Thursday, October 10, 2013

Showdown: Techno vs. Throwback

One theme that has emerged this week in our household involves a sort of metaphorical..."tug-of-war", if you will. One one side we have the modern, powerful, lightning-fast forces of the Digital Age. Arrayed against them are the old-fashioned, simple, leisurely-paced resources of Bygone Days. Here's how the battle ensued...

It all began when Riley brought home the monthly Scholastic Book Club flyer in his backpack. He had already circled two options for my review and approval--both reference-type volumes, primarily about animals, totally parentally-acceptable. I promptly wrote the check (speaking of antiquated practices still going strong in today's world, right?) and he awaited the delivery with much anticipation and excitement. When he brought his literary booty home a few short days later, he immediately became entranced by The Encyclopedia of Nature. He would readi it intently for long stretches at a time, pausing only to share facts he found especially interesting with whomever happened to be sitting nearby. At one point he noted, "I'm going to try to absorb as much as I can from this book because I like it a lot!" I pointed out that since it was his own personal possession now, he could revisit it any time he wanted. "That's why I don't like going to the library," he replied, "because you might read a book and think it's great...but then you have to give it back!" (Sooo, I'd say we have to award the first point to: Throwback...)

Although I myself DO enjoy the library, I understand (and share) his pleasure in filling a shelf (or...twelve...) with books I can keep. In fact, since our town library has been closed now for almost three years (yep, stilllllll not finished with those "renovations" yet...) I've been making frequent trips to the..."basement archives" to pick out and re-read some favorites. In a related incident, there was our kind of half-new-fangled, half-retro experience: I pre-ordered a book on Amazon, knowing that when you do so, they ship it to you pretty quickly after the official publishing date. It was the fourth in a series by one of our favorite Young Adult authors, and this installment would be joining the others in our collection. So let's see...I used a make an electronic purchase...of a hardback novel...that would be shipped via the Pony Express. (No, no, it only SEEMS that slow when you're impatient to dive into a new story, but I'm sure they have trucks...) Hmm...I'd have to give that another tally for Throwback...with an assist for Technology, maybe?

But then there's a footnote (ha! sorry...) regarding my Kindle. You see, I'm morally opposed to spending over, say, eight dollars or so for an e-book. So I choose a new selection occasionally, or put it on my Wish List and wait for the price to drop, or browse the Bargain Bin for an on-sale treasure, or (you guessed it)...start a previously-downloaded one over again once enough time has passed for it to seem fresh. (As in "I've forgotten all the pertinent details anyway, so why not give it another go?") But I L-O-V-E the fact that my e-reader and my phone's Kindle app can sync with one another, placing me instantaneously at the correct "page" on either device. No matter where I am (stuck in traffic, standing around in line, hanging out in a doctor's waiting room) or which electronic item I happen to have in my bag, I never have to suffer without reading material at my very fingertips. That's definitely a score for Technology, right there...

Finally, I undertook a flurry of research about Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill this week, in preparation for our exploratory Winter Break trip. I had received the packet of information I requested from the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, including an entire magazine of information on everything from retail centers, to neighborhoods, to well as a separate brochure listing just restaurants. (One guess as to which glossy cover caught the immediate attention of the Male Posse?) With these references, plus the notes I'd already written, I got busy. What that actually means is: I sat right here in this chair, with my laptop...Googling...stuff...such as: specific menus for some of the more promising eateries. (Since we have to consider a wide variety of tastes, the appetite of two growing boys, and a vegetarian, I've found that this is an invaluable step to complete before traveling, whenever possible...saves us from a great deal of grumpy, hungry confused bickering...)

Then there is perhaps the most crucial piece of the whole get-outta-town puzzle: a hotel to act as a home base for several nights while we do touristy things to entertain ourselves. I believe it was somewhere in the middle of perhaps my seventy-second search (I'm just estimating, here...or wildly exaggerating...whatever...) when it occurred to me: How on EARTH did people accomplish this before the blessed Internet? I mean, I get that you could telephone the establishments directly, and talk to someone at the front desk. (Ick! Dealing with...people! Shudder...) But then how could those...mere humans...possibly accommodate your required conditions, for absolutely critical stuff like "free breakfast" and "no smoking whatsoever anywhere on the property, period, end of discussion"? And how could you manage to make an intelligent decision without a grid showing you the locations of various options, along with their best price and a list of included amenities? Then, when you had eliminated all but a few, and were almost certain which one you wanted to select, how could you make your final choice without reading reviews posted by other travelers who had courageously gone before you? (What? Does that say "cockroaches"? Click cancel, CANCEL!) I guess if I think about it, I used to employ AAA Guidebooks for the same purpose, and I've survived just fine...but I'm still gonna have to give this one to Technology for the sheer amount, variety, and depth of information available via your keyboard and monitor.

So that's it--as I examine the final stats I'd have to call it a pretty even match, encompassing some futuristic victories, and a few shout-outs to the hallowed past. Now please excuse me while I power down my computer...and go read my new book!

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