math I can’t possibly do myself, although I still have ability—no longer taught any more—to determine whether or not an answer makes sense just by looking at it. I’m great at that.

I guess I’ve become the curmudgeon that as a kid I made fun of.  Sorry, gramps, or not.  Maybe like me you had no children.  But you were right.  The world is going to hell.

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