|Can you hand me that 5/8 inch crutch?
I had a nightmare last night. It was horrible. I dreamed my cell phone battery died. I'll give you a minute to compose yourself.
I had to call my wife to see if she wanted me to pick up Miracle Whip or Mayonnaise and the cell phone was dead. I asked the stock boy if I could use the store's phone. I had some vague recollection that I could punch in a series of digits that would connect me to my home, but what were those digits? To talk to home, I always pick up my cell phone and say "Home." I tried it. I picked up the receiver on that monster in the store and, as clearly as I could, said "Home." In response it moaned at me. Hmmmmmmmmmm. What was that? Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered it was called a tone of some kind, a file tone . . . a . . . a dial tone! That's it! Dial? What in the heck is a dial?
I remembered that as an alternative I could enter "HM" from the keypad, so I tried that. I found the keys for H and M, and pressed them, and the moaning stopped, but the phone didn't do anything. If only I could remember that sequence of numbers that would connect me to my home.
Well, I'll spare you any more frightening images. Take solace in the fact that it was only a bad dream. Come to think of it, bad as that dream was, it could have been worse. What if someone asked me to calculate the volume of a cylinder and I had no calculator? What if they asked me to plot an acceleration curve and I didn't have Excel? What if I needed to remember an address and all I had was paper and pencil not a digital voice recorder? What if my DVD player broke and all I had was my VCR? Or books?
Let's ratchet up the terror. What if I needed to look up some information and the internet was down? What if, and I shudder to mention it, I had to fill out my taxes and didn't have the software? What if, Heaven forbid, I wanted to contact someone I really cared about and they had no e-mail address?
Stop! Enough already! Have you no mercy, man?
No one can dispute that technology has changed our abilities. When I was a kid you'd buy a Hot Rod magazine and it told you what to do to your car to make it fast. Buy one today. What you'll read is what you can buy for your car to make it fast. I kid you not, they actually have articles in there about selecting the right performance chip for your car. Lee Petty's got to be glad he died having never seen the day.
I was watching a pseudo-debate on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher (Hey, I couldn't sleep and it was the only thing on) where they were discussing some principal in a private school who wouldn't teach computer classes to his kids. There was a lot of oohing an oh-my-goshing and people fanning themselves to dispel the vapors on account of the horror. They said that you can't survive without computer skills in this modern age. I'm pretty sure if any of them had actually seen a rope in real life, they would have tried to hang the guy. Then one fellow pointed out the reason. The principal maintained that becoming dependant (dependent?) on a computer prevented developing fundamental skills. Can you believe the trogolodyte . . . troglodi . . . tro . . . neanderth . . . neandrath . . . guy? Imagine anyone thinking you can become dependant (dependent--darn this text editor without spell checking) on some inanama . . . inamin . . . inanimet . . . darn fool machine.
Thus Spell Check doth make idiots of us all.
When I'm writing with pen and paper I expect squiggly red lines to appear under mispelled words. I can't write "wierd" (or is it weird?) without having MS Word automatically fix it for me. I actually think "Shift F7" when I can't remember another word for something and "Ctrl Z" when I say something stupid.
But I'm a big fan of technology. I like the way it enhances my abilities and want to offer that same opportunity to my children. When my kid was about four I bought him a cheap little brightly colored calculator. I asked him what 3 + 2 was. He punched on the calculator a bit and said. "It's seven, Dad." No, it's not, it's five. "No, Dad, you're wrong, it's seven. It says so right here." Can't argue with that.
Because we design on computers at work, some people figure that having a computer on their desk means they can kick out engineering drawings. After all, all this technology will compensate for any deficiency in design skills. We have one guy that has been able to convince the computer to put some lines on a paper in the approximate shape of a tooling print. He says he's "getting pretty good." He doesn't realize that for every minute he spends designing, some engineer spends two cleaning up his flawed geometry. The guy's nickname should be Gigo. The day this guy kicks out a drawing that a machinist can actually read, look for the Jazz to win the NBA title. I'm here to tell you, owning a paintbrush does not make you an artist.
What technology has done is enable us to do more with less understanding.
My dad was twice, no, make that three times the mathematician I'll ever be. But I can kick out immeasurably more calculations than he could. Dad didn't have Excel spreadsheets, you see. When Dad worked a problem he'd whip out his slide rule and had some idea of the answer he was looking for. He had to. The slide rule didn't tell him if the answer was 120, .012 or 12 million. The slide rule was a tool, not a crutch.
So the principal's principle is right. All these fancy tools cannot replace a good fundamental understanding. And the idea that you can't survive without computer skills? That's right, too. It's just a question of whether we use them to enhance good fundamental skills or to compensate for their lack.
Prolonged exposure has been linked to impairment of language skills, causing victims to use words like "paradigm, empowerment, proactive, envisualization" and to talk about "owning those feelings."
In a press conference the head scientist on the project, Dr. Smellsom, attempted to explain the neurochemistry in the marker. The conference was cut short however when Dr. Smellsom attempted to diagram the process on the dry erase board. Further studies will examine whether the chemical also causes the short-term paralysis which leaves the victim staring into space holding the marker like a Bic lighter at a rock concert.