Sunday, April 29, 2012

My Wallet Over the Years

I don’t think I had a wallet until I got to Junior High. Before then my money was mostly change that lived in a piggy bank. And I really never spent money on anything in those days but rides at “Kiddieland.” The rides were $.10 so a mere ten dimes in my pocket would provide me with a full evening of entertainment. But in junior high my allowance actually was folding money and I could actually earn a few dollars babysitting. But the really important thing for any self-respecting teenagers to carry around was pictures of friends. The school photo company facilitated that by giving us a fresh supply to trade each year. Remember the plastic sleeves stuffed with photos? In those days all wallets were pretty much one design – folded over in the middle with pictures on the left, a change pocket on the right and a pouch along the back for bills. Grown-ups had wallets with secret hiding places. My dad always kept a $50 bill there – just in case. He also had a special card that he could use to buy gasoline at the Gulf station and his driver’s license. My mother had her charge-a-plate (addressograph plate) that had its own leatherette sleeve. That metal plate was the equivalent of having a charge card good at all the major department stores in town. By high school wallet designs had changed and included a snap-top change purse and a more compact design. I remember one wallet in particular. It was cream leather with little metallic decorative dots on it, accented with blue leather trim. But the best part was that I had a matching hard shell key case. At age 15, I had my learner’s permit, so I needed a place for car keys and a key to the house—where I was finally old enough to be left alone. Of course, the most prominent item in the wallet was my learner’s permit and a year later, my driver’s license. In those days the Alabama licenses were printed in a green official looking design on cardboard. The learner’s permit had a pink stripe and my driver’s license had a yellow stripe until I turned 21. In college, the photos of friends were still there, along with the driver’s license and the photo student ID. When I was in graduate school when I got my first credit card, a card branded by a local bank that has evolved into a major credit card company today. I think it had a $50 limit. My wallet kept getting thicker over the years with more credit cards, a military ID, cute plastic copies of my diplomas (you never know when you might need one of those), and, as the years went by, pictures of our son. The wallet style got progressively more roomy. At one point, I had a monstrosity that was about 10” tall, with many pockets and room for a passport. The goal was to have a plastic sleeve for each credit card and photo. The older I get, the less stuff I have to carry around with me, the happier I am. I actually have two wallets – a regular wallet and a travel wallet. Realistically, when I travel I don’t need a lot of the cards and such like I need at home. My travel wallet is very small black micro-fiber fold-over. The everyday wallet I use today is similar to the one I had in high school, but it is a tri-fold. It even has a snap-close change purse, just like the one from high school. But this one is black leather and is made by some big name designer whose work graced the Nordstrom rack. It has three pockets for cards. I have a few business and personal credit cards, a military ID, my driver’s license, a folded up spare check, an ATM card and the newest addition, the Medicare card. Yes, I have a place for cash, though I sure don’t carry as much as I used to. I prefer to just dump my loose change in the side pocket of my purse, but this wallet has a change purse. I keep a half-dozen Susan B. Anthony dollars stuffed in there. I am not sure where I got them, but will be nice to have some time I am sure. As for the secret department, I will never tell.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Call of the Bathrobe

The Call of the Bathrobe Working virtually, I spend more time in my bathrobe than when I went to the office every day. The one I prefer is white waffle weave with my initials subtly monogrammed in beige. Of course, I am not sure why I thought I needed to have it monogrammed, but there was this special when I ordered it online. When I am in my bathrobe I want to see no one, and I just want to get my work done. Somehow in today’s world, the bathrobe has come to symbolize luxury and the plusher the robe, the more decadent one is supposed to feel wearing it. I am not sure about that because some of the really plush robes are so heavy that a winter coat would be lighter. Some hotel rooms have robes, while others do not. The rule seems to be -- “The pricier the chain the more likelihood of a robe” And sometimes I sense that if I had opted for a more costly room, say in the “tower,” that I would have gotten a robe to wear during my stay as part of the deal. But it really doesn’t matter because the odds are that the issued robe won’t fit. Besides, I always bring my own travel robe – a lavender number made of microfiber that folds up nicely in my carry-on. When I travel, I like to check out the spa. The fancier places have locker rooms and issue you a robe and slippers to change into. I have to say that spa robes vary as much as hotel room robes. It was a spa where I first discovered the white, waffle weave design I love. Some spa robes are plain terrycloth, like a soft bath-towel, while other are lined with cotton and are terry cloth on the outside. Beginning plus-sized, I always worry when wearing a spa robe, especially when forced to wear the robe in a co-ed setting in the “relaxation” room – you know the place with the cucumber water where they make you wait for your therapist. I tried to think back about bathrobes in earlier stages on my life. My mother made me one as a child, but after that I don’t remember spending much time wearing a bathrobe, though I guess I have always had one around. Some were flannel, others were terrycloth, others were nylon or microfiber. But I never really had time for them. I used to get up, get dressed, and go on about my life. Bathrobes were for people who moved more slowly, who lingered over breakfast and the newspaper. You know – old people! Hmmh.. I am coming up in my 66th birthday. Could that be a reason for my attachment to my bathrobe? Of course not! It is just comfortable and I am not rushing out the door. Here is it 11:15 on a Sunday morning and I still wearing my robe.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Boomer Technology Addiction

Decades ago when I smoked, I reached for a cigarette first thing in the morning or when I finished a meal. Today I reach for my iPhone. There is something decidedly similar about the compulsion.

I am sure there must be scientific studies and brain scans that show how areas of the brain light up when one ingests e-mail or tweets. As a 65 year old, running a virtual business, I am bombarded with an array of information whenever I am “connected” and that is most of the time.
But what I wonder is – how did I get to the point where I can move from laptop, to tablet to smart phone, effortlessly and without even thinking about it? What were the steps in the progression that led me here?

In the few short years I lived before television, I recall listening to the radio with my family. Nobody messed frenetically with the dial. We listened and then the adults turned it off. The situation was pretty much the same for the television.

As teenagers and college students, however, my generation took the car radio and turned it into a random juke box. We programmed in the rock stations on the push buttons and jumped from button to button looking for the songs we liked. And, of course, we became masters at twisting the dials on our transistor radios; we wore tiny earphones plugged into our handheld radios and tuned out the adults around us. My generation, at least the female component, loved talking on the telephone.

Shortly after we got married in 1969, we got our first remote controlled TV. Of course, it did have a wire, but it was possible to change channels from the sofa. Of course, channel surfing among three stations was not such a big deal, but I remember channel surfing before it had a name.

My generation, the leading-edge baby boomers, was simply not that intimidated by technology and we accepted change as inevitable and natural -- and most of us still do! We are the generation whose parents played 78 rpm records, while we played 45s and graduated to 33 1/3s in high school. Then we got into reel to reel audio tapes in various sizes; 8 track cassettes, audio cassettes, and CDs. Now I play music on my iPhone, set on shuffle, through the car radio. It reminds me of the old days of pushing buttons to change the song.

I went from a manual typewriter, to an electric typewriter, to a Selectric, to a word processor, to an Epson computer with a green screen, to a Morrow portable computer the size of a sewing machine with an orange seven inch screen, to a Atari ST, to a PC with Windows 3.1, to various iterations of Windows on various desk top and laptop machines, and yes, I also have a Mac. And, of course, I have the iPad.

My first car phone came in a bag the size of a shoebox and I thought it was very cool. Since then I have had just about any configuration of phone you can imagine – from the Nokia basic to the flip-phone to the Palm Treo to the iPhone finally.

But along the way, there were other devices that were must haves. I remember my Atari Portfolio fondly because it allowed me to do wonderful things without the bulky computer. I remember my pager through Skytel and years later, the little netbook.

At this point, there has been convergence – sort of! But it still takes me three devices to do everything I want to do. The laptop is still best for doing serious work. The iPad is super for doing work on the run or taking notes in a meeting, but it isn’t a phone. But the laptop is a modern version of the typewriter, and the iPhone took the place of the radio, home phone and record player.

What I do know is that the thing I spend the most time doing each day – e-mail – will reach me on all three devices. At some level I hate e-mail. It is incessant, filled with garbage, and intrusive. On the other hand, it keeps me connected with others; it is the way I move projects forward and communicate.

We Boomers grew up with technology and it has shaped us to value connectedness. What is really so addictive about e-mail may just be is the shot of connectedness that come with each email. The message says “you are alive and people want to tell you things.” It sure beats the alternative of sitting in my recliner channel surfing among the reruns.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Manila Folders to the Cloud

I got my first filing cabinet when I was in a senior in college. Education majors were supposed to put together a resource file. The theory was that this file would grow and grow through your professional life and after retiring after 40 years of teaching you might pass it down to a deserving young teacher. So I got myself a single drawer file and I was good to go.

For the 20 years I was an educator, I dutifully clipped this and that that might be good for teaching media skills and I pulled out any thought-provoking article about the “information age” that was gradually moving in to change our lives. I carefully labeled manila folders and put them in alphabetical order. I kept all sorts of things that interested me, from restaurants to travel destinations. I kept notes from family and friends and treasures our son’s life.

In 1989, I threw out much of my “resource” file because it was outdated and I was no longer teaching. Nobody but me would want what I had managed to save all of those years. So out it all went and I haven’t missed any of it. But I kept the personal stuff and restaurant and travel clips.
About that same time, I discovered the joy of hanging folders. I got them in an array of pretty colors and we used them for everything in my business and I used them at home as well. I had a lot of filing that needed to be done, and it was always accumulating. I used to hire people to come in just to file. I hated it, but I saw no way around it.

But somewhere along the line the world changed and the promise of information age came to life in the form of a scanner. The first ones we had were slow and clunky and documents copied one sheet at a time. Now we have stack loader scanners that quickly take a stack of documents and convert them to a single PDF.

We now scan in anything of any importance and we file it carefully online. Once it is scanned, it is retrained unless there is a security issue, but there is no fancy filing system. We hold the scanned documents in a stack by date – just in case we have to go digging. But I see a time coming soon where even that will be excessive.

I run a virtual company, but I have a storage unit filled with filing cabinets. I am simply aging these documents in place. Another few years and I can trash (or shred them all) and then I will get rid of the filing cabinets and the storage unit or at least get a much smaller one.

Today we file in the “cloud.” We back-up in the “cloud.” That is where we do everything. I really don’t need to keep much of anything in paper files. I am close to clearing the filing cabinets out of my home office. BUT… I am not quite there yet.

When I must deal with paper documents I keep them in plastic sleeves – sometimes in portable hanging files or in notebooks. I know what I must do – I must scan those paper documents in and recycle the paper. Not this week, but I know I will someday soon.

The Information Age is here!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Bedside Tables

The bedside table-top is a window into what we value enough to keep it close to us while we sleep or use in the those final moments before dozing off. Over the years, in our society, this collection has changed dramatically for most of us.

My grandmother had a clock that was shaped like a ship’s wheel and it was made of brass (or fake brass more likely). It was electric. This clock stopped when she died in 1957. Back then clocks did things like that! She had a lamp too – the kind made out of ceramic with a shade. She had a glass for her teeth to soak overnight. She had a radio at her bedside – nothing fancy, just a radio with no clock. She usually had a copy of a ladies’ magazine like Better Homes and Gardens.

My grandfather loved stories about the old West and he generally had one going, resting on his bedside table beside his lamp. He had his teeth glass as well. He loved cigars, but having been told by his doctor that he could no longer smoke them, he chewed them. There was a Muriel cigar resting in an ashtray on his bedside table.

My mother had a clock radio which I think she probably got in about 1950. It was Motorola and made out of Bakelite. Each night she put it on “automatic” and fell asleep to the background sounds of “The People Speak,” a call-in radio program. She had a bean bag ashtray and copy of whatever she reading, which was typically either a book she for her literary club, a detective magazine or the American Heritage magazine or National Geographic –demonstrating the diversity of her interests. Of course, she had a bedside lamp.

My father also had an ashtray, a lamp, a flashlight in case the power went off, and a stack of magazines and books he was reading. He was an avid reader, but his favorites were Fortune, Reader’s Digest, and US News and World Report.

When I was a child, I just had a reading lamp and my book du jour – which was usually a Bobbsey Twins adventure on Lake Minnetonka. I usually had a glass of milk before going to sleep, so I would leave the empty glass for pick up by my long suffering mother in the a.m.

When I became a teenager, I got my own clock radio and bigger and better bedside lamp. I used to listen late at night to the 50,000 watt rock stations from Atlanta, Nashville and New Orleans. Not wanting to rent another instrument from the phone company, my Dad indulged me with my own phone from his collection of old phones. I ended up with a phone from the 1930s that my mother gold-leafed. My girlfriends thought it was pretty odd, but I had a phone of my own and if you were a teenager in 1960, that was a big deal!

When I was a young married adult, the radio, clock and light got combined into one compact instrument. I opted for a “regular” phone in beige, although at the time the princess phone was preferred by most. I always found the princess phone too lightweight and easy to pull off the table, though admitted smaller. Of course, I still had the ashtray because smoking had entrenched itself into my life. A few years later, however, the ashtray was gone, as was the smoking addiction.

When we built a new house in 1992, we mounted high –intensity lights on each side of our king-sized bed. We bought new matching end tables and we each had our digital clock radio and phone. There was room for a book and glasses. Somewhere along the way, my vision had begun to fail and if I wanted to read, glasses became necessary. Even with glasses, I found paperbacks hard to read, so I usually had a magazine or hardbound book.

Today, my bedside table has a digital clock radio that has a slot on the top for the previous generation of iPhone. It is hard to set, so it says an hour earlier than it really is. I never listen to it; it won’t work with he phone I bought last May, and it has the wrong time. Upon reflection, I think it should be retired! Besides I need the room on the table. I have run out of electric outlets beside the bed, so I am running a couple of cords from around the corner, so the bedside table has various small white wires going in different directions. There is the controller for the electric blanket, which can be removed now that the electric blanket has been stashed away for the summer. There is, of course, my iPhone 4, plugged into its white cable and its new BIG brother the iPad 3 and its cable. And the iPad is sitting on top of the poor Kindle in its leather case with built- in pop-up light.

I guess today I should re-organize my bedside table, removing the clock radio and the electric blanket controller. And sadly, I guess I should retire the Kindle by downloading its books onto the iPad and try to find the Kindle a good home. If I do that, I should have enough outlets beside the bed and won’t have to run any wires around the corner. AND, the book (yes, I am reading a book) will fit on the bedside table and no longer have to live on the dresser top. Change is hard, as is growing old – but thank goodness, I still have my teeth in my mouth and not in a glass! There is just so much that will fit on a bedside table!