Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Technology that saved a marriage...

Well, not quite saved my marriage, but did make discussions about our household much easier. I'm an academic. The better part of my life has been spent in classrooms, libraries and laboratories. And the people who inhabit the hallowed halls of the Ivory Tower are, well, lets just say for now that they are bibliophiles. Growing up, I dreamed that one day, I would have a house with a library, floor to ceiling books, rows and rows and shelves and shelves of books.

But, being an academic also means that you're a nomad, going from here to there, to this school, that post doc, and that coveted faculty position (of course, I bailed before then, but you get the idea). And in the course of years of study, I accumulated books. Guide books, travel books, text books, weird, tall and small books. About 40 boxes of books. And I don't just read for work, I read for fun! So then there are all the trade paperbacks, hardcover fiction I couldn't live without, more stacks and stacks covering a great many surfaces in our home. I would spend hours of my free time (that was before I had kids) browsing used bookstores, just browsing, picking up a classic I hadn't read here, or a cute gift book there. The buck a bag used books sales at the university, where I could pick up obscure 70's craft books, art books, history books... You get the idea.

And then we moved. My husband and I moved when we first got married, and many of my books were in my office, so it wasn't too bad. But then I jumped out of the tower, and towed all my precious books home with me. And we had to buy bookshelves, because a recovering academic has to be surrounded by her ridiculous library. And then we moved. And then we moved again, swearing each time, that we weren't going to move all those books again. But we did.

We were at a bit of a crossroads. My husband asking me, "What are you going to do with all these books?" My reply, "I can't get rid of them!!" spoken with an appropriate degree of horror in my voice. There were many discussions about which ones to keep, where to put them, building onto the house to house them (but of course we couldn't afford that, since I was no longer gainfully employed). My dreams of "doing something" with them.

Suddenly, there was this wonderful new piece of technology. Like a light shining in the darkness of my library (which was in the basement in boxes, because there wasn't room in the living space of the house), the device I never could have imagined would change my life. My Kindle.

Yes, I am an e-book addict. I talked my husband into one for a birthday present (back when they weren't as inexpensive as they are now). And you know what? I started getting rid of books. Text books sent to third world countries through a library program, paperbacks to Goodwill and friends to read. Over time, I would still browse bookstores but only buy a "real book" if it wasn't available for my Kindle. And then I started my genealogy business. Ah, the glories of Google Books (, Project Gutenberg (, and Library Archives (, all wonderful sources of FREE books, about all kinds of things; esoteric topics, history, geology, things I didn't even know that I wanted to know more about. And now, I can "buy" all the books I want, and my hubby will never know. The number of bookcases in our house is dwindling, though it will never be completely gone (some things just aren't the same in digital versions, or aren't currently available. Now, I can travel and have almost my entire library with me (in my purse, of course, which drives my mother nuts, an added bonus)! No more schlepping 4 paperbacks on vacation, because I like to read in airports! No more trying to make the volume of books "blend" with the house decor! No more arguments about the need for an addition just for the books!

Ah, my Kindle, my favorite technological friend. And maybe yours too!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Faded Scars

I always tease people I meet at genealogical conferences by telling them that I'm a luddite. Not everyone knows what exactly that is, but basically, it's someone who isn't interested in technology or fears the effects of technology on their lives. You can look it up on Wikipedia (I figured out what a "wiki" is last week). Some people are cutting edge adopters. They are always the people waiting in long lines to get the latest version of this software or that phone or some other fancy new gadget. Others are bleeding edge adopters; they're getting the materials hot off the manufacturing line or online or whereever people go to get technology that hasn't been released to the general public yet. I always say I'm a faded scar adopter. After the technology has been cut, and bled, and following a few years of recovery (or use, to work out the kinks), then, maybe, I'll think about adopting it for my own use. A faded scar adopter.

While I was in academia, I had to be up on the latest and greatest, all these fancy things that would "make life easier." It was a job necessity to keep up with whatever new thing the university was using, like the Internet back in 1993, or some new online software package to keep track of grades. Since leaving the Ivory Tower, I've let myself lapse into being a grumpy reluctant technology user. I've never wanted to be a techie, but in genealogy, like in academia, it seems that being up on the latest and greatest is a prerequisite. Granted, I do use a computer, and I have a website (see, but in general, someone has to convince me that using this latest software or signing up for this latest service is a necessity for my life and my business. That it WILL actually make my life easier, and allow me to do my job better.

I guess it might be best to say that I'm not against all technology, but I do not want to use technology for technology's sake. I want to use tools that the development of technology makes available to me, not be used by the technology itself. I have enough demands on my time that I don't have time to waste playing with the "latest and greatest." If a technology has a steep learning curve, or is more work to use than I can derive a benefit from, then, no thanks, I'll pass. This blog (I learned what a blog is last week, too) is for me to talk about the technology that I may have been sceptical of at first, but am convinced of it's benefit to me and my business. Hopefully, this isn't just a big waste of my time, like some other technology that I can name.

We'll see how it goes, and I'll let you know what I learn, because you really can learn something new every day!