Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Fabric of Email

In her day, my mother was a darn good seamstress. Sadly, she no longer sees well enough to sew; her machine sits idle on a table in the basement. Last weekend, we cleaned out the sewing corner and I removed three boxes of fabric remnants.

I sorted the material: usable pieces went into one pile and spoiled ones into another. I disposed of one pile instantly but what to do with the other?

I decided to offer it to someone who quilts. When the only quilter I know turned me down, I sent an inquiring email to a dozen friends.

Email makes communication with others delightfully easy. People who wouldn’t normally correspond will send emails. Sure, I get the occasional email that contains an urban legend or some type of wiggling angel offering me blessings. Coworkers frequently use email when a phone call or letter would have been better. But generally what I get is appropriate – a to-the-point, unembellished message.

What I love about email is that, when used as intended, it generally works quite well. It saves time; it is short; and it keeps us connected in a way no other form of communication can.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I’ve been using PCs since 1991 (the technological Stone Age) and the forcible upgrading routine began with that Intel 286. Microsoft created new operating software and the hardware manufacturers developed machines to accommodate it. I bought a new computer every few years when my existing software stopped working because technology had passed it by.

Recently I decided to buy a laptop so I could write anywhere I traveled. The laptop would not replace my desktop PC. It would be an addition.

After reading Consumer Reports, I got recommendations from guru friends before heading to the store. There I was confronted with Vista, the new operating system from Microsoft. Vista is so unpopular that some retailers, for a fee, will remove it and install the old operating system, Windows XP. I also learned that the new version of Word was not compatible with the old version without downloading fixes. Finally, I experienced a hard sell about hiring the retailer to “clean up” the laptop because Vista is a software pig. Without professional tweaking, Vista will use up memory and the new laptop will not run efficiently.

Let me state that I understand Microsoft is a business and businesses are all about making money. Upgrades and new software products are how Microsoft makes its money. My problem lies with the way it does it. A computer comes with the operating system Microsoft decides I must use. That system is so “inefficient” that I must spend additional money to have the retailer “clean it up.”

Previously I would have grudgingly bought a Windows-based laptop and lived with my dissatisfaction. I didn’t do that this year. What made the difference was those amusing commercials from Apple.

As I said in my first post, it’s all about communication. We make choices every day. Hopefully those choices are based on solid information obtained through careful research. Yet what drives us to the research is often an emotional reaction to something that has been communicated to us.

Microsoft conveyed their message. Apple told me something completely different. I heard both companies loud and clear.

I will have a PC as long as my business needs require it. However, as I type this on my MacBook, I can only hope that my communication efforts are as effective those made by Apple.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

TV Ad Made Me Greener

Being green isn’t easy, as Kermit the Frog warned us. Although he spoke about discrimination, it also applies to taking care of the natural resources entrusted to our care.

There is an American Petroleum Institute advertisement ( running on television that talks about the amount of fossil fuel that remains for us to discover and use. An attractive blond actress says that we have plenty of resources - “enough for 60 years.” They intend to reassure me that all is well.

But wait!

“Enough for 60 years” means that we will run out before the babies in the neighborhood reach retirement age. We will run out of oil in their lifetime.

That commercial communicated something to me all right – that we have to get off oil and we have to do it in a hurry. Sixty years is nothing – it’s a mere blink in the eye of time. If we do not get serious about this, we sentence our children to what? I hate to think.

The API commercial got through the din of the messages that bombard me every day and connected. Although my response was probably not what API intended, I heard the words.

As I age, I remember things my grandmother told me and I find I am applying her wisdom to my own life. She frequently cautioned me to hear both sides, to get all the facts and to think carefully about what I am told. She also told me that ants move mountains and if I want to see change in this world, it has to start with me.

I’ve made a lot of decisions lately that are based entirely on energy conservation. I made some of those decisions because of the API ad. In sixty years, I’d better be using an alternative energy source.

So what am I doing? I stopped buying water in plastic bottles. We are recycling at work and I take a recycling bag with us to family outings. Before I buy something, I think about what will happen to it when I am finished with it.

I have a long way to go but it’s a start. Thanks API. I hope others get the message, too.