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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

High-Tech Trials


Computers exist to save us time and money. Well, at least one or the other.

Yet, for the neophytes and technophobes among us, there are major hurdles to overcome to get started on the information highway. Some have embarked, and then took the earliest exit possible, and are sitting, disoriented, at a wayside rest stop grabbing a Slim Jim and Diet Coke, and wondering what went wrong. Many of us are feigners and fakers in terms of being computer savvy, driving in circles while secretly wishing we would make it to the next destination.

I have the design sense of Paris, but the tech talent of Peoria. Sure, I can attach a photo to an e-mail, it just might be the size of the dining room table. Sizing, placing, cropping:  all are similar to Misha or Grisha attempting to give themselves doggy-haircuts. Blindfolded.

Often, I have to admit, Benedetto rescues me. More recently, pre-teen Petya gives me tech tricks. It’s only a matter of time before newcomer Pasha will do the same. As a matter of fact, the dog once showed me something new, which is truly pathetic (on my part, not his. I was truly amazed at his abilities.).

I usually use my computer as a souped-up typewriter, and receive enough ridicule for this, believe you me. But my goal was to type in other languages with different alphabets. It happened one day when Misha the dog was sniffing around my bed as I typed. He thought I might have some food hidden on the bed (why he would imagine such a thing is another matter entirely), and made the three-foot-plus high jump onto our bulbous bed, landing squarely on my laptop keyboard. The screen went wild… and changed to Russian.

Voila`! The dog had done what I had been unable to do. Not unusual.

Switching back to English was another issue.

Petya, my very own Geek Squad, advised, “Mama, turn the computer off and it will change back to normal.”

He says that a lot. It was like someone I used to know who always said to her elderly husband, “Marvin, take a pill.” Funny thing is, it usually worked.

Everyone needs to know how to use a computer. I am acquainted with a number of adopted or immigrant children who were plunked right down into the midst of American schools. They know no English… so the teacher puts them in front of… a computer. Of course, a homeless orphan often has had very little exposure to the high tech world, as has the child of an immigrant, depending on their country and economic status.

After my mom passed away, my father remarried a Russian woman from Kazakhstan. History was repeating itself: she spoke no English, and his own mother spoke no English till the day of her departure from this earth. Grandma had only lived in the US for sixty-some years following the Revolution, so who expected her to know much? She had some very limited English ability, definitely enough to rail upon those immigrants who never tried to learn the language, but fluency was in the ear of the listener. She sounded like she was straight off the boat. Enter the new wife with similar challenges at an advanced age.

Tamara decided to improve herself. She planned to take the bus to the local community college and enroll in English classes. Actually, Dad drove her to enroll, but you can imagine the melee that ensued for an octogenarian wearing shorts and black ankle socks with sandals trying to find parking on a crowded college campus. It was to her advantage to leave him out of the equation.

Tamara’s first day there, they placed her in front of a computer, with no instructions. Many of the other new English learners were in the same situation, but the teaching assistant was stretched too thin to really help. Tamara took the community college shuttle bus home, misjudged at which stop to disembark despite coaching from my dad, and had to walk the last mile home. Her college career ended before it even began.

Which only goes to prove that lacking computer skills can get you into a heap of trouble. Computer finesse is probably the missing link for my father to discover that men don’t wear black ankle socks with sandals. Being part of the sizeable masses not knowing how to use a computer, most likely means not being able to learn languages, finances, graphic design, order fashionable clothes and reduced cost flea treatments, or even develop hand-eye coordination. Just the other day I was trying to eat some broccoli and stabbed myself in the eye, instead. I believe it stemmed from my lack of computer competency.

In all reality, though, you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you did not have the capacity to get online. Now that I think of it, that could be a unique service to offer, sort of like a rent-a-seeing-eye-dog for computer illiterates, someone to sit by your side and guide you through computerdom.

Let me say in my own defense (I am trying), we have only Mac computers in the office and in the home. You can’t get much more simple than that, which could plunge me into deep depression if I thought much about it, except that they are the hottest machines on the market. I like the idea of a computer named after a piece of fruit. An apple a day….

The local Apple stores are the height of cool. With the workers’ black outfits, they might double as hairdressers in their spare time, if they needed to. But most are so knowlegable about computers and hard drives, megabytes and gigabytes, that you know they are doing what they were created to do. They have classes for editing movies, how to use an iPhone, and so much more. I could live in the store, easily. Maybe that would help me to get a place in one of the coveted classes that seem to fill up before I can point and click my way into registering.

Benedetto reads helpful magazines like MacWorld. I would, too, if they would throw in an article or two about fashion, or travel, but I guess these geek guys are rather narrow-minded. Focused, he would say.

I still don’t know the difference between downloads and uploads. A big load of laundry, well, now that’s something we could discuss around the water cooler. I’m sure other mothers with babies or toddlers could wax eloquent about loaded diapers and loaded strollers, or those with teens could weigh in regarding loaded comments. Maybe an upload happens when you’re having an up day, and a download happens when you’re down in the dumps. Possible, entirely possible.

One option would be to bite the bullet and buy one of those “Computers for Dummies” books. But I don’t consider myself a dummy. I mean I’m feeling bad enough in this distinct lag behind the learning curve– do you have to call me a name, as well? I prefer to think of myself as a savant of sorts– the genius-idiot syndrome– very gifted in areas that do not translate to marketable skills, while lagging behind in certain basics such as computers.

Personally, I love my little PowerBook G4. I take it everywhere, as though by the sheer power of osmosis, some computer literacy may rub off on me. We’ve come a long way from the days when a computer took up an entire room in a university learning lab, with its punch cards, and unique languages and codes. So there may be hope for me, yet. The dog had the right strategy: dive right in and sort it out later.


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