Friday, May 30, 2008

"You know, when I was your age...."

I was both surprised and disappointed when I heard myself say those words to my nine-year old the other day. As the words fell out of my mouth, what I had to say seemed really meaningful and relevant to the conversation. For a fleeting moment, I imagined Austin would actually be interested in what I was about to say.

I pictured him leaning forward in his chair, "Yeah dad, what were you going to say about what it was like 30 years ago when you were MY age?" It never happened like that.

The context was what fun he had at the library that day. Not because he enjoyed perusing the books but because he serendipitously met his buddy Lewis there. Why was that fun? Because they got to play on the computers together.

Next came my well-intentioned, but heartily ignored statement: "You know, when I was your age, libraries didn't have computers."

Austin, again, can't picture a world without Mario, much less computers. This is a kid who takes pictures on a digital camera, and uploads them to Picasa so he can view them and organize them. He knows about Janet's diligent posting of our family photos, and this has led him to ask me if he can have a blog.

Are you kidding me? "You don't even know how to type," I said. What are you going to do with blog? "Put up pictures." He said. "And I can too type."

Back to the library without computers. Raise your hand if you remember card catalogs. Try explaining the concept to a nine-year old.

"Well, there were these drawers with little cards in them. And the drawers were divided up by the author's name, the book title, and the subject of the books. That way, if you knew the thing you wanted to look up information about, but didn't know a book title, you could search in the subject cards. If you like a book somebody wrote and you wanted to see if he had written others, you can find out by searching through the card catalog by author."

Using a card catalog is nearly an obsolete skill. Austin will never need to learn it, and I will probably never need to use it again. Just go to the computer, type in what you're looking for in the little box and all the possible options will be brought to you. Amazing.

To continue on down this rat hole, consider for a minute other skills that have become obsolete. Here is a web site with a growing list of obsolete skills. Some of my favorites are
  • Setting up a modem using AT commands
  • Putting a needle on a vinyl record
  • Operating an overhead projector
  • Using a rotary phone
  • Blowing dust out of a Nintendo cartridge
  • Autoexec.bat editing
Feel free to add more to the list!

Friday, May 16, 2008

How to Take a Nap

The art of nap-taking may seem self-evident. Let me shed some light. There are two kinds of naps. There are the kinds of naps we take because we have to. We're utterly sleep deprived, exhausted from our week, or our days, and very soon after half-laying down on the couch or bed, or plane seat, we uncontrollably doze off. I have had many such naps. They usually aren't so rewarding because they are squeezed into our busyness or they sneak upon us unexpectedly and set our minds in a foggy, groggy state upon awakening.

The other kind of nap is the kind you don't need. It's the more desirable of the two. It involves freedom to indulge or ignore. Here are some steps I have discovered regarding the ideal nap.

1. Get a good night's sleep. Don't be fooled. The last thing you want is to be dozing off in the middle of something important, like a prayer meeting, when you've had your eyes closed for 15 minutes and then suddenly come to consciousness and hope that the thing you just half-dreamt, half-thought wasn't said out loud. Be well-rested for your nap. Remember, a good nap is not a necessity, it is a luxury.

2. Use the lotion style of sunblock. SPF 30 at least, especially if you're not out in the sun a lot. Nothing ruins the reward of a great nap like a bad burn. The aerosol style sun block is far less effective. Plus it's more expensive.

3. Try to face the ocean directly. This gives you the best chance to get a lush, even roar in both ears. It's really cool when the waves are coming in slightly crooked. You hear them crash on the left and then slowly work their way in front of you, and then to the right. Over and over and over. Very soothing.

4. Try to sink your feet into the sand. This is kind of a bonus. It is optional, of course, but cool feet will ease you away while the sun beats down on you.

5. Eliminate potential distractions. Your kid isn't drowning. It's OK. Keep your eyes abstructed with a hat or something that keeps you from looking up at the slightest out-of-place noise.

6. Find a chair that can lean back, but not all the way flat. This is important. You need to rest your head back on something, but you don't want to lay all the way back or you miss the cool sea breeze.

7. Find a great book. The book shouldn't put you to sleep. Remember, the sleep is optional. Read a few chapters, close the book, doze. Awake, read a few more chapters, stand up, stretch, put your feet in the water if you want, come back, doze. Repeat as often as you'd like.

Hopefully you will find this brief tutorial helpful when you decide to seek a good nap.