Posted in Wit's End

3 Reasons Why We Like 3 Reasons

We might be able to trace the origin back to the 10 Commandments, but listicles (not to be confused with any anatomical parts) have exploded in popularity. If you’re a Facebook user, blog reader (which I hope you are, since you’re here), or newsletter receiver, you are well aware of this. We like things enumerated. We like bold letters separating concepts. We like plenty of white space. Continue reading “3 Reasons Why We Like 3 Reasons”

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Posted in Frabjous Friday

Meet Mr. Google

I love reference librarians. From the time I was a kid, I would go up to the reference desk of my local library, ask a question…and get an answer. How awesome is that? Sometimes the answer was, “Let’s go see if it’s in such-and-such book,” but there was always the thirst for knowledge and the desire to help.

As a teacher, I tried to communicate to my students that being smart didn’t necessarily mean you had all the answers, but that you knew how to find them.

And then along came Google.

Google is like a reference librarian on giNORmous steroids.

If you know me, you know that I might have a teensy issue with whipping out my smartphone and Googling something that I am wondering about. I get taken to task for it…until someone else wants to know the answer to something. Then Mr. Google is cool.

And what if there really was a Mr. Google?

It might look something like this:

Poor guy. So many crazy searches to deal with.

And what exactly happens to all that “stuff” floating out there? What if Mr. Google was really…Big Brother? …watching you?

Maybe you should Google that.

[Email subscribers: please remember you will have to click through to my blog to view the clip.]

Posted in Life As I Know It

I Keep Forgetting I Don’t Pay Attention

The world in a nutshell
The world in a nutshell

I can rarely hold a thought these days, and I blame Al Gore. (Okay, not really, because he never really said he invented the Internet, people.) But between the pervasiveness of easily attainable information and the ability to communicate a million different ways, I have lost my mind.

The title of this post comes out of the mouth of my son. We were traveling down a street we drive on nearly every day, and he looked up from the book he was reading and wondered where we were. When I answered him with a little bit of frustrated disbelief in my tone, he answered, “Ohh…that’s right. I keep forgetting I don’t pay attention.” And it dawned on me how perfect a statement this was not only for him, but for me, too.

Not only am I pulled and tugged in numerous ways in my world, but I let technology grab on, too, and I find myself distracted throughout the day.

I know my brain has taken a hit in the retention category because when I attempt to read, research, and learn, there is a subconscious knowledge that I will be able to find it again. This is both terrific and horrible. Apparently, my little mind knows that so much is stored “off-site” that she doesn’t really have to rise to the occasion and commit to storing the info. My mind can be a little bitch sometimes. She’s smart enough to know she can be dense.

I remember how when I was a kid, if I wanted to learn about the Roman Empire, for instance, I would start with the World Book Encyclopedia we had in our house, and if I needed to know more, I would go to the library. I would read…focus…and repeat, if needed. Today, I would Google the Roman Empire, my eyes would dart and scan over several different sites, and…and. And little would stick for long.

But the old me is battling. I’m currently reading a book that is thick with great things to ponder and remember. Sitting next to me one day, my son asked me, “What are you doing? Why are you writing in that book?” and I had the pleasure—but also challenge—of helping him to understand why a person would mark up a book and make notes in it. “It helps me digest it and refer back to it more easily, Honey. It helps me to learn it.”

Sadly, though, it’s taking me a long time to get through the book because my little mind knows I mean business when I open it up, so I often find myself too tired (or whatever) to sit down and focus. That little mind of mine is sneaky.

I find that this way of thinking (or not thinking) has gone beyond affecting how I read or research, though. It affects how I listen, too. And that is unforgivable.

I need to pay better attention. The distractions that surround me are exactly that: distractions. They are diversions from something else, and too often that something else should have my full attention. And it’s hard enough to give full attention in a world where one thought leads to another and before I know it, my remembering that I need to buy milk has resulted in my thinking about how I need to get the oil changed and sign up to chaperone my son’s field trip and send three work emails and is that a squirrel in the tree?…

And here’s the final kicker to this line of thinking…I wanted to include a quote that I’ve loved for years: We are drowning in information, but starved for knowledge (John Naisbitt), and I vaguely remembered that I might have used the quote before. Turns out I wrote an entire other post at the beginning of the year on this same struggle of mine. I can’t even remember my own writing! (Sorry for the rerun topic, but since I didn’t remember my own writing, I’m going to trust that this doesn’t feel like a repeat to you, either…but still. Yeesh.)

Paying better attention is indeed an uphill battle, but I’m not raising the white flag quite yet. Are you with me? Oh, wait…someone just texted me. Can you hold that thought for a sec? I’ll be right back with you in a blink…

PS–This post was written while I had two 10yo boys playing/fighting/laughing/swordfighting/wrestling in the next room. Can you tell?

Posted in Bits & Pieces

Techno Interruptus

mobile-technologyI’ve started to write this post about 37 times now. I keep getting interrupted for various reasons…my friends and I refer to it as the “Something Shiny Syndrome” —something shiny passes by, and off I go. Too often it is of the technological variety. Text…email…a thought that sends me Googling to find something out…

It is true: I suffer from Techno Interruptus. And you know what? I have a LOT of company.

Sometimes it just borders on the ridiculous. Like many years ago, when one of my nieces was getting confirmed at her church. My sister, who needed to sit along with her at the front of the church, handed me her purse. “Here—hold this.” Simple enough words, but I had no idea the embarrassment I was in for. Right in the middle of the (very quiet) service, my sister’s phone rang some obnoxious ringtone. I quickly dug it out of her purse to silence it, but it didn’t respond to any of the methods I knew to stop it. All eyes were on me to shut that damn thing up. Eventually, something I did succeeded. The church breathed a collective sigh, and my trauma was over, right? Nope.

You see, they called back.

At that point, I simply got up, walked down the aisle while ringing all the way, found a cabinet in the lobby and shoved my sister’s entire purse into it and shut the door. I gathered my dignity and walked with head held high back to my seat. In silent prayer, I asked God if it was a greater sin to choke my sister IN church, or wait until we were no longer on “official” turf. She, of course, thought it was hySTERical.

I bet lots of us have been in meetings where there’s at least one person who thinks it is totally fine to let all of his audible notifications go off throughout the entire meeting. I mean, the phone isn’t ringing, right? So what’s a little chirp here or there? Sometimes I wonder if they just like people to hear how “phone popular” they are…because why else would that be okay? And the simple answer to silence phones doesn’t always do the trick, either. I have a coworker whose vibration setting makes a sound loud enough that you might as well have it as a choice for an audible sound. And I love when he leaves it on the table and he gets a call…We all just stare at it with our heads cocked like it’s some sort of scientific wonder. (In many meetings it is a welcomed diversion, I must admit.)

Beyond those obvious stories of cell phones causing distractions, there is a subtler form of Techno Interruptus (TI), though. Like when I have texted someone a question that I would like to have the answer to, and then I get into a face-to-face conversation with someone else. The text notification goes off, and…there are times I am guilty of wanting to know the answer right then. In my mind, I’ll be distracted from listening to the person who is right in front of me and think “remember to get that as soon as you can.” But even if I don’t, there is that moment when the other person I’m talking to hears the sound and must wonder “is she going to answer that or not?” I know when it happens to me, I typically defer to the person’s phone. I’ll say, “Go ahead and get that if you need to…” and then…I wait.

And that is kind of a lame feeling. And it’s really lame when the other person chooses to answer the text and then goes back and forth for a bit and finally tells you, “Oh, it was something stupid…” and then they tell you what the “stupid” was (which was indeed stupid), but now not only have you been interrupted for something stupid, but then they’ve taken more time to summarize the stupidity for you…And by the time it’s all done, whatever you were saying that got interrupted has packed its bags and headed for the beach.

It is a struggle to not let technological accessibility become the updated tyranny of the urgent. Accessibility can be awesome…but also detrimental. I love being connected. As someone who works a flex schedule, it is a necessity for me. But that doesn’t mean that because I can be interrupted, I should be interrupted. TI is bad for connecting with the people for whom you should be present in the moment. The easy, obvious answer? Simply power down.

Power what?! Yeah, I know. But disconnecting guarantees that no notification will cause a distraction. And, since I am not a brain surgeon, I’m pretty sure that any work fallout will not cause anyone any bodily harm.

Oh, mother of pearl. I just lost my train of thought because I got an incoming text. And it’s not coming back to me, either. Well, I guess whatever absolutely wonderful sentence or two that I was going to close this post with has now evaporated. Ironic, huh? Yeah, I thought so, too.

Posted in Life As I Know It

I Have a Google Goggles Headache

information2“We are drowning in information, but starved for knowledge” was written by John Naisbitt…in 1982…and I can’t find a more apt commentary about the status of my own overwhelmed brain. 16 years after that statement was made, Google was founded, and since then, countless other technologies exist that enable us to access information like never before.

But my brain hurts. It feels like when Tom from Tom and Jerry gets shot at and then takes a drink of water. As he drinks it down, it just goes right out all the holes he now has. My head is kind of like an old colander these days—I can hold the water of information for a little bit before it just seeps right through.

Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a Google Girl. Ask anyone who knows me well, and they’ll roll their eyes and comment on how I whip out my Droid like a six-shooter and dial up information faster than a speeding bullet. It’s awesome…”Who starred in My Favorite Martian”? Done. “What is the lifespan of a dragonfly?” You got it. “What’s the record number of points scored in a football game?” Dude, I’m all over it.

But I have come to recognize that while a ginormous amount of information is at my fingertips, my retention of it, well…totally blows…as in blows through one ear, takes a brief stop at my addled brain, and then goes right out the other ear.

And it’s not just Google or other search engines. It’s all the opportunities we have to store information that we know we can access later…but will we? And if we do, will we truly digest it, remember it, and learn from it? Like Naisbitt states, we aren’t necessarily using it for the growth of knowledge. Today you can Evernote it, Pin it, Facebook it, Drop Box it, stick it in an email folder, on your phone—you name it. Entire companies are exploding with ways for us to store, store, store. My head is truly in The Cloud.

And the sad reality is that what is stored in my brain is ridiculous stuff that entered in years ago when it had a fighting chance to hang around. Oh, if only I could make room for data that actually matters by hitting the delete key on all of the Brady Bunch tidbits stuck inside my brain. And I don’t have to look far—these little bits of useless minutiae bubble up with no problem.

The name of the kid they brought in when Cindy and Bobby were getting too old to be “cute” anymore? Cousin Oliver. Who played Aunt Jenny, Jan’s lookalike? Imogene Coca. What was the name of Alice’s identical cousin (a popular yet disturbing TV phenomenon)? Emma. What world record do Bobby and Cindy try to break to garner some attention? Teeter-tottering. You get the idea.

I need to defrag my brain.

And as if all of our ability to catalog and store info wasn’t enough, we have things like YouTube now offering recommendations for videos to watch—because apparently they don’t trust me to waste enough of my time on their site without their stellar suggestions! “Hey, if you like that puppy video, we’re sure you’ll enjoy THIS one…” Uh, thanks, YouTube, but I will figure out what videos I want to distract myself with…oh, wait…that one does look awfully cute…

It must be a conspiracy. Information is out to get me! I am getting pummeled with factoids and folklore. What to do?! Where can all this information overload possibly lead?!

Guess I’ll Google it to find out.