Are paper documents outdated?

I recently started watching the “Lincoln Lawyer” on Netflix. As with most series/movies involving lawyers and law firms, I’m always a bit shocked at the old-fashioned paper documents. It seems that important or incriminating evidence always exists in paper. This even happens when people need to sign documents in the show, or retrieve a file.

What’s odd about this is almost all documents only exist electronically. From the time someone creates a document and uses it, it remains electronic. This is especially true since Covid started. Although e-signatures and digital signatures have been around for over 10 years, the pandemic expedited their usage. Since many businesses had to operate remotely, with employees working from home, acquiring signatures electronically became the norm.

The Netflix “Lincoln Lawyer” series is based on a series of novels by Michael Connelly, first published in 2005. If I consider that, it would make sense reading it that transactions and business would happen with paper. I wouldn’t expect to read anything about smartphones or the pandemic. However, the Netflix series is more modern. The series modifies certain aspects to match the year of creation, 2022. People use smartphones. The lawyers review some discovery documents, such as emails, electronically, even though in one episode they received 80 boxes of physical documents.

However, in the courtroom, the lawyers present evidence in both formats, electronic and physical (paper or other objects). Photos remain digital. Everything else is in a physical format. Witnesses read highlighted sections from pieces of paper, on request. Wouldn’t the new “norm” be to hand someone a tablet to read? Not only is this more accessible because it allows the size to be adjusted, it’s likely the document only existed electronically until it was printed out for a witness to read.

I wonder for the new generation watching these shows, or working in an office for the first time, if these practices already seem outdated. They seem outdated to me and I grew up paper, cassette tapes, and rotary dial. And yet, in a weird kind of way, they also seem perfectly normal.

Grading Homework

I haven’t been a student for over a decade. Yet, every fall still feels like the start of a new year. Suddenly the air feels crisp, carrying the hint of a chill. Nights come quickly, the sky darkening earlier and earlier. Mornings stay darker, lightening later and later.

Many of my formative years were spent as a student. Being raised by teachers firmly implanted the academic schedule into my bones. Incidentally, this also coincides with the start of a new orchestra season. Even without being a student, this is also the start of a “new” year for me in another way and has been for decades.

Always at this time of the year, seeing and hearing the children once again walk and cycle to school. Noticing the influx of more people everywhere all the time, all signify the start of something new. These things happening also remind me of my father’s nightly grading homework ritual. Though long in the past, each fall reminds me of his dedication and diligence as a teacher.

As a youth, I watched my father take over the dining room table after dinner each night. He sat quietly with a blue pen in his hand reviewing students’ homework. He made checks for correct answers and tiny x’s, sometimes with notes, for the wrong ones. As a teacher, he once told me that grading assignments and getting them back the next day was his homework. He felt that students learned better from the instant feedback and made it a point to return work promptly.

His grading pen was also special in its own way. To anybody looking at it, it had the appearance of a normal blue-ink bic pen. The kind you purchase cheap and in bulk. Or find laying around everywhere. Those who knew my father, however, understood that it was his pen. He rarely let anyone else use it, even family members. When he did let someone use it, he watched them until the pen returned safely to his pocket. And yet, people were always asking to borrow his pen. First of all, he always had one. Everybody knew he kept one in his pocket, all the time. Secondly, the ink always flowed easily. I’m guessing it’s because the ink stayed warm from being close to his body heat.

I’m reminded of all these things when the weather starts to change each fall.

Selecting the Right Digital Photos

I’ve been working on another digital scrapbook. As usual, I find the most difficult and time consuming part the digital photos. The first hurdle to overcome is selecting the right photos to use. I usually pick too many and end up weeding some out as a I go. I think the scrapbook I’m working on is going to have 200+ photos.

The second obstacle is aggregating all the photos and adding them to the application I use to make scrapbooks. I feel like this should be easy, but it’s been a tricky process. Most of the photos I need are on my phone. However, if I log into the application on my phone, it’s a different version from the one I use on my laptop to create the album. The end result, I can’t login on my phone and upload the photos directly. Then log back in with my laptop to start using them.

I developed a workaround. First I select the photos on my phone. Then connect to my laptop to transfer them over. Once transferred, I upload them directly to the app. This takes some time because sometimes it can be tricky to find the photos I marked in my phone. After I upload them to the app, I usually end up deleting them off my phone so I don’t have multiple copies floating around everywhere.

Once in the app, the next challenge with the photos is how they are organized. The app organizes the photos by date. I find the chronological order nice for creating scrapbooks. However, sometimes the date reflects the date of when a photo moved from one place to another. For example, I used a couple of photos a friend sent me last year for the scrapbook. The app organized these photos according to the date I downloaded them to my laptop for uploading, rather than the actual date of the photo. They appeared as the most current photos, even though they were from 15 months ago!

After all that, I’m finally ready to begin the fun, creative part of the process. Even though selecting and moving all the photos takes hours of time, I find it’s worth the effort with the finished product.

Learning Music with Technology

Over the summer I started taking ukulele lessons. I’ve never played a string instrument before. I also haven’t taken music lessons in years. However, I felt inspired to learn something new. The ukulele seemed accessible, plus it’s small, lightweight, recognizable, and doesn’t require me to make reeds. It’s also relatively inexpensive so I figured the financial investment was small enough to take a chance.

It’s different learning how to play a string instrument. First of all, I can see my fingers. Secondly, I can sing or talk while I’m playing. And the added bonus of not worrying about what I eat and when because I don’t need my mouth to play the instrument. The pitches of the four strings still feel a bit confusing to me, but I’ve accepted this is how the uke works. Other than that, the chords are starting to make sense, even though I can only play about a half dozen.

What’s really surprised me is how the lessons are taught. There’s a monitor in the lesson room. Every lesson, the instructor pulls up something to teach on the screen. The first couple lessons it was images of the uke and a basic chord chart. Then it was “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” with the lyrics, notes, and chords all written together. I also got a printed version to take home for practicing.

For the last few weeks, we’ve been practicing strumming patterns with a talking metronome playing through YouTube during our lessons. Sometimes we play along with a video of the current song I’m learning. Last week, the instructor pulled up a metronome with some drumming beats under it. We played along and had a mini jam session.

I have to confess, the first time the metronome started playing on the screen I had a flashback to high school. I used to have a piano teacher who would place the metronome on the piano during my lessons. It was an old-fashioned looking wooden box with a lever that used to swing back and forth to steady ticking noise. To this day I can’t stand the sound of clocks ticking.

The new lessons, and method of teaching, are really fun and engaging. I know these types of options have been around for a long time, but I spent my youth practicing alone, with no technology, and it’s a hard habit to change.

Customized Jewelry

Last week I finally made it to a jeweler to get a few things repaired. One of my favorite necklaces broke at the start of the pandemic. The numerous lockdowns and restrictions kept delaying the repair. Eventually, I decided it was a priority. I’ve been missing the necklace for a long time.

The visit to the jeweler started out the same as any other visit. I showed him my broken jewelry. He assessed it, quoted some prices, and estimated the repair time. He placed each item into separate bags with a small handwritten note to indicate the repair. Then he handed me a paper repair ticket with an order number on it. Normally, this would have been the end of the visit. Except somehow or other, we ended up chatting about how he designs jewelry.

He fired up his computer and showed us a three-dimensional drawing of a ring he designed. Then he whipped out his phone to show us a photo of the finished product. Although a lot of professions use computers for drawing, designing, planning, I had never considered a jeweler using it. I suppose it’s because actual people create custom jewelry by hand. Each piece crafted individually. In fact, the last time I went to a jeweler for a custom creation, everything was by hand.

It was fascinating watching the jeweler show us all the different design options. He could change the cut of the stone or the color instantly. I particularly enjoyed seeing the finished product rotate in a three-dimensional view. Although there was clearly a good deal of imagination and creativity going into the design process, I left the store wondering about the future of jewelry design with AI (artificial intelligence). Similar to so many other professions, I’m sure it’s possible for non-jewelers to download some kind of app to custom create their own jewelry. After, a person might create the design. Or it might just be a sophisticated 3D printer ready to print gold, silver, and diamonds.

Unique, custom jewelry creations amaze me. Although it seems inevitable that this, too, may one day be replaced, or augmented by AI, for now I can enjoy the work of an artisan. I’m looking forward to seeing the repairs, something that at least for now, still requires a skilled human.

The Myth of Digital Storage

I finally ran out of space in my laptop. I purchased this particular laptop in 2017. To be fair, I’ve been accumulating, and purging things, for almost 20 years. So even though I’ve had this laptop for about 6 years, I brought things over from previous computers. For months I’ve been receiving warning signs about low storage, though I didn’t quite understand what it would mean. Since receiving the warnings, I’ve been diligently going through files, documents, music, images, videos, to start freeing up space. Unfortunately, it wasn’t fast enough.

Last weekend, when I really needed to do something on my laptop, the whole thing froze. Nothing would load, close, open, save, etc. My computer was immobilized. It simply didn’t have enough memory left to perform any functions. After a few (tense) minutes and frantic searches, I figured out how to restart my computer in safe mode. Once opened, I immediately started purging, emptying the trash, and getting rid of anything quickly and easily. It’s a temporary fix. Now I’m left with a dilemma, submit to needing more storage, or make some very hard decisions to whittle down 20+ years of acquired digital “goods.”

As The Deletist, I have to confess, I’m up for the challenging of deleting, naturally, but also a bit daunted about going through 20+ years of digital accumulation. To add to the challenge, my computer is maddeningly slow and constantly freezing. It’s a terrible dilemma. Things won’t load fast enough to do a proper purge, but I can’t purge without seeing them.

To be efficient, I’ve been reviewing my photos and videos. I have a lot of duplicates and photos that are blurry, too repetitive, etc. These all make easy deletion choices and a way to quickly get more space. And yet, the problem of the slow uploading is magnified with photos. This makes something that could be quick and ruthless, rather long and frustrating.

With physical storage, I’ve always been a fan of working within its constraints. The amount of my physical possessions limited by the space available. It seems now I have finally crossed that threshold in the digital world, though it took much, much longer. However, it’s not just in my laptop. I’m finding my cloud storages (e.g., Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) are also reaching capacity. The myth of limitless digital storage finally shattered for me.