Tag Archives: AARP TEK

Private Note to Baby Boomers

1 tech typewriter

It’s time now.  Come on, wake up. It’s your turn to make this world right.  Gummy bears and cotton candy, sweet dreams that form the cutting edge of innovation, because you are the epitome of possibility.  And yes,  the world may yet become a better place, because you’re in it.

So, finally, you’re about to graduate from parent-hood.  It’s truly an OMG kind of moment, where whimsy meets reality and you’re the star!  Soon emotion will stir with nostalgia to create a refreshing new out look and life will change forever.  It begins with a small spark within your soul, like a bead of perspiration that grows and flows.  Yes, there may be discomfort and moments of anxiety, but isn’t that what growth is all about?  Change always seems to include some discomfort.

Funny, but family will take on new meaning, as those things that once infuriated you about them, will become dear memories.  Those things that were so annoying, will be funny attributes.  You’ll miss the toys underfoot and the security blanket that you once wrapped around them, just as they once held your face in their round hands.   Cute.  It seems a hug isn’t a yoke after all, we’re made to love unconditionally, not because we have to… but simply because.

So as you prepare to trade in the mini-van for the Tesla, take a moment and pause…

Look around and see what once was and who you’ve become.   Remember how many baby steps they mastered before you learnt to let go, and they smiled.  And it was their triumphant and confident strides into womanhood that made you smile.    Relax, you’re not walking away from family, but instead into your own future.  Sure it’s a little bit frightening, but it’s also exciting.  And every step will become your mark in this world.   So step lively, be graceful and write!  Begin again, with kind and fresh footsteps wherever you go.

It’s technical, not a technicality.  Come on, it’s your turn to shine.   Let’s see how you do.

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Pink Lemonade, the New Slice of Pie

L Pies

“What’s my plan?”

I’m not sure how to respond; I’m trying to figure it out, as I go along.  Lately life has supplied a bushel of lemons, and I’m familiar with the saying “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade” but what I’d really like to know is how do I make it into a slice of lemon pie?

For years, I’ve been delving around on the internet trying to get published.  But working full-time and raising a family limited the time I spent and some sites that offered me a steady readership, PNN (defunct) and Yahoo, byline offered anemic compensation.

But I’ve also seen some succes.  There was a “Name Us” on-line contest, an experiment that went viral with international submissions.   I entered the name “Pxyl” and won.   The company has since been named to INC Magazine 5000 list, as one of America’s fastest growing companies, maybe there’s magic in a name.   I won a Kindle (I still have it) and they’ve mentioned my name a few times.

The MIT Age Lab in Cambridge, MA selected me to participate in a driving study.  I was exposed to new technology, and discovered that age does have its perks.   I was given the keys to a specially equipped vehicle, and connected by electronic leads to external computers, while video cameras mounted in the interior of the vehicle recorded me driving along the highway.    The data and my responses were gathered, collected and uploaded to a Cloud in real time.

The world is fast changing and I’m interested in everything!  This past August I was invited to Maine for a huge tech conference and saw first hand how the business IT landscape is changing.  And yes, I noticed that it was mostly men, so I was happy to write about the many doors that are opening for Girls Coding.   Meanwhile, the open platforms, the cost of processors (dropped) and the Internet of Things is real and it’s all rather amazing!

I’m a technician at heart.  My mind is trained to always approach a problem by getting on its good side, and the only dumb question, is the one that wasn’t asked.  So I started to ask questions on the internet to anonymous engineers.  I took a free on-line coding class, I read and wrote and realized I was becoming more and more unemployable.   Social media seemed appealing, so I decided to become a brand.

In April of 2014, I created a pseudonym, both tech savvy and internet friendly, named TechnyGal.  I started a blog, first on the WIX  platform and then here, on WordPress.  I opened a Twitter account and tied them to Facebook.  I purchased a few domain names Technygal.com and PinkisTheNewGreen.net  and then I started writing.

Two months later I received an email from the Washington Post Live, inviting me to a forum in Boston, I accepted.  The next day, I received another invitation to attend a 3 day conference being held in Boston, by AARP  50+ Life Reimagined.  I graciously accepted.

While seated at a Press only luncheon, I leaned over and confessed to an executive VP, that I had no idea of how I had gotten there and that I was humbled and overwhelmed.  She smiled and replied, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.”  So I have…

It’s been less than a year, and I’m thinking more and more of what direction I’d like Technygal to go in, and I’m thinking it includes girls coding, selling lemonade and getting bigger slices of pie.  But like I said, I’m not sure of how I’m doing what I’m doing, there’s just this steady movement always forward.

Your suggestions are welcome…

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Filed under AARP, Baby boomers, Big Data, facebook, gadget, Gender, Gender Equality, Internet, small business, technology, Twitter

Thinking Outside The Bubble

1 Internet of everything

 

What’s in a name?

I was thinking that we humans have a tendency to forget things. That is, we walk into a room and fully forget what we came in to get; we drive our car home and forget where we put the car keys.   Well, we should all be able to remember this name.

“The Internet of Things”

Lazy and rather unimaginative, this name does what most names don’t actually do, it defines, describes and categorizes, then answers the question: “What is it?”

Once a theory and quickly realized, anything equipped with a sensor could be in constant communication with a computer processor.  I can almost imagine the first MIT scientists throwing their hands up in technological glee, fully inspired by the sheer volume of their discovery!

Now a coffee pot in their office could “talk” to the refrigerator down the hall.  And both could be programmed to “talk” to humans, as well as machines and more, these enchanted objects would be able to add cream and milk to your grocery list, as well as perform “yet to be thought of” applications.  Big Data (with it’s equally unimaginative name) would gather and collect executable data, which could be analyzed in real time.

Mind boggling and still evolving into what just might be “the internet of nearly EVERYTHING”.

The Digital Age has jettisoned technology closer to a television cartoon with a similar name (The Jetsons).  We don’t have flying cars, but who knows?  Everything seems possible with sensors and a computer’s magical little black box, that processes code.  That leads to technology getting smarter and smarter.

Change is coming, both progressive and disruptive.   It can decimate confidence, shake up the bottom line and place a strain on long standing traditions.  And we’re all prone to its “Goosies”,  that skin tingling sensation induced by excitement or fear or disbelief.

Mature businesses, like older people will feel it acutely, maybe more so than start-up companies and younger, tech savvy people, who never used letterhead on bond paper and couldn’t tell the difference.  But having different efficiency levels shouldn’t be a license to feast, one on the other.

It’s wiser to work together; bartering and collaborating like our ancestors did when they first discovered fire.  And again, when they put fire to a best use practice, smelting iron and forging steel.   Factoid, teamwork will always lessen a load.

We’ll have to use technology smartly, because finger swipes across a screen is not a measure of intelligence.   We’ll also need to put on our thinking caps, which will act as a protective helmet in the event of a crash.

The mind is a powerful bubble making machine, full of ideas.  So, what happens when a thought bubble pops?

I say we harness the gases for propulsion, fasten your seatbelt.   It’s gonna be a helluva ride!

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Readers of Code

world book 9

I like that people are reading. For a long while it seemed that people had stopped reading, but now thanks in part to social media, people are reading more, albeit snippets of information.

Still, these easy readers, Tweets, status updates and likes, have created a renewed readership, with links to blogs and articles, that have been written by real writers. Technology, it seems is getting people to read!

Once upon a time, I was an avid reader. Not voracious, but still very much on top of things. I read any genre and was always on the lookout for new writers. It seemed that I had more leisure time, and I was a fast reader, able to enjoy a quick read as well as a long casual one.

Books you see, are my friends. They stay up with me when I can’t sleep, whispering to me about new ideas, old innuendos and faraway places right here on earth. Books lean against the wall, or sit patiently on the table, stacked and ready for my retreat into them, away from reality.

I like to savor what I read. Let the words swirl around inside my head. Discover new thoughts, evoke emotions that softly touch or ruffle up against the edges of a memory. All mine. If left to my own vices, I’d sit with a nice glass of chardonnay and read a whole book; a book a day, as if it were an elixir, ah …

Unfortunately, I have fewer hours to read. But I make time to visit the library and I browse local bookstores. Because I like the way a book feels in my hands, as much as I like the smooth feel of my iPad, which replaced my 1st generation Kindle.

And in addition to that, I’ve been learning code. I’m a big advocate that all girls should learn code, and wasn’t I once a girl?

So, I signed up for an Edx course, purchased a few books and started to run programs on a computer. (And here, dear reader is where I must add a disclosure: “I’m not a computer geek, not a rocket scientist and not a genius and not a programmer.”) I’m a student in the world of variables and integers.

Anyway, yesterday I curled up with my book, my laptop and executed a C program in terminal with Gedit. It was mind-boggling, as I started to believe, that if you read it, you can understand and do it. And to that end, I’m learning.

I created a social message about girls coding in MIT’s Scratch website; it allows you to code with blocks. (For giggles, here is my project, click the green flag Girls Jump.)

I like that people are reading again. Technology it seems, does require us to think and it’s making us readers of code. And that’s a good thing.

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Filed under AARP, Baby boomers, Big Data, Code, Coding, Gender, Girls, social media, tech, technology, Twitter, Women

Booming Tech: A Silver Mardi Gras

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Rest easy, there’s no silver tsunami coming, the catch phrase coined to describe the coming of age of 76.4 million American Baby Boomers.  It’s not coming because we’re not your grandparents @ 50+. 

Think more along the lines of a Silver Mardi Gras— Silver beads, shirts on, tablets and smartphones up. 

We Baby Boomers are the offspring of great social changes, the Civil Rights Movements and Women’s Equality.  We don’t march, we dance and it’s a lively beat; kind of like steel drums.  

Years of formal education, from kindergarten to college didn’t teach us how to grow old and die.  In fact, none of us mastered in the art of dying or its companion set– rolling over and playing dead. 

Why would we?  We’re having too much fun.   So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we’re still vibrant members of our communities; that we’re educated, experienced and still have a little money to spend on tech toys and cool gadgets.  Especially tech tools that make our lives easier.

Last week, I attended the Washington Post Live- Booming Tech Forum on technology and Baby Boomers that was held in Boston.  The opening remarks made by AARP’s Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Hollis “Terry” Bradwell III set the tone, when he affectionately spoke of the Etch-A-Sketch toy, as the “iPad of our day”.  He got that right, it was!   Other speakers, like MIT’s AgeLab Director, Joseph Coughlin spoke of age disruption as being “young not youthful” and had me thinking that’s the place I want to be.  

Michael Cantor, Chief Medical Officer @ New England Quality Care Alliance spoke of technology for life, the coming of electronic medical records, wellness and longevity.  While Geri Brin, Founder and President faboverfifty.com spoke of women entrepreneurs on the web, startups and growing up on the internet.  Jeanne Sullivan Co-Founder of StarVest Partners spoke of the Startup Age in a tech world and they were exuberant with the very real possibilities of life @ 50+.  

Representatives from two tech generations, Perry Hewitt, Chief Digital Officer @ Harvard University and Zachary Hamed, Designer, respectively Generation X and the Millennium Generation weighed in on continuing and protecting the Tech Age.  While J.P. O’Rourke, columnist for The Daily Beast and author of The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way… And It Wasn’t My Fault… And I’ll Never Do It Again.  Discussed what’s wrong with the Technology Age, a little too glad that he wouldn’t be around for the fall out. 

With each speaker I became giddy with hope, everything reinforced what I already knew, that is we Baby Boomers are relevant in the Tech Age.  We’re mostly healthy, vibrant members of society, still active in our communities, still making contributions and willing to volunteer to improve on this world.   Why wouldn’t we? 

We were born into a world with our eyes opened, sometimes pried and held open to injustices.   There was no veil of delusion that hid institutionalized prejudice and discrimination from us.  Instead, we viewed sweeping changes on our television sets–  excitedly, we watched mankind land on the moon; and in horror, we watched a U.S. President be assassinated.  Confused, we watched U.S. soldiers being killed in Viet Nam and shocked, we watched fellow American citizens being hosed and beat down because they wanted to sit down at a counter.  It was a new world, full of social change and it swept us up along with it.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” with inter-racial dating, wasn’t simply a movie starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, it was our very real world being portrayed in film.  I know, because my father has blue eyes. 

So here’s the thing, there’s no silver tsunami coming; that would be too destructive.  Think more of a Silver Mardi Gras with silver beads, shirts on, smartphones and tablets up!

 

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Small Business Start-Up: Re-Think Technically

Business logo

Life doesn’t always allow us to know that what we’re doing and what we’re saying can and does make a difference.  For many of us, we’ve been making all the motions and haven’t gotten anywhere, but that’s about to change.   

It’s small business week, time to rethink a thought and think technically.   

The internet has completely changed the ways and means of starting a small business, from mailings to research to training; everything now seems reasonable and do-able!  

For many of us, time hasn’t been our friend.  In fact, most recently, time has been a struggle.  Everything seemed to come down on us at once; the rent coming due when the kids needed new sneakers and just when the fuel tank needle dropped to empty and a kid got sick!   

For every step that we took forward, there seemed to be two steps back. But somehow we muddled along.  And when there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day; we squeezed out another moment and got it done just in the nick of time.   

And all the while, we were unaware that we had been doing the Suze Orman juggle, and making ends meet.  We had stretched our dollars and lived within our means for so long, that it had become second nature to us, this check to check lifestyle, without the economic mystery of Adam Smith’s invisible hand distributing the goodies; which had long ago become ineffectual. 

And now here’s the pay-off; we’re wiser, we’re consumers and we’re our own purveyors.   Our kids are grown, and even if they haven’t moved out yet, we’re comforted in knowing that our job as paying parents is done. That is we’re no longer responsible for their name-brand sneakers! Yes, we have a little money left over.     

Time, our old nemesis has become friendlier.  As if there’s a mutual respect between us.  We’re no longer wasting time by procrastinating and time is no longer zipping by.   

Sure, a lot of things have changed.  The umbrella of social security is leaking and retirement will never be what it once was, but according to a study at MIT, baby boomers are twice as successful as their younger counterparts when starting up a technology business.

And this week is small business week; a time to acknowledge and appreciate small businesses.  A reminder that we don’t need silver spoons to mold dreams, when we have our hands.   Small businesses are built by forming new friendships, establishing networks and creating new online communities. Dedication and hard work will prevail.    

And later, in the cool of the afternoon, we’ll make time to look through old photographs and see that we smiled and laughed.   

And more importantly, once again we’ll make a difference.

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TEK Inclusive, Not Elusive

aarp 1

Life doesn’t come with instructions.  Whether we’re pushed out or carefully extracted, we enter this world ill prepared for the journey ahead of us. 

In our youth, the journey was thrilling and eventful; we often jumped to conclusions and leapt before thinking and did so with little consequence.  But we’re older now and know better. 

Technology, is best used with knowledge, but sometimes it doesn’t come with paper instructions and just seems daunting. 

It wasn’t always that way.   Once upon a time, when you purchased a product it came with instructions that seamlessly guided you along, so that you could enjoy the device.  These were usually written on crisp white paper and after you read them, you were well prepared to use the device. Then you’d carefully fold the paper instructions and store them neatly away for future reference.

But the future came quickly, without warning the instructions began to appear on recycled paper.  These thin greyish slips of paper easily tore, and usually didn’t offer a grace period, that is a small window of time in which in complete frustration you’d ball up the instructions and promptly tossed them into the trash. Later, you’d retrieve them with a cooler head; logic prevailed. You’d get it, you needed those instructions.

And then the instructions changed form again, now they were being printed in multiple languages. English on one side and Spanish or Chinese on the other.  You were left more frustrated than before and joked about it; if you didn’t understand the instructions in English, then how could you possibly understand them in another language?

And then, without warning they had the last laugh, when they intentionally stopped putting the instructions into the box!

Instead a CD needed to be inserted and run on a computer. And that too began to change as you could only gain access to the instructions by visiting the website and downloading them.   A quandary if you didn’t have the knowledge to download a PDF, yet another acronym that popped into the English vernacular.

Which brings me back to the top of this page; that you’re not born with life instructions in hand; but perhaps you don’t need them to be.   After all, we have this unique ability to communicate, that is we can paint and erect a sign to prevent others from falling off a cliff. Technology shouldn’t be viewed as a cliff.

Besides, the journey of life is fun, meant to be enjoyed; teaching, educating and sharing knowledge are important to character, integrity and human development.

It’s nice to know that there’s still instructions included on things that smell good, like boxes of cake mix.  And if that changes and a cake mix requires a kitchen mobile APP, well it’s equally nice to know there’s a 50+ community available to help you.

Taking the fear out of technology and yes, there’s AARP TEK for that.

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