Tag Archives: technology

you know more than you think you do (and don’t let those kids tell you otherwise)

24 Jun

FC Note

Most of them probably know better than to say it out loud, but I’m quite certain all of our kids collectively think we are idiots. I may not know how to start, stop, or pause a movie using Playstation controllers (I mean, those things don’t make any sense at all, I don’t even feel bad) So when my 9-year-old patiently holds out his hand for me to hand him whatever it is that doesn’t seem to be working, I have to audibly remind myself, and him, that I really do know quite a lot of stuff.  I’m guessing you do too, my fellow adult. And you know what? A good chunk of the stuff we know, is stuff those kids will never know. I almost feel sorry for them.

I was chatting about this at a graduation party with some savvy, know-a-lot, grown-up-lady friends. As required by the unwritten rules of attending a graduation party, we were lamenting the passage of time, and wondering what happened to those sweet little babies who used to think we were amazing. How can it be nearing the time for us to release them into the world?

I mean, they don’t even know how to properly put on pantyhose.

It’s a lost art. An art, we agreed, that might just disappear when we do. We know to scrunch the pantyhose down, and point our toes, after making sure there is not a jagged finger or toe nail in a five-mile radius. We expertly substitute the word “nylons” whenever we feel like it. I bet those kids don’t even know they can stop a run with clear nail polish.

You know what? If our lives depended on us neatly folding a note with a convenient pull-tab, to pass to a co-worker after the staff meeting, we could do it. I could do it in about 5 seconds, and have written your name and drawn stars all over it, and passed it to you without anybody else noticing.

We can tape a song from the radio onto a cassette. We may get a little bit of the DJ talking over the beginning of the song, but we could do it. Oh you don’t have a cassette player? Allow me to burn you a mix CD.

We can roller skate…backwards… on 8 wheels. If my knees weren’t bad, I would totally show you.

We can use a card catalog. And a Spiegel’s catalog. We could order blazers right now – in crimson AND navy – without ever having to get on a computer.

We can use an encyclopedia and a telephone book and a payphone and a Thomas Guide, and a microfiche machine. I think I have as many microfiche hours under my belt as I do parenting hours.

We know how to use an answering machine, a Walkman, a Discman, a floppy disc, and a fax machine. Granted, fax machines are the worst, but I can fax the heck out of an invoice or an insurance form.

We can fold maps, and we…can…fold…NEWSPAPERS.

FC Newspaper

Here’s my oldest kiddo, actively not knowing how to fold a newspaper.

We know how to make phone calls, and receive phone calls without being weird about it.

We know how to take care of a perm.

We know how to put a roll of film in to, and take it out of, a camera.

We knew how to find whoever was giving us a ride home from school/a concert/a movie with no phone to coordinate. It was practically like Outward Bound, or that show with Bear Grylls where you have to eat like, a pinecone in the wilderness, and look to the stars for guidance. It was almost exactly like that.

We know to program a VCR, and in a twist of fate, we know how to teach a mom how to program a VCR.

And though it’s not a skill, I’m grateful to have known the joy of a Jell-O pudding pop, how gross coffee used to be, and the satisfaction of reaching the end of a perfectly typed line on a typewriter.

And so, to the kids who think we’re idiots: don’t get too comfortable. The stuff you know today is cool, and great, and I would never wish irrelevancy on your burgeoning skills. But your day will come. And by “your day” I mean our day…the day you say, “I need to put on pantyhose/fax this form…..where’s my mom?”

further thoughts on robots

7 Feb

Image

Other than the self-diagnosed situational agoraphobia, I think I would do ok in space.

Not a spaceship as much as a space colony, after they’ve had a chance to work out the kinks. If it’s a space colony, I suppose we’re thinking about the future. And not a dystopian Hunger Games future where we’d all have to work together to snare rabbits for survival and overthrow an oppressive and evil government with nothing but our wits and a map. I was thinking more of a Jetsons set-up — pellet food, space mall, low-profile furniture – pretty much anywhere there’s a robot lady who can help me navigate the day.

“Do you have Siri?” I ask anyone with a new phone, hopeful I can have a chat with the intriguing electronic personal assistant.

“Naaaah,” some say.

Or “I do, but I don’t use it,” which is worse.

How are you not using it? Have you SEEN those commercials?

Many mornings I wake and grab my non-Siri phone and talk into it without lifting my head from my pillow.

“What’s my day look like?” I say to the phone.

“Pre-tty cra-ppy…you have ele-ven mee-tings,” I say back to myself in my best robot voice.

John laughed the first few times.

Today, I had a few minutes with Siri’s electronic sister when I called the bank. Because I had forgotten my password, we got to spend  a few minutes chatting. She’d ask me something, and I would slowly reply. She’d tell that was wrong, and to try again.

When she mis-heard me and I had to repeat myself, she said “Sor-ry, my fault,” and I felt bad. I wanted to tell her that it was indeed my fault because I mumbled, but that’s too many words and I didn’t want to blow her robot lady mind, and be forced to start over.

I know technically, it’s more accurate and PC (ba-dum-dum) to say “computer lady,” but my imagination always puts a robot with the disembodied voice. Keep in mind, I still do not understand the technology that makes a fax machine work.

Just like when Morgan Freeman is the spokesperson for anything, I find I accept what the robot lady says without question. Not every robot lady, but most. Our GPS offered us two voice options when we set it up. The first was a little too breathy and adult. I felt uncomfortable having her talk in front of the children. So we went with the English accent. Sure, she gets annoyed when I miss a turn, but with an implied sage wisdom, she redirects me just like Mary Poppins would, and we are on our way.

The reigning queen of the robot ladies though, is the one who’s in charge of the airport.

If one were actually flying to space, there is no way that it could feel as much like going to space, as Terminal 2 of San Francisco International Airport. The robot lady tells you which shuttle to board, reminds you to hold on, carefully disembark, and not to forget your belongings.

I think she’s the one who talked me into the tofu and shitake spring roll (basically a tofu-packed space food pellet), with a coconut water. I found myself sitting in an egg shaped chair at an egg shaped table, eating it out of a plastic box, when there was a perfectly good cheeseburger available 7 feet away.

Female robots have been an integral part of our cultural landscape for decades. Kudos to my personal favorites, Rosie the Robot (so full of sass!) and  The Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers (full disclosure, she was like, half robot). I was a proud owner of the Bionic Woman doll, with the roll up arm skin and removable face that revealed her circuitry. Don’t even get me started on what would happen if Barbie and Jaime were to get in a street fight. But sadly, more often than not, female robots are depicted negatively – from the Stepford Wives (spoiler alert!) to the Fembots, whose you-know-whats double as machine guns.

We’re looking to you Siri, to turn this around, and when I finally get you, maybe you also can remind me to hold on, grab my suitcase, get to my meeting, and hydrate.

How I’m ok with the robot lady when mannequins give me the uber creeps, I shall never know.

*The photo above is another favorite robot, R2-D2. Is a Droid a robot? Am I going to hear from all the Star Wars fanatics that an R2 unit is NOT a robot? He IS s guarding the LEGO White House, so relax, he’s a hero. I have plenty of Transformers, and Star Wars guys in my house of boys, but no lady robots, so R2 will have to do as my visual aid.