Saturday, February 5, 2011

blunt about technology

So I had just pulled into Winthrop Physical Therapy and Fitness the other day, and as I paused in the icy parking lot for a driver to back out of a space, was surprised by a white minivan which proceeded to pass me on the right.  I briefly wondered about this thoughtless driver, parked and then headed toward the gym entrance.  Just as I reached the door, a woman's voice hailed me from the top of a six-foot snow berm across the lot, shouting "Do you know where the waxing shed is?"  Yeah, it didn't compute for me either, but I live in a town where we typically assist strangers, so I stopped and watched  her and her two middle-school aged children scramble down the snowy slope.  As they walked toward me, her daughter announced, "We were told to check in at the waxing shed."  Being a resident of the Methow Valley and knowing something about the upcoming weekend's events, I replied, "You must be talking about the ski races at Liberty Bell high school."  "Yes, yes!  Isn't this the high school?  Our GPS told us this was the high school."  I wandered over to the white minivan with them, and helped direct them back down the highway 4 miles to where they would find the only high school within a 30-mile radius.
Now, our driver had already driven 4 miles past the well-signed turnoff to the school, so only two things could account for her error: she might not have obeyed the GPS instructions, or possibly her GPS directed her in error to the site of the former Winthrop School which burned in 1961.  Either way, neither she nor her ski racing kids were paying attention to signs, street names, or the driving directions provided by the race organizers, and instead were blaming their minivan's GPS for the navigational snafu.

I ask you, what good is technology if it makes us dumber?

Okay, I already hear you my friends who enjoy calling me a "neo-Luddite".  Go ahead and get it out of your systems.  I'll wait.

Truth is, you KNOW I'm not averse to all high-tech gadgetry, I just need a compelling reason to adopt it.  Is this new gadget going to enhance my life?  Am I going to live smarter with this tool?

Here's an example of a very low-tech gadget that I want to love, and just can't (yet).  I heard about this beautiful little hand-crank burr coffee grinder that Backcountry Roasters is now carrying.  It's the Camano Coffee Mill made by The Red Rooster Trading Company.  It requires no electricity, is super quiet, has adjustable grind - what's not to love?

It's slow and it requires work.  I know, I know, neo-Luddites such as myself shouldn't mind cranking a handle for a few minutes in the morning for freshly-ground coffee beans.  But I just can't see myself getting grumpier and grumpier standing there cranking away when I just want my coffee.  Yeah.  Low-tech sounds real good until you're the one grinding the beans.  There's some potent symbolism for ya, folks.


  1. Our hand grinder sits unused on a shelf. Sure seemed like a good idea when we bought it at the Red Hen.

  2. Although it is my role in life to drag Laurelle kicking and screaming to accept new technology, I will admit that she has been upon occasion the voice of reason to rein in my excessive geekyness (although I can't think of a good example offhand).

  3. Technology bites, man. Don't you hate when your iPhone goes out on you at Everest Base Camp. Geeze! Perhaps they make one with a hand-crank :)