So I sit here in the parking lot, devoid of useful thought. Funny how that works. When my muse chooses to breath some life into my aging brain, I can go on and on. Unfortunately, most times I sit here, incapable of doing more than some light blathering. Maybe tomorrow.
Maybe it’s just me, but I find as I get closer to the finish line, many things don’t seem quite as important as they used to. After all, I’m going to be dead for eternity. I won’t even be me. I just. won’t. be. I’ve been contemplating this as long as I can remember, and I still can’t quite wrap my head around it.
So, all these things that seem to matter so much, soon enough won’t matter at all (at least not to me). Yet I continue caring.
I took my 12-year-old to check out computers the other day and, after we looked at a few, I decided what to get her. Then I made a kind of an impulse buy and got myself a Samsung Galaxy Tab4 which, at the price they were charging, was almost free. Anyway, I got it yesterday (they didn’t have any in stock, so they had to ship me one) and spent a bit of time figuring it out and loading a few apps from the Play Store.
When I got to work today, I realized I had my universal mobile keyboard, which was designed to be used with phones and notepads. I had installed the WordPress app, so I thought I would give it a try and post this short note to see how it felt. I’m loving the Galaxy Tab4 and intend on using it to watch Netflix, which I also installed, post to my blog (tada), and probably read with the Kindle app, which I’ve yet to install. Think I’ll do that after I post this. I also need to get a sim card, as there’s only about 8Gb of addressable memory in this thing. Amazon Prime, here I come.
Lately, I’ve been trying to use my iPhone’s voice recognition capabilities while in my car on the way to work. With the latest upgrade to iOS – I’m at 9.1 – you can now talk to your phone if it’s plugged into power, and I always plug mine into my car charger. All you have to do is say “Hey, Siri” and (most times) you’ll get a tone letting you know she’s listening. You can request music, ask for directions, record notes, tweets, and even Facebook posts. I mostly use it for playing music and recording thoughts I would never be able to remember or write down without pulling over to the side of the road. Although I have been known to do that, I don’t have to anymore. It’s not perfect, but it’s far and away a safer and easy-to-use method of remembering some things.
So, today I recorded a note on my way in. The only drawback is you have to speak fairly continuously. As soon as you pause for more than a couple of seconds, at most, Siri ends the task and reads the note back to you. I managed to make it through the thought I had with relative ease – my memory really ain’t what it used to be – and the playback was accurate enough to know I would be able to understand what I was thinking when I recorded it. As many of us are painfully aware, being able to understand what you were thinking when you were thinking of it later on when you read what you wrote about what you were thinking back then, is important to the efficacy of the effort.
On a whim, I said “Hey, Siri” and, upon hearing the familiar tone, “Thank you.” After a moment’s pause, she responded (in her Aussie accent) “You’re welcome.” Her tone was so upbeat it caused me to wonder if they don’t actually have the phrase recorded, or programmed, in several different intonations. I know we’re a long ways away from anything approaching sentient AI, but it was still oddly comforting, as well as a little weird . . . both the exchange and the reality I bothered to do it in the first place.
I work in an engineering company and engineers like to write things down, as well as illustrate their points when describing why they did something or how a component/tool/machine works. To that end, just about every one of them carries around a hardcover journal. I, on the other hand, have seldom written things down. In my entire school career, which includes two postgraduate degrees (but no undergrad school), I may have taken a few pages of notes, but that would be it.
White boards are also the domain of engineers and scientists, and every conference room generally has numerous illustrations and equations written on the boards on their walls. As a southpaw who writes backhanded, I’ve never been comfortable writing on a chalkboard or whiteboard. I just end up smearing everything. In fact, even on paper I’ve been known to fill out a form from the bottom up, just so I wouldn’t smear the ink before it had time to dry.
It’s so elegant, it almost feels like a crime to write anything in it. Weird, huh?
Still, just recently I decided to carry around one of the ubiquitous journals the company provides for everyone to use. Not only that, I purchased a really nice Moleskine Folio Professional Notebook, a leather pencil/pen case, and am seriously thinking about some high-quality pens. I did this in an effort to force myself to write more frequently. Unfortunately, I still have a problem getting anything down.
It’s really been bothering me as, at 68 years of age, I’m not sure how much time I have left, either in my life or in my ability to write coherently . . . and to remember what it is I’m doing. I have managed to write a few things down and, especially at work, I’ve found it helpful to keep notes about what I need to do in a journal, rather than on separate sheets of paper, which is what I’ve been doing for a while.
The problem for me is multi-faceted. As a leftie, I’ve never had terribly legible handwriting. Since I had no intention of becoming a physician, a profession where legible handwriting doesn’t seem to be a prerequisite, I gave up years ago and only print, in CAPS. When I actually write something down, that is. I learned to type in the seventh grade and during my second year of law school I got a job as a legal secretary, where my typing speed steadily improved until I was at about 85 wpm. Not blazing, but much faster than I can write/print. The attorney I worked for got an IBM memory typewriter, for which I spent a full day in class at one of their offices. I was enamored of word processing and, shortly afterward, he got a somewhat more sophisticated computer called an Artec Display 2000. It used 8″ floppies and I assembled wills, trusts, pleadings, and interrogatories with it. Keep in mind, this was in 1974 or 75 — forty years ago.
Since that time I have worked with quite a few word processing tools: Wordstar, with which I wrote many a module in dBase II; WordPerfect, which I learned on-the-fly when I answered the call for a temp job at a law office and again at an insurance agency; Lotus Word Pro and a homegrown (Rockwell International) competitor, with which I wrote reports at Rocketdyne, my alma mater and current place of employment (though it’s now Aerojet Rocketdyne – after being Boeing and UTC’s Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne); and, Scrivener, with which I hope to write my memoirs soon, providing I can remember anything clearly.
The thing is, when you write something down on paper it’s very difficult to do much editing whereas with a computer (or even a phone or tablet) editing is essentially a piece of cake. Hence, the problem I have with physically writing anything down is my belief that if it’s anything useful, I’m going to want to save it electronically so I can both edit and post it (if it’s worthy and, frankly, maybe even if it isn’t). That will require a duplication of effort my experience in knowledge management makes it very difficult for me to contemplate. Yet, I will try and find those circumstances where writing something on paper makes sense. So far I’ve put about a hundred words in to my Moleskine.
How about you? Do you take notes? Do you ever write anything down except the occasional phone number when you’re hurriedly listening to your voicemail?
Siri may be far from perfect, but she is proving to be a boon for me. To be fair, my last phone was an Android (an LG Optimus, actually) and it not only was capable of voice recognition, it also had Swype.
Why this matters to me has to do with the onset of a common malady it turns out ran in my family and is now affecting me quite a bit. I’m talking about essential tremor, which can manifest in several ways; for me it’s in my hands, which sometimes shake rather uncontrollably. This can make it both uncomfortable and time consuming when typing a reasonably lengthy message on a small, smartphone keyboard. Eating with a fork or spoon can be pretty interesting as well.
I used Swype quite a bit on my LG, but the shaking still made it a bit difficult to spell correctly . . . or even choose the correct word when I was presented with choices. The reason I got rid of the Optimus, however, has to do with it having far less memory than I wanted in order for the phone to be truly useful. That is, as a smartphone . . . far more than just a mere telephone.
Even with a mere 16Gb, my new iPhone 4S allows me to have all the apps I need to stay current with my social media friends and platforms. It also allows me to take lots of pics and even use some photo editing apps to mess with them if I like.
So, I find myself using Siri more and more to save time. I still have to make frequent corrections, but I’m learning to speak a little more deliberately as well. I fully expect the technology to continue developing, hopefully to the point where she will even recognize vocal inflection and add exclamation points and question marks when warranted.
Thank you, Siri. Thank you voice recognition developers. You have made my life a lot easier.
I keep discovering new ways that Facebook has changed my life. I began noticing that every time the birthday of one of my FB friends would show up in the top right corner of the page, I would take a moment to click on the person’s name and send them a greeting on their wall. At first I would note how Facebook was slowly eroding the old saw about men never remembering birthdays. Obviously, it wasn’t me who was doing the remembering but, nevertheless, I was aware of the existence of the birthday and was able to extend my wishes for an enjoyable one.
Frankly, I had always felt a little guilty about not remembering birthdays because I kind of enjoy experiencing mine. However, in all honesty the guilt wasn’t quite strong enough for me to always remember when birthdays occurred. I had made some valiant attempts, through entering the dates for most of my family in my Outlook calendar, which I transported from computer to computer over the years . . . sometimes ending up with multiple listings such that I began to tune the whole business out. Additionally, there were recurring periods where I just wasn’t very good at checking my calendar.
This has been an ongoing struggle, but it’s only been 64 years (a week from this Saturday, but I’m not fishing), so perhaps there’s hope for me yet. When I was in the corporate world, it was always one of the things I put down on the mandatory list of items I needed to work on – “improve my use of personal organizational tools to increase efficiency and effectiveness”.
Now I’ve got Facebook, which keeps improving my ability to track things I otherwise never paid much attention to. Of course, birthdays don’t exactly make all that big a difference in my professional life, so there are numerous other tools I’ve come to use. However, the concept of gathering information from my contacts, associates, friends, family, etc. such that I can keep continuously better track of the things that matter to me most, is an awesome thing. Facebook, despite whatever shortcomings we may all ascribe to it, has played somewhat of a major role in this continuous development. For that I’m thankful.
BTW – I was reminded of this cultural shift by Euan Semple, a wonderful blogger and someone I’m happy to say is a Facebook friend of mine. Euan’s birthday is today and he posted the following on his wall: “I turned off posting to my wall because of the amount of hacking Facebook was suffering but doing so just before my birthday and preventing people sending birthday wishes was a bit dumb!” I guess that about explains it for me. I am getting no small amount of joy from being able to send birthday wishes to my friends; all because of Facebook. I like to think, in some small way these acts are bringing us closer together. Has Facebook changed the way you interact with your friends, etc.?
There are lots of things I love about being a father of young children. One of them just happened in our living room while I was cleaning the kitchen. Our oldest is away with Mom at a Girl Scout activity and the youngest daughter of one of the other families is here playing with our youngest.
I just listened to her (the friends’ daughter) start to sing Frosty the Snowman which, mid-way, transformed into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and somehow ended in an amalgamated medley of the two. Listening to this incredible editing job, which I’m sure was invented on-the-fly, was priceless. I will miss this age as I miss others that have passed. Thankfully my memory isn’t what it used to be, so the loss isn’t melancholy for long. Still . . .
I came across this while looking for information on the treatment of left-handers during medieval times. This isn’t from the page I found, which seems to be quite old and simplistically designed, but I thought the sentiment quite useful to memorialize.
Consider this a very public bookmarking; done so you might judge for yourself if the sentiment is worthy of a moment of your time . . . retrospectively, I realize but, well, what can I say? So sue me.
“Lord — Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am
growing older and will someday be old.
Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on
every subject on every occasion.
Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs.
Make me thoughtful but not moody… helpful but not bossy.
With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all.
But Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details.
Give me wings to get to the point.
Seal my lips on my aches and pains…
They are increasing… and love of rehearsing them is
becoming gets sweeter as the time goes by.
I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others pains…
but help me endure them with patience.
I dare not ask for improved memory,
but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness
when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me reasonable sweet.
I do not want to be a saint…
some of them are so hard to live with…
But a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.
Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places
and talent in unexpected people.
And give me O Lord, the Grace to tell them so.”
One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about Facebook, not including the brouhaha over privacy we’re all acutely aware of – at least most of us are – is how it’s slowly changing my relationship to things I didn’t really used to have a relationship with. I am talking about the manly art of remembering birthdays.
Yesterday, I found myself on Facebook and noticed it was a friend’s birthday. Normally, I don’t pay a great deal of attention to birthdays. Like most men (I think) they come and go and we don’t spend a great deal of time at a Hallmark store poring over dozens of cards, looking for the perfect one to give our friends, etc. As far as I can tell, based on the yearly stories surrounding no less a card-remembering day than Valentines, men are notorious for waiting until the last minute to get something for their girlfriend, wife, etc. – if they get anything at all.
I’m not here to argue whether or not this is a good thing. I suspect my wife will be happier if I remember special occasions each year, though this year we both spaced our anniversary : ). I question whether or not it means anything to my male friends, though I suspect it does to some extent. I think everyone likes to be remembered or to know they’ve been thought of by loved ones and even acquaintances.
So, social media continues to fascinate me. Today I’m off to Boston to attend my first ever Enterprise 2.0 Conference. My goal is to learn what I can but, more importantly, it’s to cement some relationships I’ve been conducting virtually for – in some cases – several years. This is also the first conference I will ever have attended that wasn’t under the auspices of the company I worked for during the last two decades. It’s kind of nice to be doing it on my own dime. Somehow, it seems even more valuable.
Since my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in 2010, I have spent quite a bit of energy on developing work as a social media marketer for small business, a business manager for an AI software development firm, and as an editor/proofreader for a number of business books and a couple of novels, as well as a two-year return engagement at Rocketdyne from 2015 to 2017.
I have decided to stop actively pursuing business in these fields and am now positioning myself to be a writer. I have done quite a bit of writing over the years, but I’ve never really attempted to make any money at it; at least not specifically. I’m starting out with a couple of memoirs and, currently, I’m studying the craft, creating a detailed outline and timeline, and honing my skills as a storyteller. Pretty sure I’ll be writing some fiction as well.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.