|February 14, 2012||Happy Presidents' Day||2 comments|
|February 13, 2012||Teaching Tech to a (Baby) Boomer||1 comments|
|January 20, 2012||Pinheads||no comments|
|January 13, 2012||No Pants, No Shoes, No Problem!||no comments|
|December 29, 2011||New Year's Resolutions - The Gym||no comments|
|December 22, 2011||Christmas Potluck||4 comments|
I'm no technological prodigy, but I do know enough to be dangerous. This has always been a problem for me in that I end up becoming the de facto help desk to everyone I know from people at work to my grandmother's neighbor (God bless my grandma who thinks I really CAN do anything). But my biggest consumer of technological knowledge is my mother.
When I began this blog, I had an agreement with my family that I would never blog about them specifically, I'd never mention them by name, and I'd never poke fun at them. After spending a couple of hours with my Mom peeking over my shoulder while I updated her printer drivers, she gave me special dispensation to write this. At least Mom has a sense of humor about it!
One thing you first have to understand is that Mom puts every other type A personality I've ever met to shame. Why do something now when it could have been done five minutes ago? Nothing ever goes broken in my parents' house for long and projects, chores, and everything else has to be done or written down the very minute Mom thinks of it. Admirable quality, really, especially since I could be classified as the exact opposite-- a person who can totally ignore chores and ends up racing the trash to the curb in my pajamas at 6 in the morning before the garbage truck makes the turn in the cul du sac .
All this is to say that when something goes wrong that Mom can't immediately fix, it is usually something technology related and she usually has to call her ultra laid back (not to be confused with lazy) daughter to fix it.
One of my first memories of acting as "Help Desk Meg" was back in the fall of '96. I was at Georgia on a sunny Saturday and my pager started buzzing it's fool head off. It was a 911 page from my parents. In a panic, I grab the phone and start dialing while scanning the room to get a visual on my keys because someone is obviously in the hospital or dead.
"You have to come home, Meg."
"What's wrong Mom?"
"The TV is broken and Dad can't watch football!"
(Yep, even transplanted Yankees get the SEC football bug.)
Relieved and just slightly annoyed, I toss the keys on the desk. "What happened?"
"Well, the batteries died in the remote. . . " Everything after that sounded like the teacher from the Peanuts.
I sat down on the bed as graceful as a dropped sack of potatoes and began walking Mom through the process of reprogramming the remote. These days, universal remotes “keep” the codes for each individual entertainment center components, but in those days, most every time you changed the batteries in the remote, you had to reprogram it.
“Why do I have to do this, Meg? Why doesn’t the remote just work for everything?”
So I begin to explain that the remote speaks lots of languages but has to be told what language each component speaks because the components only speak one language. THAT went over well (not).
Over the years, I’ve written post-its, crib-sheets, notebooks, and all manner of "mini-manuals" to facilitate the use of items like the clock on the intercom, the DVD player, the stereo, the printer, the proper way to shut down the computer, how to cut & paste. Oh and they aren't written for Mom they're written for ME because it is easier to refer Mom to the sheet that says "How To Watch a DVD" than to drop everything and run over there because everything on TV is a rerun and there's an armful of new $5 DVDs from Target.
I always know to expect a call every time we “Spring Forward” or “Fall Back”. I’m known as something of a “Clock whisperer” in the family as it seems I am the only one who can change the time on my Dad’s favorite watch, or the intercom. Luckily, VCRs have been replaced by DVDs and cable boxes with keep their own time (literally).
I’ve learned to ask Mom to define things because I learned (the hard way, of course) that my (and the universally accepted) definition of a technological term and Mom’s definition don’t always jive. A couple of weeks ago, I was asked how to “copy” something “to the printer”. To be fair, Mom has a printer/scanner/copier, so “copy” in itself wasn’t puzzling--but the “to the printer” part was. I began to explain and demonstrate that she need only place the paper face down on the glass and press the copy button...but was interrupted by the question “But what if I don’t have the paper?” When I asked why she wouldn’t have the paper she wants to copy, Mom replied “Because it is still in the computer,” in a tone that was code for “duh, Meghan”.
“Mom, define copy.”
This was followed by a vocabulary lesson on copy/print/scan (copy is printer only, print is computer to printer, and scan is printer to computer). Sadly, I didn’t think to put all this down on paper in a Venn Diagram so I have no doubt that the same conversation will occur next week in a curious game of déjà vu.
God bless Mom, though. She really wants to learn this stuff. Which can be interesting because, really, not everything has to be learned. For example, think back to the event that precipitated this blog entry. Updating printer drivers. Now that is not something Mom necessarily needs to learn how to do. I'd prefer not to waste my capacity to teach on something that is so infrequently needed, and would rather spend my instructional capital on something more worthy, like how to permanently delete the deleted files in the email program or all the fun, time-saving tricks that are hidden in the mysterious world that is known as the "left click", or conduct "drag & drop" drills. Nevertheless, here I was with Mom looking anxiously over my shoulder while I downloaded and installed printer drivers when behind me I hear "Why is it asking about a Gateway? My computer is a Toshiba."
Somehow, Dad seems to dodge every single one of these questions. . . some of which I'm certain he could answer. I can only assume he finds us so entertaining, he just does not want to interfere.
Because I was uncomfortable to publish this without Mom giving her stamp of approval, I called Mom and read the blog to her before sending it to be published. While Mom gave her blessings, the reading did not go without Mom interrupting to remind me that her scanner still doesn’t work and she “already forgot how to do that drag & drop s***”.
I didn’t have the heart to ask her to define “scanner”.
Before I even get started here, I admit I already know that I’m going to lose readers with this one. My guess is that 95% of the males and 93% of the women over the age of 50 will have absolutely no idea what on earth I am talking about.
So let’s go for it anyway. Let’s talk about that 600 pound gorilla in the room, shall we? No, I’m not talking about internet porn (hey, my Mom reads this). I’m not talking about Farmville. I’m not even talking about facebook.
You guessed it. I’m talking about Pinterest.
Since its closed-beta launch in March, 2010, Pinterest has grown at about the same rate Facebook grew in 2007. Time Magazine’s Harry McCracken named Pinterest one of The 50 Best Websites of 2011, and according to Experian Hitwise, as of week ending 1/14, Pinterest has blown past Google+ and MySpace and is knocking at the door of LinkedIn and earns the distinction of being the #7 Social Media Website in the US.
So what IS Pinterest?
Pinterest, currently in an “invitation only open-beta” phase, is described by most as a virtual bulletin board. I liken it to virtual, graphic, newspaper and magazine clippings...you know, those recipes, fashion ideas, make-up info, new product info, car ads, and cleaning tips that you always dog-ear or cut out of magazines and newspapers because you just know it will come in handy one day. If you’re lucky, they make it into a shoebox or notebook or some other half-hearted organizational tool. More often than not, you find it behind the sofa when you get your carpets cleaned three years later.
Imagine you could keep these random pieces of paper forever virtually, arrange them by category onto boards, see the picture to jog your memory, make notes on them if you tried it and liked it and have them all in the palm of your hand, any time, any where.
Now imagine you could see all the things your friends clip, cut, dog-ear and bookmark and benefit from their ideas and all the things they find.
I’ll wait while you imagine it.
Yup, it is that big.
Pinterest (rhymes with interest), has been described as the shift from "search to discovery" by Semil Shah on techcrunch.com and I’d have to agree. As we as a society move even more toward immediate information and instant gratification, a second becomes a minute and a minute becomes a quarter hour because we literally have a world of information at our fingertips all day, every day. Searching becomes too specific and takes too long.
Discovery, however, is instant. Pinterest feeds this need for discovery by showing pictures (worth a thousand words, you know) and you immediately decide if you want to know more or want to move on. Pinterest also lets you “pin” items, stories (hopefully this blog) from all over the web so you can go back to it at a later date, share it with your friends, or just have a better system of bookmarking what you find on the web. All this is done with pictures so you don’t have to read through the whole article (except this one) or scour through all the ingredients in a recipe to find what you are looking for.
But there is a dark side to Pinterest. Pinterest is the epitome of information overload. I’ve heard more than one friend joke (sort of) that “I’m sure I’ll enjoy those recipes I found on Pinterest, if I could just get off Pinterest long enough to make it!”. Said tongue in cheek, there is a larger-than-grain of truth to that. These “Pinheads” as I affectionately call them, spend hours and hours combing through categorically organized “boards” looking for their next craft, recipe, dress, car, toaster, nail polish, shoe, you name it. I actually heard the words “I should host a ‘Pinterest Party’! All recipes have to come from Pinterest” fall out of my own mouth the other night. I was so ashamed, and I’m not even a pinhead.
Pinterest also fosters an ADD sort of multiple personality disorder amongst users...or just turns everyone into a Gemini. Users have entire boards devoted to reaching weight loss goals with catchy names like “Stop Being Fat” or “My FUTURE IS FIT” with all kinds of Paleo Diet-inspired recipes sayings pinned like “Sweat is FAT CRYING” or “No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch”. Invariably that same user also has a board called something like “Food Porn” with recipes for chocolate chip, oreo and brownie layered bars, beer cupcakes or deep fried chicken alfredo and we’re all left wondering which one will win in the battle of the waistline?
Above all, Pinterest is the ultimate people watching tool. You can really learn a lot about your friends and strangers by what they pin or repin to their boards and what they name those boards. I see things on Pinterest and actually feel sorry for the person who came up with some of these ideas because I know, in my heart of hearts, that person has way too much free time on their hands. Someone had to have thought up cutting a wine bottle with string and nail polish remover. Someone had to think up how to make your own coconut milk from coconuts (Uh, coconut milk is about a buck at the store, people) and someone actually looked at a marble and thought “I wonder what would happen if I baked it”.
Meghan can be found on Pinterest as MegInMarietta. Yes, she is a Gemini. Yes, she has a board called “Food Porn”. Yes, she has a board called “Stop Being Fat”. No, this entire blog was not about her.
Lest anyone think I’ve gone all Scrooge, I love Christmas. I love the Christmas carols and the crèche display at church. I love the lights and decorations (as long as they were put up and taken down by someone else). I really love that even amid the hustle and bustle of the season, people seem to smile more and show more compassion for one another during the Christmas season. Charitable giving always increases at Christmas (no need to burst my bubble—I know end-of-year giving is not always altruistic) and volunteering spikes during December. And really, who doesn’t love A Christmas Story or Charlie Brown Christmas?
I even like Christmas parties. You open your mailbox to find a brightly colored envelope containing a meticulously worded invitation asking if you and a 1 would like to be a friend’s guest for the evening. You pick up the phone to répondez s'il vous plaît, you pick up a cleverly named or highly scoring bottle of wine as a hostess gift, don festive clothing and go have some fun.
Only Christmas parties don’t work like that anymore.
A quick peek at my calendar shows no fewer than six parties (not counting work parties--obligations unto themselves) and it is only the first week of December! But these aren’t parties like the ones I mentioned above. These aren’t parties the way Emily Post would define a party.
No, Christmas, which was once the season of anticipation and excitement and fun, has become the season of obligation.
Every single party was relayed through word of mouth, facebook or an evite. Not a single invitation was sent. Fine, I can deal with that—I am immersed in social media all day (and I’m not known for checking my snail mailbox every day). The problem begins in that each party requires me to provide something. Not a hostess gift. No bottle of wine or fancy evergreen candle or poinsettia I picked up on the way. I’m obligated to provide part of the meal.
Last time I checked, that wasn’t called a party. That was called a potluck.
Even Emily Post calls this “Ultra Casual Party” a potluck. Though this trend is not new, it still annoys me. Sadly, these “Bring a dish/appetizer/side/dessert to share!” parties have become the rule instead of the exception. People have become comfortable with the idea that the only duties required of a party host is to pack the kids off to Grandma’s, sweep the crumbs under the sofa and open the door. Instead of one person making the sacrifice of time to properly host a party, everyone now sacrifices time making food for to take to someone else’s party.
If I have a party, if I host the book club, if I simply invite you to dinner, it is because I want you to be my guest. That means I will plan the menu, pair the wine, and prepare the food. If I expected everyone to do their own thing, I’d suggest we go OUT to eat.
Oh but this gets better. Of those six parties on my calendar (each of which requiring an edible contribution to share), two require “White Elephant” gifts, two others require three (yes, 3!!!) dozen cookies to “swap and share”, and one requires a craft ornament. That doesn’t even count the one with the “tacky sweater” requirement (I don’t do tacky).
This is not fun folks, this is work. With all this white elephant gift-giving, my ebay income is going to plummet--especially since I arrive with semi-useless garbage and bring home completely useless garbage in its place!
But I’ll suck it up, because I love the people throwing these potlucks and love the people who attend them. I’ll make six dozen cookies (to swap, share and enjoy!!!), three batches of broccoli salad and two cheese balls. I’ll craft the heck out of that ornament, and I’ll offload some white elephant junk previously destined for the trash bin. I’ll even slap on a sticker that says “Tacky Sweater” and smile through it all. And it once the work is done, I’ll have a great time being with people I genuinely love and be glad I attended.
But I still miss real parties.