I’ve been interviewed three times in the last two weeks for an interesting history project at school (I’m a high school teacher). Students are trying to learn more about the recent decades from Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, and Gen Y-ers. Being asked to create a top-5 list of influential events/things in the last four decades has made me realize how quickly the world has changed, and that the future is really tough to predict.
My top-5 list was pretty hard to come up with, as ultimately I had ten pretty significant events that occurred to me, including the discovery of AIDS, Chernobyl Disaster, the rising of fiber-optic technology and cable TV, and even the emergence of the mixing board in music. Here’s my pick for top 5. This is an interesting topic for all generations, so I added some notes about my mom’s generation as well.
1. Personal Computing TVs were new to my mom’s generation (radio shows were a main form of entertainment), and did not become the norm in every household until her adulthood. In grade school, I remember learning how to program a robot turtle to write my name, then in high school beta testing one of the first graphing calculators for Hewlett Packard, down the road. I remember my best friend’s dad bringing home a big, clunky computer, and teaching himself Pascal, then subsequently teaching my best friend. Computers, robots, and digital calculators were rare and expensive and hard to use, and didn’t seem so necessary, given we had typewriters and slide rules or little analog calculators, if we weren’t satisfied writing in cursive and working out the math “long-hand.” In very little time, we’ve come a long way, with almost everyone (even my grandmother) having a computer at home, and plenty of handheld devices that can be used to communicate, calculate, and store and display data. Gone with the old “clunky” technology are the days of readily doing math “long-hand” and having clear handwriting, however my observations from teaching over the last two decades.
2. Microwave and subsequent convenience foods My mom didn’t have a refrigerator for much of her childhood, but with the common use of refrigeration and freezing in the home, as well as the advent of the microwave, came the onslaught of new convenience foods. Gone were the days of spending an hour to cook a simple meal, replaced with the five to ten minute wonder of the multi-course TV dinner. Orville Redenbacher became a household name, as Jiffy-Pop on the stove was quickly replaced with paper bags of microwave popcorn, bumping the idea of popping your own dried corn in the fireplace, even further into ancient history. I suppose it’s no surprise that our nation struggles to identify healthy, unadulterated foods, looking to the labels of convenience food packages for guidance, rather than to a garden or fresh food made from scratch.
3. Internet / Global Media Access published by anyone, anywhere I grew up hearing about Jimmy Carter and International Relations from our local newspaper, with stories of global news infrequently. In the 1990s, I began using the Internet for academic e-mail, then later to keep in touch with friends. The Internet has made all of us more accessible, pulled down walls that would usually keep our lives more private and make us feel more remote, and made it possible for anyone to publish their ideas, anywhere, and at any time. Now you can’t escape the news and media, for good like to discover cool Bollywood songs we can dance to at home or for bad like to never escape the tabloid-esque nature of much of modern news media.
4. The end of a war, and oh, wait the dawn of apparent non-stop involvement in conflict My parents endured anxiety over the Vietnam War, and the years of suspicion and concern during the Cold War. When the Berlin Wall came down in Germany, my generation optimistically thought the world was a liberal, all-access place, as it seemed we could finally all trust each other and get along. (I dare to suggest that without the end of the cold war and subsequent shifting of focus from the nuclear arms race, the popularity of cooking with radiation via a microwave may not have taken off like it did.) Not so many years later, America publicly began involvement in international conflicts, including the Gulf War, and I experienced the same anxiety my parents did. I feel like the war never ended, which makes me wonder if international politics are different than in my parents’ generation, of it it’s just easier to “witness” world events due to the changes in media and communication.
5. Automated everything including money machines I grew up with a savings account at a local credit union, where services were always free and done with a smile. I learned how to write a check in high school. Credit cards became popular shortly after, alongside loans (which had been around for centuries, but weren’t as readily used as they are today). But the most memorable development has to be the ATM and debit card. Money available anytime meant it lost some of its conceptual value, but how cool! It started costing money to talk to a teller at my big, for-profit bank (never at the credit union), and the banks started handing out ATM money on loan, allowing you to withdraw more than you had in your account.
All this reflection makes me wonder what Max will see. He’s grown up knowing personal computers, microwaves, the Internet, and money machines are the norm, but we’ve also worked hard to help him know the value of growing and cooking your own food and putting piggy bank money into a credit union account.
So what’s new for Max? Maybe convenience foods will reach a new level integration of sustainable composite foods, like using pastes of fungus, digestible cellulose, and other organic, inexpensive foods to reinvent those chicken nuggets, burgers, and hot dogs we have grown to love (but our bodies have a hard time working with, without physical harm over time). Maybe more services will become automated, to be accessed with a small personal computer or digital device and the Internet custom clothes, music (anyone can compose), art (anyone can create), and toys, to go with what we have now custom cars, groceries delivered to your door, and custom publications (anyone can write and publish). Or maybe we’ll see the re-emergence of holistic learning, health, and living, with people coming back to self-sufficiency being able to enjoy and work with nature, share joy in face-to-face interaction, and exercise without technology buzzing in our ears, without committing to some social group or paying a fee.
Oh wait that’s happening now with Stroller Hikes. 🙂
This week’s events:
Tuesday, March 23rd at 9 am Loren and little Angelo will lead a Toddler Trek at Guadalupe Oak Grove Park. We will meet at the Vargas Dr. Entrance which is a break in the fence with plenty of street parking. The walk is unpaved and stroller friendly. Dogs welcome. We will make a 1 mile loop stopping midway at a playground. This will be very unstructured with plenty of time for the kids to explore and collect treasures. If we are lucky we will see some squirrel friends, acorn woodpeckers, and maybe even a hummingbird. To find this trail head south on Almaden Expressway, take a right onto Coleman (just before Almaden Lake Park), then a left onto Recife Way. Recife Way will dead end at Vargas Dr. and the trail head. If are running late give Loren a call at 831-227-6737. Come join on our adventure!
Tuesday, March 23rd at 1:30 pm join Amy B. and her wee ones for a hike at Stevens Creek Trail beginning from the park at Easy Street in Mountain View. Any stroller or carrier will work; the path is a lovely two-lane paved one. We’ll have the option of walking towards the bay or towards the hills (the trail has been extended through Mountain View). For the bay direction, the first and last quarter of this hike is well shaded, and we hope to have some bay breezes, in case it’s warm. For the hill direction, the trail is shaded for the majority of the hike. For more information about the trail or directions, see The Stevens Creek Trail Webpage (http://www.strollerhikes.com/Hikes/StevensCreekTrail/StevensCreekTrail.html). If you’re running late, call Amy at 408-368-7161.
Thursday, March 25th at 4:30 pm join Debbie and little Max for a Toddler Trek at Ed Levin County Park in Milpitas. We’ll encourage toddlers to run, walk, and explore as we hike around Spring Valley Pond along Nature Trail. We’ll talk about fishing and the role of fish in this ecosystem, where ducks and zooplankton are prevalent. To get there, take Hwy 680 East and exit at Calaveras Road, then follow signs to the park. Park at the far end of the parking lot to the right of the ranger office/visitor center, then meet near the trailhead for Nature Trail. Bring a few dollars to pay for parking. If you are running late, call Debbie at 650-776-1082. This is a Santa Clara County Healthy Trails (http://www.parkhere.org/) outing.
Friday, March 26th at 9:45 am Jenn W. and little Scott will lead a hike at Stanford Dish, beginning from the guard’s kiosk at the Stanford Road entrance. Strollers recommended, as we’ll try to do a little jogging. Sorry, no dogs allowed. For information on this area or directions, see The Stanford Dish Page (http://www.strollerhikes.com/Hikes/StanfordDish/StanfordDish.html). If you’re running late, call Jenn at 210-859-8721.
Saturday, March 27th from 7 pm to 8:30 pm join Jennifer and little Kayla for a near-Full Moon Hike at Vasona County Park in Los Gatos. Meet at the playground parking lot inside Vasona Park for this wonderful family-friendly hike. Look for bats, listen for frogs and crickets, and see what other animals come to life as dusk falls at this lovely park with paved trails. Jennifer Snedeker will lead this family-friendly event, suitable for baby transport of all types. Meet at the Vasona playground parking lot. Bring some layered clothes if it cools down, and also bring water, a snack, and a flashlight. Jennifer is a wonderful educator who will break up the hike with games and exploration, depending on what critters the group sees. This event is co-sponsored by Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation. For information about Vasona’s trail and directions to get to Vasona, see the Los Gatos Creek Trail Page (http://www.strollerhikes.com/Hikes/LosGatosCreek/LosGatosCreek.html) or Santa Clara Parks and Rec’s Page about Vasona (http://www.parkhere.org/portal/site/parks/parksarticle?path=%252Fv7%252FParks%2520and%2520Recreation%252C%2520Department%2520of%2520%2528DEP%2529&contentId=54a698ba77784010VgnVCM10000048dc4a92____&cpsextcurrchannel=1). If you’re running late, call Jennifer at 408-470-0463.
Keep looking to the future!
-Debbie and little Max (and wee Peanut)