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Disruptive technologies.

OK, so I could think of several dozen places where I'd rather be on an amazing Saturday morning in early May than at a funeral for my friend's mother. But you do what you gotta do, and it wasn't that dreadful; she was 88 when she died and had lived a full and happy life by all accounts.

Despite the typically sterile ambiance of the funeral home, the service was quite personal. The minister was talking about all the traveling this woman had done when, suddenly, there was the dreaded, ringing cell phone. It went on and on as its obviously mortified owner fumbled inside her purse to silence it. Other folks were groaning and rolling their eyes. No. 2 son, who tends to hold a very rigorous view of What Is Right and What Is Wrong, whispered to me, "That is just awful."

Unfortunately, this was not an isolated instance. Two other cell phones started ringing during that funeral service, which was certainly not a lengthy one. It lasted maybe 15 or 20 minutes tops.

Now, I could be self-righteous about this particular social faux pas. After all, I'd left my own portable wireless device in my truck, not foreseeing any need whatsoever to have it with me in the funeral home. I also tend not to take it to places like the theater or the symphony. And I don't use it while I'm driving because my vehicle has a stick shift, and I can't stand those dorky-looking things that hang from your ear to facilitate hands-free communication.

Other Obnoxious Tech Behavior

And yet, I am definitely guilty of other obnoxious tech behavior. Rather than simply enjoying the ballgame, I have been known to sit there with my Black-Berry, trying to access baseball statistics, news, weather, or other web content over the somewhat spotty cell connection in the stadium. I have also done this in restaurants, ostensibly from the need to prove a point or to provide other critical information to my dining companion(s).

Also, it's sad to say, but you will often hear me typing away in the background as I talk on the phone. Of course, my excuse is that I am busy, busy, busy. Just like you.

And, alas, I could also be having a simultaneous IM conversation with a third party or checking to see what my friends and colleagues are up to on Facebook. (I continue to draw the line at Twitter, but you get the general idea.)

Often, I feel like my life is out of control. But obviously, I am to blame for this. I am my own worst enemy. I am not content to live in the moment.

"Just say no" has never been an effective strategy for fighting substance abuse. I've found that it doesn't work particularly well when it comes to technology either. My MacBook Pro, my BlackBerry, and my internet connection own me. That is just plain sad.

I have more or less painted myself into a corner from which I can see no easy escape. I am literally online for 8 straight hours at my day job. News libraries are busy places, and like my colleagues, I am typically juggling multiple requests at all times. If I leave my desk to use the restroom or go foraging for something to eat/drink, work starts piling up. I'm getting good at research triage.

But the moral truth is that while it may sound as if I'm complaining, I actually love what I do. The days go whizzing by at light speed, and I see the results of my work on the doorstep in the morning (and sometimes even sooner online). For me, that is powerful motivation. This job is a good fit for my skills and my temperament.

And then I go home, where DocuTicker and ResourceShelf are waiting for me, as well as scores of email messages and an embarrassing number of teeming RSS feeds. I take a deep breath and plunge right in while I silently pray that this will be one of those nights when the phone will ring and a friend will be looking for a dinner companion, a friend who won't mind the BlackBerry at the table. Because, heaven forbid, I might miss something, but mostly, because I'm feeling guilty. After all, I should be home working. Weblogs don't update themselves, you know.

Looking for Free Advice?

Speaking of which, there is a clever little blog that I keep up with via RSS. It's called ("Every Rule of Thumb on Earth in One Place!").
      A rule of thumb turns information
   you have into information you
   need. The goal of this website is to
   gather every rule of thumb on
   earth into one gargantuan, easily
   searchable online reference database
   that will be accessible from
   anywhere in the world and continue
   to grow forever. (http://rules

With the proverbial caveat that free advice is often worth exactly what you pay for it, you'll find a fair amount of conventional wisdom on this site that just seems to make sense, or at least it is good for a chuckle.

* For marketing purposes, elderly consumers think they are 15 years younger than they actually are.

* To make sure you are not picked to be on a jury when you have jury duty, make fun of the lawyer's tie.

* To get the most out of your car, treat it like a favorite cat or dog.

* Cheap beer is good beer, free beer is great beer.

Recently, the following little nugget that was posted by a California high school counselor showed up in the Rules of RSS feed:
      Parents teach more by example
   than by words. Reading parents have
   reading children; achieving parents
   have achieving children.

And parents like me end up with a son who comes home after a funeral, removes his suit jacket, and heads directly to his bedroom, muttering, "I can't wait to get back on the internet." Is life any saner in your house?

Shirley Duglin Kennedy is a news researcher for the St. Petersburg Times. She is also senior editor of and Her email address is Send your comments about this column to itletters
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Title Annotation:Internet Waves
Author:Kennedy, Shirley Duglin
Publication:Information Today
Date:Jun 1, 2008
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