Thursday, March 26, 2009


If you haven't heard of it, let me recommend a great book that took me by surprise: BETTER OFF: FLIPPING THE SWITCH ON TECHNOLOGY by Eric Brende.I won't give you all the details because, well, read it yourself :). I can tell you that this book is about a graduate student who decides to try an 'experiment' of sorts. He moves into a house he rents from the Amish. He decides to live without electricity or modern technology like a telephone or television.
The point of his journey is to find out how much technology is too much and how much is too little.I've done a lot of contemplating and I happened across this book at such an interesting time in my life. It is amazing how so many of the questions I've been asking myself are situationally depicted in this book.I grew up in a very conservative religious family "in the woods". My husband refers to my upbringing as a cross between "Little House on the Prairie" and "Amish - light". It is true. We had electricity and a telephone in the house. And no, we didn't have dirt floors. But we lived a truly simple life. A life that taught us not to bury our roots in the world.
I was thinking about how the world went and got itself in a big damn hurry. There is so much 'convenience' now that life is almost on auto-pilot. Got me thinking about the "old days" and exactly how much times have changed. Here's a blast from the past for you.We had an old dial television with UHF (some of you younger than 30 are scratching your heads right now) and you had to use the rabbit ear antenna to get the picture to even half come in. When you finally got a picture, you realized there wasn't anything on there worth watching anyway! And forget about a remote control.. Shock & Awe.. you actually had to GET UP OFF YOUR BUTT and walk to the television set to change the channel or adjust the volume with the dial knob.Our dad had an old stereo unit with a turntable so we could listen to his Jim Reeves vinyl record albums, but it did also have a tape deck. (This is something that really jumped to mind the other day when my eight year old asked if I would buy him an iPod.) When I was a young girl, if we wanted to have a recording of a song we had to go the store and buy a blank tape. Then we'd have to stay up late and pop the tape into the tape deck and wait hours on end for the dj to play the song we wanted to hear. When it finally came on you usually missed the first few bars of the song and when the vocalist started singing the darn dj would talk over half the song. Forget the instant gratification of today where you login, click and instantly get your song on iTunes.There never used to be such a thing as a debit card. You either had cash or you wrote a check. And if you dared use a credit card, they would bust out this archaic heap of metal that looked like it was made to remove your leg or something. The cashier would have to pull out this carbon slip and smoosh your credit card on top of the carbon paper and run this sliding bar across it a million times so it could make an imprint of your credit card. Again, we have arrived at instant gratification: swipe card, push buttons, get your stuff.. goodbye.There never used to be such a thing as paying at the pump. You had to actually get YOUR BUTT OUT OF THE CAR and go in and pay the guy for your gas FIRST and then go back out and wait for them to turn on the pump. Then you'd stand there for what seemed like forever especially on cold days watching the rotary black and white numbers roll round and around in the pump. But not today. Now it's swipe card, push buttons, get your gas.. goodbye.

---Side note on this topic - now at some gas stations you have to give them your drivers license and get a pump start card in order to even pay with cash. Who ever thought we'd see the day where you'd have to 'apply' to buy gas?? Amazing.And ah.. the internet. You know we still have these mysterious places called a LIBRARY, but you'd never know it thanks to the internet. When I was a kid if you had to do a research project or find a certain book you had to GET OFF YOUR BUTT and actually GO TO THE LIBRARY building. Once there, you had to be very quiet and (shock and awe) be courteous toward other people. You'd have to go to the back of the room and in these humongous file cabinet looking thingies you would pull out a drawer to reveal the card catalog. (again, people under 30 scratching their heads now) You had to understand an actual method or system of organization in order to find what you needed. You had to know how to alphabetize and hunt the aisles to find what book you were looking for. Today if you need to do research you probably hop on Google or Wikipedia and BAM, there is your information. Don't worry about whether or not it's accurate or true. It's instant- so who cares, right? You didn't actually have to DO anything to get what you needed. Amazing...... and while I'm on the subject of the internet: I remember the days when you had to GET OFF YOUR BUTT and pick up a pen and piece of paper and WRITE IN COMPLETE SENTENCES if you wanted to send a note or a letter to someone. Then you had to actually GET OFF YOUR BUTT and WALK to the MAILBOX at the end of your street or driveway and WAIT for the mailman to come and get it. Then you'd have to WAIT for it to go through the mail and get to the person you wanted to talk to. But not anymore. Now we have EMAIL. Great. The tool that does the grammar and spelling for you without you even knowing. If you type a word and it is misspelled, it fixes it before you realize exactly how retarded and uneducated you really are. And for those who aren't smart enough to know if their sentence makes any darn sense, they choose the 'grammar check' function and BAM, instantly your sentence makes sense. You can now write (or shall we say TYPE) a letter and not have a single bit of sense in your head and come out sounding like a CEO.I also remember the days when phones never had call waiting. If someone was trying to call you and they got a busy signal, THEY ACTUALLY HAD TO WAIT. And forget caller ID. There was no such thing. (This is also what makes prank calls a thing of the past..) but anyway... I remember times when the phone would ring and I would just PRAY that it wasn't the school principal or somebody worse. We didn't have answering machines or voicemail back then either. You couldn't sit back and wait to see what somebody wanted before deciding whether or not you wanted to 'bother' with actually speaking to them. You had to take your chances and PICK UP THE PHONE AND ANSWER IT.Cable tv and DVR and satellite tv.. forget it. It practically didn't exist. If you ever knew someone with satellite tv, they were probably rich and they also had this enormous thing in their backyard as big as the St. Louis ARCH called a satellite dish. It looked like something from a science-fiction movie. (See the paragraph way up above about the old dial televisions.) And if you wanted to know what was going to be on TV you had to GET UP OFF YOUR BUTT AND GO TO THE STORE AND BUY A BOOK CALLED A TV GUIDE. Side note... they NEVER used to have the kind of filth you see on tv today. Right down to the commercials. You wouldn't see a woman in her underwear on tv back then. I'm not a total prude, I'm just saying.Washers and dryers the size of a Cadillac. You know, even the lady with 18 kids survived without a front loading washer and dryer (that would fit all her dang kids IN it). That woman does at least 12 loads of laundry a day and up until a year or two ago she did her laundry like most of us have always done. Little by little and slowly but surely. Bigger does NOT = Better.Anyway, as technology evolves we become a slave to it. We allow ourselves to rely on computers and appliances and fancy gadgets and machinery which is no more convenient than when we did things without it. We no longer have to put thought into anything it seems and we don't have to contemplate, wait, or do much for ourselves. We have become lazy and so have our kids. At least our parents had sense enough to teach us how to do for ourselves. We can shop online, pay bills online, work online and for Christ's sake we can even get a college degree online. We get mad at our computer when it doesn't go fast enough.. HELLO PEOPLE IT'S GOING TO OUTER SPACE. GIVE IT A MINUTE. We have so many buttons and do-hickeys on our cell phones you have to work at NASA to understand them all.Here is where my blog takes a turn.. kids these days..... sigh. Now that I have kids of my own I can't believe how things have changed. I'm going to rant about the non-technology related things for just a second. What peeves me beyond belief is that I can no longer bake cupcakes for my kid's birthday at school. I have to buy commercially prepared, individually packaged "healthy" snacks which are then served with PLASTIC GLOVES. Now come on, I know some people are gross and if we saw inside their houses we wouldn't WANT to eat anything they made. However, when did we start birthing kids in bubbles? As kids, we all played in the dirt, ate stuff we dropped on the ground and ... shock and awe... SHARED food and drinks. We all survived too. And none of us got fat because we were all LOCKED OUTSIDE ALL SUMMER and told to go PLAY. Playing did not consist of sitting in front of the television set nor did it involve playstations, x-boxes or gameboys. It meant climbing a tree, playing tag, hide and go seek or riding your bike. When you got hot, you found a shade tree or hid in the garage for a few minutes to catch the breeze. You didn't get called in till supper. And you actually had to WASH your hands because there was no such thing as germ-x.--Oh and back then there was no urgent care. And unless your eyeball was hanging out, you didn't DARE enter the house while bleeding. Here's a little anecdote for you. My cousins (who loved to torture me) knocked me out of the tree one day. I bonked my head on the way down and was bleeding a little. It wasn't like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or anything but there was some red stuff. Anyway, they went racing into the house to tell my Grandma I was bleeding while I staggered through the front yard half conscious. She slid the kitchen window open and hollered to me "pinch it together and wash it with the hose". Yep. Somehow, magically, the cold hose water was supposed to make me stop bleeding from the head. You didn't go to the hospital unless a limb was protruding from your body - LITERALLY.So still on the topic of kids. What I don't get is how the public school system so closely mimics the prison system. The kids go to school and are LOCKED IN. This blows me away. Parents can't even visit the school without standing before a security camera and buzzing to get into the darn building. What the heck? Then, the kids are fed some of the most horrible food known to exist. Looks and smells like toxic waste. Their reading materials and learning activities are restricted to only those things 'approved' by certain folks in the school system. While I understand that this does in fact 'protect' a lot of children, it sounds an awful lot like prison, doesn't it? They can't even have windows in the classroom anymore because it creates 'distraction' for the kids. That's because they all have ADD, ya know. (sarcasm)And ah.. we've arrived at that point. Kids have become retarded and it's all our fault. We did it. We made them this way. It's that "MTV-cell phone-microwave-oven generation" as I like to call them. Have you ever tried to read the text message or instant message conversation of a teenager these days? It's like they have their own language now. Ppl = people? ttyl = talk to you later? I mean what gives? No wonder they can't write complete sentences. THEY DON'T KNOW HOW. Please somebody tell me what a 15 year old needs a cell phone for? At that age all kids do is sit and listen to each other breathe. There is nothing SO exciting that it can't wait until the bus ride to school tomorrow. Personal computers and even laptops for kids? Why? What possible use could a young kid have for a laptop computer? Are they watching the stock market? Creating a resume? I don't get it.Let me leave you with this story. This story is about my sister, who we'll call Lucy. Lucy is 20 years old. Keep that in mind while reading the rest. She went to the local pharmacy and her car battery died. She called and asked if I could come give her a jump. I said sure and asked her to get the jumper cables out of her trunk.

She tells me that she can't get the jumper cables out of her trunk because her "remote thingy on the keychain won't work since the battery died".
I asked Lucy, "See that little round circular looking key on your keychain?"...
"Yes", said Lucy.
"Go to the trunk and tell me if you see a lock."
"Yes, I think I've found a lock", Lucy replied.
"Insert that little round circular looking key into that lock.", I instructed.
And would you believe that funny looking key that had been on her key ring for FOUR YEARS actually managed to open the trunk?And that folks, is exactly what I'm talking about.