Of weekends, contrast and the ‘Vortex’ of news

I am a lousy time manager. Just ask my wife, or my boss. No, wait, don’t! They already know (all too well!) and I already know and… here’s just a bit (OK, it got long, more than a bit!) of an explanation – not a defense, just an explanation – of why.

I’ve often said it’s a good thing I’m not a producer of one of our newscasts – they’d start about, oh, say, 6 or 10 minutes past the hour, not at 6 pm on the dot. (Another favorite saying: I’ll be late to my own funeral. But who wants to be on time for that? I’d rather not show up entirely. Heh.)

So anyway, I’ve also often said that I “ride the tide of the daily news.” Lately, I’ve come to realize that the tide of news actually often rides me — my wife and I “lovingly” call it The Vortex, in that one of the many ways news is not a widget to be put in a box or a bean to be counted, you just can’t know what’s going to happen next.

Just like a favorite diner can only plan so much in terms of staffing, only to see it all go to heck when a bus of high school wrestlers on the way to a tourney drops by — like many jobs, actually – you can only plan so much, than have to allow for the unexpected, and be flexible in how to get what needs to be done, done.

The Internet made things worse — the ability to work anywhere, at any time — but my issues pre-date it by decades. Back in my United Press International Days, my wonderful wife Deb would get off work, come over to the bureau and watch me run from one of the old green-screen terminals to another, posting stories or the like, and I’d be saying, “One more thing!” “One more thing!” Etc.

Still, when I left work, work was over — except maybe to tune in the hourly news on the radio to make sure nothing big had broken locally or elsewhere in Oregon. I also hadn’t quite gotten the whole police scanner thing into my blood – a topic for another time.

But now, like so many of you/us, my job is still as all-consuming – and can be done at work, at home and, to some degree, anywhere I am, thanks to my trusty laptop.

That of course is a good and bad thing. Trust me, I know.

Without diving into the specifics, this weekend was a great example.

Saturday, there was a lot of local news to get done. And while we do have a weekend broadcast staff, of course, I sort of … help them out. Not to mention getting that news on the Web.

Some would (and no doubt do) say it’s because I’m a control freak, that I don’t delegate well, etc. But I also know that I have … standards. As do our many readers. They expect online articles to be well-written and for fresh news to be posted while fresh, etc. Not to mention moderating the 100s of comments every few hours that pour in on our Website.

So I worked a lot Saturday – and still, with my wife’s hand pain (dang arthritis!) really bad, got out to the grocery store. So what if it was after 9 pm? That’s why Freddy’s is open until 11!

Today, the Gods of News granted me a reprieve (knock on wood) and there have been no big breaking local news stories (knock knock knock on wood).

So I was able to spend more time with Deb, venture out for a bit, and sit and watch TV. To do that very important relaxation and, yes, doing nothing that is the only true way to alleviate the stress. I even got both of my neighborhood walks in (though I am anxious for a bit warmer weather to return.)

I know I’m supposed to be a filter of the news, not a funnel. I don’t have to post every single AP state wire story to the Website, or turn every interesting news release or email into a story. There’s always more to do than time (and me) to do it.

And yet, I really do enjoy what I do. I relish being the first to tell people interesting things, and yes, competitive me, to beat the competition (which is about to expand a bit locally.)

I sometimes have said over the years that the young people I work with, trying to help them become better writers, reporters and story-tellers (I leave the photography aspect to others like the great Steve Kaufmann), that they both help keep me young and “drive me to an early grave” at the same time. (As happens with your own kids, I suppose, though Deb  and I have never been blessed in that regard).

I’m the picky guy who not only wants to get these young folks to soak up story ideas like a sponge and keep their curiosity and passion thriving, but also wants us to always use the right word, to get everything right, to take the government gobbledygook and turn it into English, who always calls the police or fire agency to fill in the inevitable holes a news release will have.

I simply can’t “care less.” It’s not in my nature, or repertoire.

And that’s the biggest rub of all.

Sure, I’ve asked for help in different ways over the years, with what I do, but then I show them the 360-degree, almost 24/7 sphere of work I’ve created for myself (I DO get 6-7 hours of sleep a night! Really!) and they go “you must be joking.” Well, sort of.

And no one has ever explicitly told me to “care less,” to let things slide, let the top stories on the Website stay static for a few hours or longer (though I did come up with a nifty shortcut last year to automate that with fresh U.S./world news, especially on slower news days. I need to find more things like that!;-)

But my brain is simply wired to do what I do, and … it’s cost me no doubt in various ways to be so “chained to the keyboard.” But I know I’m also very blessed with a patient wife and colleagues and superiors (to the inevitable limits I test too often;-/

The tradeoffs and rationalizations I publicly profess over this imbalance between my personal and professional life are very well known to me, and to those I love and respect. They cut me as much slack as they can and of course worry I am working myself to an early grave (in my wife’s case) or, at work, not giving the best example to the younger reporters of how to achieve that crucial balance.

This weekend’s very contrasting Saturday and Sunday reminded me how, once again, I have placed myself at “the mercy” of a never-fully predictable tide of local news. Our show producers know that going into every workday of planning to hit that 4, 5, 6, 10 or 11 p.m. mark. On the nose.

In a way, I envy them. That rigidity — the “tyranny of the clock” — also means they know when their work is over— 30 or 60 minutes later (or 2 hours for the Sunrise folks.)

But that’s not really true, either. Even for producers. There’s always more for them to do — and for the reporters, oh my, there’s always Barney, helping however he can but also bugging them for online stuff, both during the day, and after the shows, when they just want to get dinner and do other things. Sure, I read their scripts and try help them find the sources, the info they need, etc. We all help each other out, all the time.

So the Internet has helped foster what wire services like UPI knew very well decades ago — that in the world of news, there’s a “deadline every minute” (in fact, a book on the soap opera that played out in the all-but-demise of that beleaguered organization had that as its very title.)

But to be totally honest, only I have created this particular, major-league “Vortex” of life for myself. And my wife has resigned herself to living with it, sort of like the spouse of a doctor who’s pretty much always on call, and can’t really say no. (But when she hears sirens, she too wants to know what’s going on! As do so many of you, who ask us before you’d ever bother 911.)

I’ve also taken to standing every more firmly in my lobbying for the need for us to be flexible — except for that clock ticking to 6 p.m. — to not set so many unreasonable deadlines or expectations that we feel like we’re always failing. I used to winch at stretch goals, saying they’re bad for my back. It seems that saying to “keep doing the great things you’re doing” becomes an insult/put-down. If you’re not moving up, you’re falling behind.

To me, it’s a corollary to another late-in-life realization: That sometimes the wisest thing one can say when asked “when will you do such and such?” is — it depends. That firm deadlines are a fact of life, but in all other things, we must strive to make sure not to let what I call “artificial deadlines” rule our lives or our work, or we will fail in ways that go way, way beyond a missed deadline. (It’s like another aspect I try to cling to: That sometimes the best answer to a question can be an honest “I don’t know.” (Especially when quickly followed up with, “But I’ll try to find out. Now.” Bingo! Real, and caring!)

It’s on a weekend with such stark contrast — from a Saturday struggling to stay afloat, to a Sunday placid trip down the River of News — that I’m reminded of what I already know: I must make the most of the lazy-river stretches, in order to be at my best when the rapids inevitably appear, perhaps just around the next bend, in that never fully charted River of News.

That’s both the joy and excitement of this journey, and the frustration and fear. They are wedded inextricably, for me, and … like two sides of a coin, are pretty much inseparable.

Maybe your job or life is much like that as well. I do have dreams of other things I could be doing (ask me about The Now Edition some time!), but then the next interesting, even amazing event, calamity or story to tell comes my way and … I’m off to the races again.

On the eve of my 60th April Fool’s birthday (no foolin’!) I know my strengths, and my limitations. And like the musicians (Elton! Paul! Etc.) who keep doing great things into their “senior years,” I hope and pray I get to keep on keepin’ on making a difference, telling folks interesting things and stories, moderating the carnival of our viewer comments and … communicating both good news and the unfortunate bad.

More changes are coming, as they always do. So I’ll buckle in, and see where the river takes us next. Hoping my life vest doesn’t get tested too often, ya know?

 

 

On a quarter-century in Bend

I never expected to be in Bend for 25 years, and yet, this month marks that anniversary. Wow.

A lot of change in my life, and Bend’s, over that time. Some good, some not so great, all water under the bridge there’s no use kvetching over.

When my job at United Press International evaporated in the fall of 1990 – I was their last reporter in Portland, next to last in Oregon – a boss I barely knew in LA called to tell me I was the “best person I’ve ever had to lay off.”

Ouch. Such a compliment.

I frantically looked for work – AP had no spot for me, nor did The Oregonian – how things would have changed if they did. So one day, as the unemployment was running out, I called an old friend at The Bulletin, which used to be a UPI client – held on longer than most.

Indeed, there was an opening. And after two women turned it down, Deb and I moved over the Cascades from Beaverton.

It truly felt like a small town then. One where there was no Starbucks, no Supercuts (I used to kid about going to Floyd’s Barber Shop with Field and Stream magazines and a six-pack in the sink;-) — and worse for me, no local access number for my already-strong online addiction (ah, CompuServe, Prodigy and — I was a beta tester for AOL. If only a beta shareholder!;-)

It was a town where seemingly half the population vanished into the woods when deer hunting season arrived. Where Division Street was not divided, where Third Street already was getting too crowded (back to the future!) and … where at the corner of Highway 20 and 27th Street stood a lonely BP station and … nothing else. No Costco, Safeway, shopping centers — darkness at the edge of town.

Over the years I bounced from the paper to a special five years writing online-only (at first) news for Bend.com/later The Bugle, and then, 11 years ago almost to the day, landed at KTVZ (then newly christened NewsChannel 21, though many old-timers still know it best as Z-21.)

I’ve had my ups and downs, just like the region I’ve come to know and, yes, still love. Sure, I have not spent as much time away from the keyboard enjoying it as I wish. Never been much of an outdoorsman, but at least I get my walks in now, thanks to the co.-provided Fitbit and My Fitness Pal.)

One of my first stories at the paper was to interview the authors of a book that included Bend in “50 Fabulous Places to Retire” or somesuch. I recall asking the couple how they came up with the list. They had narrowed it to 200 or so, I seem to recall, before starting to interview residents.

They thought they’d have trouble narrowing it to 50. Instead, they had trouble coming up with 50, because so many people are so down on where they live, they couldn’t imagine folks actually think it was a good place to retire, or raise families, etc. And it appeared that the longer they lived in one spot, the more who felt that way. Soured on their former “paradise,” mad at those who came after them for “trying to change the place,” etc.

So they had to focus on the relative newbies, the one who knew why they had come and loved where they were – not the long-time residents who have soured on it and of course have this rosy, romantic view of how things “used to be.”

As a journalist, my specialty is reality. I have to skip the rose-colored glasses. Bend and Central Oregon wasn’t perfect then, or now. There are always things to miss and remember fondly, wherever you live. The trick is to realize that everything changes, some for the better, some not so much. We cannot put a place (or person) we love under glass, never to change. It doesn’t work.

Yes, the summer tourists seem lousier drivers than ever. (Day to day ones, too.) And it’s still called “poverty with a view” by too many.

But during the deep recession that hit here as hard as anywhere, I remember looking up to the bright-white snow-capped mountains on the horizon right outside our doorsteps and saying, “they haven’t lost a bit of their value, right?”

It’s all about trying to put, and keep, things in perspective, something hard to hold onto in the swirl of emotion-fueled rants in our social-media-fueled Blame Society.

There’s no magic dial called “growth” we or our elected leaders can turn up or down, much as many would like (if we could even get a slim majority to agree on where the dial should sit!) It’s 1,000s of individual decisions by all of us infallible, imperfect humans.

So we must, in the end, except the bitter with the sweet – some of the best chocolate, and life, is bittersweet. I can be brought close to tears by a 20-year-old library card or bottle of Windex. Seriously. I’ve always had a touch of the melancholy that way.

But we can’t, yet, time travel. (Though a Star Trek transporter sure would have been handy covering big national news 3 hours to our east!)

Instead, our mind does the traveling, the sorting, the rationalizing. It’s how we survive what life throws at us.

And for all those ups and downs, and the worse traffic we face now (but WAY better than the Valley!)  I know I’m blessed to, for example, have the best wife in the world (to put up with me and the News Vortex, a saint!) – a 5-minute commute, a great job and great co-workers and bosses, my health (mostly:-/ and a special place to call home, even if we write all the time about its imperfections and issues.

Because the Chief Rationalization of Life, no matter where you live, is that while things could be better — they could always be much worse.

Such is life. In Bend or anywhere. It’s what we make of it, as Doc Brown says at the end of said Back to the Future — so make it a good one! And take time aside from grousing to remember all the things we take for granted – and thank God and our fellow, imperfect friends, family and co-workers for making it not just tolerable, but pretty darn nice at times.

 

A trying Facebook day: Have we taken leave of our senses?

Has the world always been, largely, certifiably mad (as in insane) or is it just that Facebook has made us look that way?

I actually posted a nice note to my FB friends yesterday about how amazing a tool it is, by and large, to keep in touch with friends old and new.

Then, as if to smite me, we had a really bad crash in Redmond – and a few dozen of the folks who passed by and took photos of the pretty dramatic if not horrific (OK, the victims were gone by then) scene shared the photos, in public, within minutes, on our Facebook page – long before any family members were notified, much less identified to the public.

What were they thinking? Or not thinking?

I posted a fervent plea of “please don’t do this,” which at least sighting had over 500 likes. But while that’s something that can be appreciated and humbling, I’m not “like”-fishing – I’d rather not have something to prompt such a finger-wagging post, “liked” or not!

When folks have said over the years that our Website’s comments would be more civil if we required real names, not screen names, I automatically reply: “Have you seen what people post to Facebook with their real names attached?”

Then, in a 1-2 punch of “fun,” I post a rewrite of a news release on a Crook County crash of an ATV and SUV on a forest road that thankfully did not lead to any deaths, but involved two juveniles, so the sheriff’s office did not identify them, only the SUV driver.

Well, within an hour or less, that posting turned into what I call “trial by Facebook,” led by one of the ATV riders who made some serious allegations about the driver — who, deputies said, was not cited. (There were some, well, holes in the news release, which I have inquired in hopes of filling, but it seemed to be enough to get it out there.)

So again, I had to go in — if only over my extreme fear of litigation and related headaches — and remove dozens of back and forth comments over who what when where why that went way beyond what the sheriff’s office released.

Some consultants have told me/us, “don’t worry – it’s only Facebook.” Heck, there was a ruling last week that again absolved folks who oversee Facebook pages of some legal risk based on what folks say on them.

But we have Terms of Service for the comments on our Website – ones I get to make sometimes-tough judgment calls on 100s of times a week – and I really do try to hold to the same TOS on our Facebook page, when I can, however I can.

It feels at times like a lost, hopeless cause – that today, with everyone having the ability to say whatever they want, wherever they want, that “censorship gene” of civility, sensitivity, decorum, taste and all those old fuddy-duddy old-fashioned words that most of us used to abide by has just gone out the flippin’ window entirely – young or old, rich or poor, male or female, we just let it all fly, and if the folks reading it don’t like it, that’s their own tough luck!

It’s not just about fear of lawsuits – although there’s that. It’s a gnawing feeling that for the vast majority of us, we either engage in reckless word-tossing without fear or thought of consequences, or we silently endorse it by not objecting to it.

I’ve joked, sort of, before about wanting to create a “Nicebook,” where folks basically are told: Be civil, or be gone. Why this is necessary becomes more evident with each skirmish I find myself in, as I try to refereee the un-refereeable.

Am I making too much of this? Perhaps. But the old adage “think before you speak” seems to be going the way of the buggy whip and hoop skirt. And you don’t have to be a kumbaya Pollyanna to lament it, and fear where it’s all going to take us.

(Postscript: I am unhiding the photos of the crash on Facebook and using them on the story now, hours later, because police have released details and plan to use one of their own. Also, all the photos shared I’ve seen were after the car’s occupants were removed.

Like this one – by Edna Ibarra – note the officer in vest, the paint markings by the wheels; clearly some time had passed.)

Hwy 97 crash Edna Ibarra web 67

Novelty songs and variations of such

Years ago, I loved when morning rush hour radio shows – usually called the “Morning Zoo” – did novelty songs, usually about current events and people in the news, sometimes which even turned into actual records. I may still have a few 45s (remember those?) stuck away.

There was one about the Rajneeshees’ main spokeswoman, a shrill lady named Ma Anand Sheela, and she inspired “Shut Up Sheela” (to the tune of Tommy Roe’s “Sheila.”)

There was also one I memorized called “We Want Lava” that came out after Mt. St. Helens started to rumble but before the big May 1980 eruption (had quite the festive, jazzy melody – but be glad I’m not singing it for you;-)

We want lava, we want lava
Is that too much to ask?
What kind of volcano only burps up gas?

You know we’re not asking for Krakatoa
Even thought it would be nice
What kind of volcano
Throws up five-foot blocks of ice?

Etc.

So I like to do the same thing some time. And one came to mind this afternoon, after the Belmont Stakes brought the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. So here’s a smidge, feel free to continue it if you know the tune;-)

(To the tune of ‘American Woman’ by Guess Who)

American Pharoah
Won the Triple Crown
American Pharoah
Never let me down

Don’t go thinking he’s got no class
Or that your horse is gonna pass
He’s got more important things to do
Than hang way back in the pack with you

Now Pharoah, what a mighty steed
American Pharoah, got it yes indeed

(And I also recently thought of one about an event many look back on and lament in Bend’s history about 15 years ago, the demolition of the Brooks-Scanlon Crane Shed – I was there, and was covering all the soap-opera drama as the owners tried to get the county planners to let them do what they wanted.)

(To the tune of ‘The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down,’ by Joan Baez)

The night they tore the Crane Shed down
And all the people were cringin’
The night they tore the Crane Shed down
And many hands were wringin’,
They said

No, no no no, no!
No no no no, no no no no…

(Etc.)

Oh and then there’s some old stand-up comedian who used to take parts of well-known songs over the years and give them a twist, and a punch line.

Like

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!
(Get it? They are very hot, so if you put it in your pocket, well, aaaahhhh!;-)

Or (imagine the guy marching)
76 trombones led the big parade
There was nobody else…

(March a few more steps in silence to get the point across)

Or

Let a smile be your umbrella
And you’re bound to get all wet

Or

I’m looking over, a four-leaf clover
Because they are so darn small!

Okay, this has descended into juvenile.. okay, maybe it’s all juvenile.

We all have our coping mechanisms, right?;-)

No special hotline: a guide to finding out what’s up

I do all I can to clear up misconceptions among folks about what we do in the media – be they grand or simple.

One thing I think many presume/assume is that if we hear something wild on scanner or are made aware of police converging on some spot or another, that we have some special hotline to gather the details.

Granted, there are some agencies with public information officers, but not all — and they aren’t always on duty, and they don’t always know what’s going on, either.

So we do have the non-emergency dispatch numbers for each county – in Deschutes, that’s 541-693-6911 (then hit 5).

Sure, you can drop us a note on Facebook or at stories@ktvz.com – but at 3 a.m., for example, that’s not going to bring a rapid-fire response.

Listening to a scanner all day, we can hear folks who call 911 for the most inane reasons — kids being rude, etc.

And I’m sure many contact us instead of them because they don’t want to bother busy dispatchers or misuse 911.

But what I tell people is, 9 times out of 10, what they tell you on the phone if you call the non-emergency number is what they’ll tell us — and it also eliminates the middle-man and speeds things up, to your benefit — and sometimes ours, too..

Because then, if you learn what’s going on is important — you can tell us and make sure we know! We appreciate that!

Yes, some times when it’s busy, the 911 folks will put you on hold for emergency calls. You’d want and expect that.

And also, some times they won’t tell you or us what’s going on, for tactical, confidentiality or other reasons. But we have no special hotline, no special “in” with police to learn what they can share.

And to learn something was “just” a medical call (not that that’s not sad for whoever’s involved) can let you go back to sleep without worry.

Want us to check on it? Great, no problem. But just wanted to make sure you knew there’s another way.

Of Quark, Trello and the Endless Sea of Things

Some times, when you’re grocery shopping, you try something new simply because they are out of the familiar.

Like it or not.

So since the shelves at Safeway were laid bare of most Dannon Light and Fit Greek yogurt flavors, I grabbed a hodgepodge of interesting options – like so many things lately (1,000s of cat good varieties! Etc.) – you could probably live most of your life without trying the same thing twice.

One I tried today wasn’t even a yogurt at all, but something different — elli Quark, “a spoonable fresh cheese with a creamy texture similar to Greek yogurt but with a richer, less sour taste.” It’s pretty good!

But stumbling upon it reminded me of a couple things. (Well, three things – one is Quark XPress, a desktop publishing program of 20 years ago. But I digress, as usual.)

One is Trello – an interesting, visual project or process manager – life organizer – that our company is trying out. Like so many such systems, it looks promising – and simple, and powerful and flexible — and free. Nice! But not perfect – what is? Still, there’s a lot of potential to help organize both work and personal life – if one invests the time in learning it. Some times I think you have to learn all the bells and whistles to use something like this, when I should know better – that to ease in gracefully has its strengths.

But again, I’d never heard of it until one of our group’s other TV stations started using it.

And that reminded me of how we have these new, amazing powerful tools at our disposal – I’m reminded of that often – and yet we far too often still can’t seem to find the things we’re looking for.

Way back before Google and its ilk took firm root, but after the world began to go online, I said that online world seemed like “the world’s greatest library — with all the books on the floor.” More and more great things were out there, but how to find what you’re looking for? Now, of course, search is not only incredibly handy, but becoming ubiquitous – if you know what to ask and if the search engine really does know everything going on and can find that needle in the proverbial haystack. Two very, very, very big ifs. At times, though, it seems like all those books are back on the floor, and Google (or Bing or…?) feel as limiting in their own ways as the old Dewey Decimal System – again, it’s all there, but finding it is the challenge.

On a related note, I have decided to take a half-written book, “The Now Edition,” and probably create a Website instead – as a reporter, I value immediate distribution and feedback on my ideas, and the interaction that goes along with it. This one is full of interesting elements in my humble opinion (subtitle gives a clue: “The Social Future of Writing, Reading, Content and Conversation.”)

I’m writing this set of ideas and visions because the tool I wish existed doesn’t – it’s not a blog, but a dream of a platform to share, collaborate upon and discuss long-form content on a topic of interest or passion, one that’s as easy to use as a word processor and easy to lay out and … well, I’ll get into it more there. I imagine subscribing to topic communities, with a lot of content that fuses/mashes up the long-standing today-news of journalism and the history of other forms of literature.

I mean, why should I get an electronic version of a 3-year-old book, or a magazine that isn’t wedded to its Website/app for a seamless reading experience? I don’t want to buy a book, I want to subscribe to it – or better yet, to a community built around that book-like content. They could be a collaborative process, or just to interact with the author(s), who can wed the latest news on Topic A with the rich history on that topic that they have written about. A true e-book, not a replica of a dead-trees book from 2, 4 or more years ago.

But again, I wonder, does such a platform/program already exist out there, and perhaps my many various searches just haven’t turned it up? I have indeed found many bits and pieces, but nothing that really connects the dots as I envision. Perhaps if I write up my vision in enough detail, I’ll learn someone else is thinking like me – or it will inspire others to go in that direction.

So all that musing brings me to one of the newer buzzword trends, the Internet of Things – where everything will be wired and aware and connected, not only making everything “smart,” but also creating an even huger (not a word, I know;-) sea of data and answers and info that one must wade through to find the answer or thing you’re looking for.

Add in the needed security elements – a scary 60 Minutes piece tonight about how a hacker could take over the controls of your car! — and we could have lots more scary things to worry about than whether the Google Self-Driving Car will know to parallel park or take that left turn at Albuquerque (as Bugs Bunny does;-)

But just maybe, the supermarket shelves will get smart enough that they won’t run out of what you’re looking for. Not that I mind trying new things like elli Quark, but we all like to be creatures of habit about some things, like our morning yogurt, right?

If “the Internet is Not the Answer,” what was the question?

A new provocative book entitled “The Internet is NOT the Answer” is generating a lot of discussion before it comes out, thanks to articles like this.

And as always, the comments are as interesting and enlightening as the article itself. (Score one for the Internet! Heh.)

One of the sayings I say so often I’m a broken record: Every tool is a weapon, every weapon is a tool.

If the book title had been posed as a question, I’d be asking: Is it the right question? As it is, the thought that any one human trend, development or area is “the answer” to anything is specious at best.

There have been several authors – I once saw Clifford Stoll speak at Tektronix, over 20 years ago – who over the years have bemoaned what our lives lived largely online now have wrought – and how far from the noble goals they have strayed.

But noble goals always run headlong into the reality of fallible, often rude, nasty or worse humans. Not that robots would be any better.

Of course the media, the government and businesses large and small have “embraced” the Internet (like they had much of a choice) – and in doing so dealt it something of a “death grip” in some people’s eyes.

But with all its faults, weakness and impact on everything from the family staring at screens rather than talking to school plays that are now a sea of smartphones and tablets recording (rather than people actually just watching their kids perform) – is this a genie we’d really want put back in the bottle – even if we could?

Perhaps the “mindfulness” movement highlighted Sunday night on 60 Minutes is more the bit of an antidote, from the legacy of the ’60s book with the deceptively simple name: “Be Here Now.”

Our connected tools should free us to get more done in less time – then to turn away from them to be with our children and friends and family, or other pursuits that still involve the mind, the hands and no screens in site.

But is that wishful thinking? Are we being consumed by our technology, so dependent that the fears of cyber-war becoming more than an inconvenience or embarrassment to — well, the possibilities are endless.

We should critically review and be … mindful of the impact of any technology, good or bad. But be cautious about giving this huge, world-altering development too much blame or credit for its impact on our lives. Right?

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