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This is an upgrade?

Have you ever noticed that certain sounds can have a physical effect on you? Example: I was watching TV the other night and the father of a kid who is committed to killing Americans said "John loves America." My eyes crossed, my head tilted and a Scooby-Doo-esque 'Hmm?' sound escaped my throat. Other sounds do it too. Whenever I hear rap music my blood pressure increases and I involuntarily reach for my gun. The sound of a nitromethane fueled dragster launching off the line evokes a euphoria similar, I'm sure, to whatever Kurt Kobain felt three seconds before he expired (and without the unpleasant side effects). And Credence always makes me smile.

But the English phrase that is guaranteed to strike terror into my cold conservative heart is: "New version of the software."

Okay, a lot of people think I'm opposed to change. They might cite the fact that it wasn't until last year that I finally retired my Beta VCR and admitted that VHS was probably the format that would survive (in spite of its weaknesses compared to Beta). They might mention that I voted for Reagan four times even though he only ran twice. And they might even point out that I prefer the Dolly Parton version of "I'll always love you" because it's the first one I ever heard (even though I think Whitney Houston is a major babe . . . until I remember she voluntarily hangs out with people who as adults still choose to be called "Snoop Doggy Dogg").

Let me just clear this up: I am completely neutral on the topic of change.

I am, however, opposed to decay. What's that saying? "All improvement involves change, but not all change is improvement." If I weren't so conservative (and therefore opposed to a bunch of silly laws) I would be in favor of a law that required software designers to post that as a banner on their desktop and recite it every hour on the hour. Could they please explain to me how performing three clicks of the mouse is an improvement over the old version that accomplished the same task with a single click? Or I'd really like to know why my bill of materials editor now requires that I delete an entry and add a new entry (and all its fields) instead of editing the old entry like I used to do. Oh, and here's one, it does my aging heart wonders to suddenly be staring at a blank desktop where microseconds before was the assembly I'd just spent hours designing. "Oh, did you try to redefine a placement to a plane? You can't do that any more." Thanks.

Software's not the only thing changing in America. Have you noticed our culture? I wonder if my folks hated the Eagles as much as I despise whatever that noise is I hear coming from car stereos these days. And hello? UNDER wear? It goes on the inside where you can't see it. You know, that problem would probably take care of itself if your crotch and the crotch of your pants were in the same zip code. And the bill on baseball caps? It keeps the sun out of your eyes. Yeah, I like to keep my eyes on the front of my head.

And here's one. Call me silly, but I'd have to say that our language has decayed. The average 14 year old in 1950 had a vocabulary of about 25,000 words. His charming counterpart of today has one measuring about 10,000. (1) Yo, wassup, 'sup, yo? Go ahead, convince me that's an improvement . . . and try to do it without using "Like, you know?" more than twelve times per sentence.

So life is like the Burger King commercial said (before it, well, changed): You'll always get change. I'm okay with that. All I ask is while we're busy changing, could we maybe try improving as well?

Oh, yeah, and I would ask one more thing. What position did Johnny Bin Walker's dad hold in the Clinton administration?

Frank Leany

(1) Source: David Orr, "Verbicide." Conservation Biology, August 1999

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