Impact of Technology

Sitting at a computer and writing for my two blogs is part of my weekly life. Not a day goes by when I do not have some time using my laptop. I read the daily paper, interact on social media sites, have conversations through email, and do my planning on this piece of technology. If I am not doing these activities on my computer, I am using my smart phone or my tablet to do them. Besides these forms of technology, I have a smart watch which not only tells me the time but also can receive phone calls, give me notifications from social media and email accounts, keep track of my steps, and remind me when I have been sitting too long (among a list of other capabilities). Add my Amazon Echo in my technology list and you can include listening to music, being reminded of calendar items, setting timers, and getting the weather report among skills at my disposal. My point is that technology permeates every aspect of my life, and I would venture a guess that is true for you as well. After all technology is allowing you to read this blog post.

As strange as it may seem, I can easily recall a time when none of this was a part of my life. I grew up and did not even have a microwave in my house. The technology of my youth included a television, a radio, and a CB radio. I was so excited when during my senior year of high school, I was gifted an Atari. (For those too young to know what any of these items are, talk to someone who is at least 50 years old.) In school, we had one computer for the whole school and was actually not even a computer in the building. The mainframe of the computer was located at the Area Education Association office and through telephone lines there was a workstation that had a keyboard and white/green continuous feeding paper. All the communication was typed and printed out on the paper, no monitors. In less than thirty years, all this has drastically changed.

The question that haunts us is, has this change been for the better?

Spend some time on Google (made possible through technology) and you can find articles stating that technology has improved our lives and you can find articles arguing the opposite. In one article on the six ways technology has made our lives easier, one author states:

From accessing massive amounts of information on the internet to simply experiencing an enriched personal lifestyle, technology continues to benefit us day in, day out. It is undoubtedly true that technology is an important part of our daily lives.

James McArthur, Engadet

He goes on to show how communication has improved, advertising is easier, travel has been enhanced, lost items can be located, learning is easier, and handling data is improved. In the article’s conclusion, the author states that life is more flexible due to technology.

Lou Frenzel wrote an article last July which takes the opposite view of technology. While he acknowledges that initially he had viewed the increase of technology as a positive, some very concerning negative impacts have become clear.

Well, there’s growing evidence that some technology is bad for us. Technology has changed us in numerous ways over the last few years, and many of these changes are not so positive.

Lou Frenzel, Electronic Design

The concerns which he lists in the article are distraction, too much screen time, increased anxiety, obsession, loss in the ability to concentrate, contemplate, and reflect, and skill erosion. He does conclude his article by pointing out all the good aspects of technology.

Clearly, an either/or answer does not fit here. There seems to be more of a both/and response. Technology has made life easier in some ways. A lot of positive changes to life have occurred. Yet, we must use caution as well. Safeguards must be in place so that technology does not destroy the life which it was created to enhance.

How has technology changed in your lifetime? What impact does technology have on you today? Where do you think technology may go in the future? Do you have safeguards in place to mediate the potential issues which technology presents?  

A Trip to the Past

This past weekend was filled with a lot of new experiences. I have decided that Mondays are going to be the days when I share about our travel and new experiences. Since I have already blogged about my love of travel and our ongoing experiences in our new location, you should not be surprised that I want to share these with you. Who knows, maybe you will decide you would like to also go on an adventure and discover some new places we are checking out on the weekends.

Scarborough Renaissance Festival

Saturday we chose to travel about an hour from our home to the Scarborough Renaissance Festival. We first became aware of the event when we attended the Irish Festival in March. There was a booth at the Irish Festival which had information about the Renaisance Festival. My husband and I agreed that this was something we definitely needed to check out. So we left home early afternoon (after having mowed and done some lawn work) and headed to Waxahachie, TX. Waxhachie is located on the southern-most end of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Our trip was eventful the closer  we got to the festival because of road construction. We had the pleasure of exploring a country road which was extremely narrow and was much in need of some maintenance work. When we were within a mile of the festival entrance, traffic ground to a halt. We spent the next fifteen minutes slowly advancing toward our desired destination. Next year we will approach from the north and east versus the south and west as we did this year. (FYI -Sometimes Waze does not know the best route.)

Upon arrival, we found a good parking location in the grassy lots which are provided. The parking attendants do a fairly good job of directing you to the right place. After parking the car, now time to hike to the festival entrance. This festival is well-established and has a permanent location. Permanent buildings at the entrance and throughout the festival grounds have been constructed. We had purchased our tickets online which saved us time because we did not have to stand in the line to buy tickets. After scanning our tickets, we were allowed access to the festival grounds and the wonderful experience of the event.

Neither my husband nor myself had been to this festival. In fact, I had never been to a Renaissance festival or fair at all. Almost at once it became clear that many others had been attenders in the past since they had full costumes which they wore in all their finery. The festival is located on 35 acres. The festival’s website gives this description:

Scarborough Renaissance Festival is interactive fun for everyone, 16th Century Style. Enjoy full combat armored jousts, Birds of Prey exhibitions, the Mermaid Lagoon and Renaissance entertainment on 27 stages. Discover exquisite crafts in 200 village shoppes and marvel at the artisan demonstrations. Partake in Renaissance rides and games of skill and feast on food & drink fit for royalty. For the more discerning tastes there are daily wine and beer tastings as well. Plus, every weekend has a different theme and a variety of special events.

Festival website

We spent four hours walking throughout the festival. We started our journey by listening to a female singing group, Queen Anne’s Lace, on a small stage near the entrance. Then our walk took us past shops and to another stage where a show, Birds of Prey, was taking place. It was truly fascinating watching the fowler and his assistants handle hawks and eagles. The next stop along the path was Terra Mythica Castle, an opportunity to walk through a small structure which told the story of three sisters who had a rough life leading them to an evil side. These women now practice a dark magic within the castle from which they were once cast away. After such a dark experience, we decided to experience laughter and frivolity at the Fortune Stage where Don Juan and Miguel engage in a comedic battle which also highlights some great whipping skills. All this took place in the first ninety minutes of our adventure.

After seeing some shows and hearing some stories, we decided that the time had come to continue discovering what the festival had to offer. We also had decided that we were both thirsty and needed to find a refreshing beverage. Our journey continued as we browsed a few of the shoppes and explored what options for a cool drink might be available. Along our way we had to stop and listen to the insultor at the booth where people could buy a chance to throw tomatoes at the person casting the insults. Soon we began to realize that we had only covered half the festival grounds and there was a lot more to explore.

We finally settled on some ales to drink and continued to walk around the grounds. Part of the entertainment was watching all the festival goers and seeing them in their period clothing. There were individuals dressed as French royalty with beautiful gowns and detailed coats. Some participants chose to take a pirate theme. Others were dressed as knights and damsels. Fairies and mythical creatures also were walking about. I told my husband that next year I thought we should consider coming as characters even though there were as many people there who were dressed in 21st century clothing like we were as there were those in costume.

Continuing our trek around the grounds gave us opportunity to wander into a variety of vendor shops and to catch some other festivities. We watched as a large group learned how to do a 16th century dance. Various competitions such as king-of-the-log, Jacob’s ladder, and the cannon throw were enjoyable to view. We also stopped to get some fried bread with fruit topping and “ye olde” root beer.

Our day came to a close by attending the joust. The king and queen in all their finery presided over the jousting field. Four knights participated in the joust each mounted on beautiful steeds. The competition was intended to settle the argument over whether chivalry was an outdated practice which should be abandoned or not. Two of the knights stood in favor of the continuation of chivalry and two said chivalry was a waste from the past. So the tournament is intended to settle the issue. The crowd members choose which knight(s) to cheer for and the battle begins. Each knight mounted on his steed at the start and fully dressed in their proper colors take their places. The lance is handed to each and the charge toward each other two at a time. After losing their lance, the battle continues with weapons on the ground. The two chivalrous knights prevail by killing the other two knights. They receive the accolades of the king and queen (and some of the crowd).

The Scarborough Renaissance is a reasonably priced journey back to the 16th century. The shop owners, performers, and festival cast not only entertain but educate by demonstrating their various skills and talking with those who are browsing or watching. The festival runs for eight consecutive weekends in April and May each year. I highly recommend going to this festival if you are in the area or choose to travel to the area for this event.

A Loss

April 15, 2019 – Notre Dame is on Fire

Today I sit in my office and reflect upon the events which transpired twenty-four hours ago on the world stage. A friend alerted me to the fact that Notre Dame was on fire. At first, I thought he was speaking about the famed university located in Indiana. I then Googled Notre Dame and began seeing all the news reports which indicated that it was not the university but instead the cathedral located in Paris. I was overcome with shock and grief. Questions filled my mind. Was it a terrorist attack? Was it intentionally set? Was it an accident of some manner? Answers would begin to come as I monitored reports online more diligently.

We know now that it appears to have been an accidental fire perhaps connected to renovations being done on this tremendous piece of architecture. While the great spire was destroyed and almost all the wood structure including the roof, the main stone bones of the building appear to be intact. Many of the great works of art, the artifacts, and relics appear to have been saved. The two iconic bell towers with their bells are still standing. Donations are pouring in and the government has vowed to rebuild the structure.

The Day After

I have never been to Paris. I have never seen Notre Dame Cathedral. I am not Roman Catholic. These facts are ones that I am sure a large number of you may echo. I would venture a guess that they are also facts which individuals throughout the world who were impacted in some way by yesterday’s fire might also state. Yet Facebook and other social media posts seem to show hundreds, or maybe even millions, of people felt something upon learning the news.

Throughout today, I have been pondering a different question than I did yesterday. Today the question for me is, “Why does the fire at Notre Dame cause people to feel loss and grief?

The answer I believe may lie in the sense of loss of the familiar. Notre Dame is an architectural icon that almost everyone has seen in pictures or through movies. Maybe the reading of Victor Hugo’s book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was a person’s first introduction to the cathedral. For other’s it may be Disney’s interpretation of Hugo’s novel in their animated movie which debuted in 1996. Still, others may have been exposed to this building in their history, art appreciation, or architectural classes. Fortunate individuals who have traveled to Paris probably stopped by Notre Dame since it is one of the most visited tourist stops in all Europe. Like many iconic structures throughout the world, this cathedral has become a part of our shared experience which is easily recognizable.

When a shared experience is destroyed or damaged, it impacts us because the cathedral is part of the known, the familiar. This can be said about other structures, the Twin Towers, the Buddhas of Bamiyan, and the Minaret of the Great Mosque of Aleppo are similar examples. We mourn the loss of history. Our search for reasons and understanding appears to fall empty. We grieve the loss of something which connects us with individuals from other cities, nations, and cultures.

In our grief, we are reminded that nothing last forever. Even those structures we have built, maintained, and protected will eventually be gone. They may succumb to a natural disaster, an accidental action, or a seemingly senseless act of humans. The manner in which they are destroyed does not eliminate the fact that they will be gone at some point. This makes us clearly aware of our own mortality.

Our loss unites us, if even for a brief period. We grieve together. Together we try to find ways to move forward and if possible to rebuild. We know that it will never be quite the same. As humans, we grieve that not only our structures but our very selves will one day no longer be here.

More Than Just an Animal

Last month I read an article in The Atlantic, “What the Crow Knows,” written by Ross Andersen. Andersen provides this introduction to the article:

The idea that animals are conscious, long unpopular in the West, has lately found favor among scientists who study animal cognition. Now even some insects are thought to have interior lives. A journey into the depths of the animal mind.

Ross Anderson

This article resonated with me because I have always been a proponent of the concept that my dog is very conscious and has cognitive abilities which too many people deny.

Over the course of my life, I have had the privilege of sharing my life with eight different dogs. Some of them have been with me their entire lives and others have shared only a part of their life with me. Currently, we have two dogs in our household which adds to a blended household. Each one of these terrific animals have their own personalities, character traits, and influences. I am convinced that each of my dogs thinks and feels in ways similar to myself.

In the last ten years or so, I have noticed that more and more individuals are starting to truly understand their pets as members of their families. There are some who would say that this has gone to an extreme in many cases but I think society might finally be on the right track. Afterall, you can now purchase health insurance for your pet. You can add to your auto insurance a provision which insures your pet as a passenger. There are spas for our pets and kennels are promoting more of a vacation resort concept if you need to board your pet. All of this speaks to a change in understanding that our pets are more than just animals.

While I do not take either of our dogs to a spa or include them on our auto insurance, I do value them as important members of our family. They display emotions. They learn routines and demonstrate expectations. Each bonds to us in very different and specific ways. My dogs can distinguish between individuals and settings.

After reading the article which I mentioned above, I am glad that science is starting to see that my dogs are more than just animals. They are true companions in the full sense and deserve to be treated as such.

Sound Impact

Do you prefer a quiet place or one with some level of noise?

I have discovered that over time my response to that question has become less than simple. When I was younger, it did not matter the level of noise surrounding me at any given point without regard to what I may be doing. This is no longer the case. I have also noticed that the answer to this question is different for almost every person.

If I am reading, I need to have relative quiet. A lot depends upon the material which I may be reading but a general rule of thumb for me is that I comprehend and retain much better if the setting is quiet while I am reading. Part of this also includes the activity which may be around me while I read. I can become distracted from my reading if individuals or vehicles are moving around me.

When I am writing or working on a project which requires me to work with words or data, I also need a quieter setting. Again, it is a concentration issue for me. Finding the right words, analyzing information, or planning are tasks which require me to concentrate. Noise and activity are a hindrance to me in these areas.

Tasks which are repetitive or more physical in nature need a different sound setting for me. I prefer to have music, a television on, or some other set of sounds in the background. Also, I usually desire some level of noise when I am trying to go to sleep. If it is too quiet when I am trying to drift into sleep, my mind tends to engage and all the thoughts make it difficult for me. These are situations where I find noise to be a good thing.

My observations are that the manner in which I respond to noise has changed over time. I wonder about you. Do you prefer quiet settings? If so, what are you doing which makes quiet a better choice for you? Have you noticed your responses changing as you grow older? How do you adapt?

Creating People Stories

One of my favorite pastimes is watching people. I gave a hint to that in my post about traveling. I enjoy sitting in a public place and watching people as they go about whatever may be on their agenda. As I sit and watch them, I often create in my mind stories regarding what they may be up to, what their background may be, or what the dialogue between them might be if they are there with another person. Watching people can give you quite an insight into human behavior.

During a recent period of time when I was engaged in watching people, I was amazed with the different behaviors which I witnessed. I happened to be in a coffee shop at the time. Some people whom I observed were very upbeat. You could tell by the way in which they walked into the establishment. Their gait had a bit of bounce to it. When they arrived at the counter to place their order, they offered a kind greeting to begin their conversation with the employee. They then placed their order with a bit of enthusiasm in the tone of their voice. At the end of the transaction they offered thanks to the employee even before the employee had an opportunity to thank them for their order.

Other individuals who came into the coffee shop seemed to have something weighing them down. Maybe they had, or were having, a bad day at work. It may have been they were dealing with some issues in a relationship. They may have been struggling with some aspects at home. Whatever the cause, they communicated their burdens through their body language. They seemed to walk a little slower. Some of them even seemed to have their shoulders down a bit. Clearly they were being wearied by something.

Another type of person who came into the shop on that day was the type that was in a hurry . They appeared to fly through the door and make a direct beeline to the ordering counter. Quickly they gave the barista their order and after paying rushed to the end of the counter to await the preparing of their order. As soon as it was sat down they scooped it up and quickly exited the establishment.

I find there are important parts to observe if you wish to make a pastime imagining the stories of individuals while you watch. First, the non-verbal cues are essential to observe. How do they carry themselves? What is the pace of their walk? What do they seem to be looking at as they go along? Are their hands clenched or open? What is the position of their arms? What expressions do you see on their faces? Second, if you are able to hear them in conversation, you should listen for the tone of their voice. Do they sound upbeat or downtrodden? Do they use words which indicate happiness or displeasure? Is their rate of speech rushed or more laid back? What is the volume of their conversation?

If you enjoy watching people and have a place where you are sitting to wait on someone else or just enjoying something to drink, I encourage you to go beyond only looking at someone and take the time to really observe. You may even be like me and start creating stories in your head about the people whom you observe. I find it very entertaining.