I’ve always known that knowledge is important. My school teachers droned on about it; my parents repeatedly reminded me of it; and various public service advertisements would use famous people to persuade me to believe it.

Okay, I get it. It’s got power. Whatever.

Yet, it wasn’t until I entered my adult years and experienced the everyday trials of simply living that I really began to appreciate the wide-ranging benefits of having and using knowledge.

It is powerful.

Learning how to get a loan, understanding why not paying off credit cards immediately can wreak disastrous effects, investigating what’s under the hood of my automobile, finding out how warranties can be comforting security blankets.

And most recently for me, figuring out what to look for in a laptop.

When I first perused my online laptop options, most would agree with me when I say that the sheer volume of choices could keep a person’s head spinning for days. And mine sure did.

Processors, hard drives, gigabytes, RAM, optical drives. I just wanted one that was fast and pretty.

At least, I thought that’s all I wanted.

The nice thing about the Internet is, if you use trustworthy sites, it takes no time at all to learn everything you need to know about any given topic.

And people are pretty quick and eager to give their opinion, especially if it’s anonymous.

I found very quickly that Intel and AMD are the leading processors, with Intel coming in just a hair ahead, and AMD being more useful for “gamers.” After that, I read about the types of processors: single, dual core and on up. The bigger the number, the faster the speed—I determined.

Same thing goes for memory (RAM) and the hard drive. Of course, most of us know that, but what I didn’t know is how much is too much or too little.

With a little more online investigating and face-to-face salesperson discussions, though, I found my answers. I finally settled on a Toshiba with an Intel i3 processor, 4 GB RAM and 500GB hard drive.

But I tell you what—the feeling of walking into a store and having an educated conversation about products, without embarrassment of appearing stupid or ill-equipped, and knowing the right questions to ask so as to make the right purchase, that’s priceless.

And powerful.

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The mania surrounding the unveiling of the new iPhone was short-lived this time around due to the numerous complaints that arose all too soon after its arrival.

Never being one to buy the first thing of anything, I found myself feeling grateful once again for another sidestep of a possibly unfortunate and annoying purchase–as if I had the ability to purchase a new iPhone anyways . . . but that’s beside the point.

I was listening to an NPR story the other day that discussed this happening. A man was chronicling the events and how Apple was responding. He then made an interesting comment: that most people don’t purchase the iPhone for its phone-calling-and-receiving capabilities.

No, I’m sure businesspeople are never conducting important business calls on their iPhones. And I’m sure that the everyday people who carry on important telephone conversations don’t mind at all when their calls are abruptly ended, and they lose reception.

It’s an incredible feat that technology has accomplished: enticing us to drool over the latest invention which does not even accomplish the task it is thought to have been created for.

I needed to find a thank you card.

I used to love looking for cards; I still do to a large extent.

But I’ll tell you what I don’t like: passing by aisles and aisles of birthday cards until I finally spot the small location at the back of the store where they’ve placed the five cards of various other subjects: thinking of you, thank you, friendship, sympathy, blank.

I’m all about celebrating people–granted, not through birthdays, but through various other card subjects. Dropping someone a line to say “I miss you” or “Thanks for being a good friend.” Everyone loves getting cards. And most love giving them.

But could we work on the originality please? Hallmark recently unveiled a new line of cards to encourage young ones. That’s original. And admittedly, something that our youngsters could use more of.

I remember the days of finding a colorful, poetic card when I was searching for something to do the talking for me. Or sometimes it was the card that worded it just right, but still leaving me ample space to add my thoughts. Or some days I wanted to laugh and pass it on to my friend. Before long, I would have six cards in my hands, conflicted as to which one I would choose.

I miss those days.

Looking back, they somehow felt simpler.

And yet, as everything does, it goes back to our day and age. While we all still love cards, we are too busy to take the time to find one for someone–unless we’re forced, such as in birthdays or anniversaries. We are even too busy to think of the idea. And by the time everyone realizes it, thanks to technology, written communication will be almost lost and our postal system will be a fragment from the past.

solitary Confinement?

January 28, 2010

Solitude enjoyment has become an illusive, fleeting object.

While we all need some amount of human companionship, everyone obviously craves different amounts of it. Admittedly, we all have to be alone each day. For some, it may only be when they’re in the bathroom. Still, others may spend the majority of their days alone.

Yet, it’s becoming easier to avoid solitary-ness. With cell phone advancements moving at phenomental speed, another human is only a touch of a button away. And of course that does not just mean voice-to-voice communication. Text messages enable ones to enjoy a continual conversation spreading on and off over days or maybe weeks. And Facebook and Twitter create lines of infinite communication. One post can reach hundreds of people. And in two minutes, you may have instituted 50 conversations. No one ever has to be alone again!

But, why is that such a desirable thing?

Is it because that’s how most of our great-great grandparents lived? Living on a farm with no one but family to be found for 100 miles–causing their offspring to swear off that lifestyle.

Do we think that any semblance of a similarity to past generations means we have not yet reached our potential as humans?

Maybe a little old-school living is what the doctor would order if we bought out the time to visit him. (Well, maybe a chiropractor or naturalist. Medical doctors would never prescribe anything not involving a bottle of sorts.)

In reality, I feel nothing but complete respect and admiration for those who enjoy being alone. Giving oneself solitary time illustrates a strong sense of self-acceptance and confidence. If we don’t know who we are as individuals, how can we offer ourselves to anyone else?

It’s not hard to locate those ones who detest spending time with themselves. They’re the ones who ironically can’t stop talking about themselves. Lack conversation etiquette. Start every sentence with I or my. The ones who rattle off movie and television lines constantly. And the ones who reference “hanging out with friends” on their resumes and Facebook profiles as their hobby.

I just recently joined the iPhone train. I’m not exactly proud of it. It always seems that the things I start out tirading against, like Starbucks and iPhones, are the very things the universe decides to turn on me and force me to fall to my feet in adoration.

But it’s the truth. I do, in fact, love the iPhone. But it’s also helped me to see even clearer the full capabilities people have to stay in touch with others all the time.

That’s a train I just can’t get on.

What happened to the good ‘ol days of buying well-made merchandise?

You would surely think that with humans’ supposed level of superior thinking and technological and scientific discoveries, we could easily surpass the technological quality we achieved 50 years ago.

And yet, that is not the reality.

We purchase cars amidst the growing environment of recalls. News stories recount incidents of automobiles turning into balls of flames or malfunctioning pedals that disobey their owners and accelerate right into a telephone pole.

Our equipment needs constant updates, maintenance, care, and maybe a little prayerful pleading. It takes 23 days to figure out how to make a phone call on the newest PDA and double that to find the instructions in the instruction manual. And within a year, the appliance will have turned off due to its own free will a dozen times, completely died without immediate revitalization ten times, visited the repair shop five times, possibly traded out twice, and thrown against the wall at least once. But don’t even think about dropping it on the ground; its innerworkings will spill everywhere and the bumps and bruises it sustains will ensure that you never type another text message or make another phone call again. You might as well soak it in a tub of boiling water. That baby’s gone.

It didn’t used to be this way.

In the beginning, cell phones were hearty.

Before that, automobiles used to be able to plow through mud, drive across deep ditches, and up and over steep mounds without needing any loving care afterwards. Nowadays, drive your BMW over a pothole and you’re lookin at $500 in repairs minimum.

Or maybe it’s a young person fresh out of high school who bought his first appliance all on his own–be it something small like a toaster or something big, maybe a washing machine–and head to college.

That faithful piece of equipment would see the student through his riotous college years, his bachelor years filled with Ramen noodles and pints of beer, and eventually his first and second home with a new and growing family. Until it finally gave out after almost 20 years of reliable companionship filled with trust and loyalty. It wouldn’t have even occurred to the machine that it could fickly hang around for two or three years and then fake death by making a suspicious clanking noise as soon as its warranty was up.

No, technological equipment has proven what we as humans may deny: that our society’s improvements are not exactly “improvements.” Money comes before integrity any day, and–for some people–every day.

What a wonderful outlook to live by. Cheat people and make them come back for seconds. Trust and reliability is for sissies.

Breaking News

January 2, 2010

Let’s discuss the marvel that is Facebook.

This is an idea that revolves around two human desires.

One: to be social.

We are social creatures. We need people. No man is an island. We’ve all heard that expression. It’s true.

But when did it become necessary to have another human involved in absolutely every nanosecond of every moment of our lives?

I personally find it very disturbing to have people around me for more than five hours a day.

New technology and lack of self-restraint have turned A.D.D. into the norm. Entitlement has birthed newborns with texting addictions and Facebook profiles updated by the minute. Technological advances have turned our world into a playground of egotistical crybabies.

Two: to be heard.

Thanks to Twitter, people can publish their every thought, uncensored, for the world to see. Because who isn’t interested in the fact that at this very moment, I am standing in my kitchen making macaroni and cheese. Well, actually, I’m not doing it anymore. Now, I’m on my iPhone telling all my friends that I’m doing that. But once I’m done posting, I’ll go back to my mac ‘n cheese. That is, until a friend posts a response and then I’ll have to reply to her reply and then that will go on for a while so that I’ll forget my dinner and it’ll burn on the stovetop. So I’ll just end up chatting all night about Taylor Swift and if she and Taylor Lautner are really broken up.

Really, Facebook and Twitter (‘Tweets,’ seriously? Who is the genius that came up with that intelligent lingo?) can be summed up in one word: distraction.

That’s all it is. Distract us from working. Distract us from learning. Distract us from educating our minds with events happening outside our immediate jurisdiction. Distract us from living.

Or maybe distract us from ourselves.