Widgets and Pixels and Slugs! Oh My!

Words matter.  I’m a firm believer in this concept.  But this – this! – is a whole new dimension.

In the medical profession, we get beat up regularly (and frequently rightfully so) for using ‘doctor talk’ too much: words with too many syllables, Latin spellings that look scary even if you do know what they mean, diagnoses named after the person that discovered them, acronyms that if asked what they stand for I can’t even remember myself.  Every drug has two names – a generic and a brand – which get used interchangeably by both the patient and the doctor.  As medical records become more available to patients directly, we are told not to use age-old common abbreviations that expedite note writing because if I document that a kid in my office is SOB the parent takes that to mean something other than the Shortness Of Breath I am describing.  The longer I was in pediatrics, the more often I came across geographic and generational differences in communication.  When I first moved to Boston from San Diego, I had a teen tell me he had a ‘wicked’ headache after a ‘wicked’ party with his friends and couldn’t figure out if it was a good headache after a good party or a bad headache after a bad party, only to find out that it was a bad headache after a good party which made no sense at all.  Twenty years later, it took two weeks to figure out the weird looks I kept getting when I told teens to kick off their thongs and have a seat on the exam table was because what I was calling thongs they knew as flip-flops, and ‘thong’ meant something COMPLETELY different to them.  

After spending the last few weeks putting together a website and blog, I am convinced that as much as ‘doctor talk’ is reviled it’s got nothing on ‘computer speak’ as a major communication problem.  Having done college and grad school in the 80s, I am in that weird window of being old enough that I didn’t learn computers in school but young enough that I was rather rudely forced to use them in everything I do professionally and personally.  But I do use websites all the time,  so I know what I like about some and don’t like about others.  I (sort of) mastered Facebook and Instagram, much to the chagrin of all my nieces and nephews. I don’t Tweet, only because I can’t even answer the phone in less than 140 characters.  And as I explored how to start this blog everything I came across talked about how easy it was.  There were blogs on blogging, YouTube videos begging me to subscribe to their simple How-To series, ads popping up as I scrolled through my Facebook timeline on easy tools that would make me a Blogging For Dollars success story in no time and living on my own personal Tahitian island.   Everyone seemed to have a blog, and there was someone blogging about any subject you could imagine.  I can follow a recipe and a knitting pattern, read a map – I have even successfully built Ikea pieces using only those goofy diagrams – so I had confidence I could manage these ‘simple’ steps to hosting my own blog and share our adventures with all of you. 

I now realize there were two major flaws in my logic, the first being that I ignored my past history with all things Tech.  Take the TV remote.  I’m not a TV watcher mostly because I can’t figure out how to turn the darn thing on.  Dave keeps trying to teach me, but the conversation always seems to go something like this:

            “Hon, the TV won’t come on — AGAIN!”

            “That’s because you’re using the wrong remote — AGAIN.”

            “But this one has the most buttons, so I thought it was the Universal Remote.”

            “It is.  But so is this one. You have to hit the ‘power’ button on this one first, then the ‘source’ button on the other one second.”

            “ If I have to use two of them, how can either of them be ‘universal’ remotes?”

            “ Actually, there’s three you need.”

            “You’re not helping your case.”

            “Look — you turn the power on with the TV Universal, then choose if it’s TV or DVD with the Cable Universal, then adjust the volume with the Soundbar remote…”

           It’s around this point I decide I’ll just go read a book, one with real paper pages that I can successfully turn.  But Dave was un-tech-daunted and kept gadgetizing the house.  I’ve become leery whenever he asks for my phone because it usually means he’s installing an app that is going to complicate my life.  For example, he replaced our thermostat with a ‘smart’ controller when the Nest first came out.  As he proudly showed me how I could adjust the temperature setting in the house in Minnesota if I was out in California visiting family, I couldn’t help but wonder why in the world I would ever need to do that.  (Give me something that allows me to clean the refrigerator from my phone and I’ll be impressed.)  I subsequently spent the next six weeks terrified to play Words With Friends out of fear I might accidentally toast the dog.  So I might be a bit tech-challenged. 

My second serious miscalculation when deciding I could build my own website was failing to consider that all this talk of how ‘easy’ and ‘simple’ website design is might really be Revenge of the Millennials, possibly in retaliation for Boomers ruining Facebook for them. 

            Step 1: Develop a lexicon using familiar words with entirely different meaning, thus totally messing with our heads.

            Step 2: Lure Middle Agers into thinking we could do something for which we clearly haven’t had enough mutations in our DNA to be able to comprehend.  Do this with slick teasers on the now-infiltrated Facebook, because if it’s on Facebook it must be true.

            Step 3: Inundate YouTube with tutorials starring tech geeks that we trust because they look like our kids.  Have them talk really fast and make the screen shots really small so we are always two steps behind and get totally confused, thus stretching what we thought would be a one hour website building exercise into a couple weeks of mental torture.

            Step 4: Consider it a success when Sweat and Tears combine into Swears.

            Step 5: When we succumb to futility, we then hire one of them to build our website for us.  The Web Designer Circle of Life.  Absolutely brilliant!

Which brings us to the creation of the KDseefari website.  The easiest part was providing my credit card information, but quickly went downhill from there.   As I worked, I waded deeper and deeper into a black lagoon of nomenclature and processes.

Select a theme for your website  Theme?  I thought my theme was about our travel adventures.  Or did they mean a theme song?   (Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…)

Download and activate the required plug-ins  What’s a plug-in?  Googled it.  Still don’t understand it.   And if it’s required, why do I have to download it?  Put the stupid thing in there in the first place!

Widgets  Sounds like a type of Muppet, ready for merchandising.  But there are a bejillion of them so more like Minions.  They are dragged and dropped frequently, which sounds rather cruel. 

Learning the modern way…Online  Watched countless YouTube tutorials on every little dimension of a building a website, showing how to get from Point A to B.  But they talk like their chair is on fire, and the screen shot recordings are sped up as they click along, flashing and changing before I can see what happened, frantically trying to find the cursor as it bounces around, rewinding and trying to pause at the exact moment so I can enlarge the view.  I go back to my site to take it one step at a time, except my screen doesn’t look like their screen.  *sigh*  Find another tutorial.  It tells me to ‘click on the hamburger’ and I commence a Where’s Waldo search of my screen for something resembling a Big Mac, find only a partially eaten apple, and take a break because I’m now hungry.

Photos won’t upload  Spent the better part of an afternoon learning that iPhone takes pictures in something called HEIC, need to be converted to JPEG with dimensions measured in Pixels (Tinkerbell pops in my head), which need to be resized in another app, and THEN I can upload it.  Tedious.


content error

Finally hitting a dead end with a fatal ‘content area not found’ error message, I realized it was time to Phone a (Millennial) Friend.  Enter Danica, my savior.  I don’t think this technically counts as hiring a millennial to fix all that I had broken, because we put her through college so it’s more like bartering.  As a marketing professional, she does this stuff for a living in Australia.  She explained a big-picture framework for what I was working with that NO tutorial in the many I watched ever did.  I could ask for definitions of terms I didn’t understand in real time, like when she warned me that my ‘slug’ needed to be updated (is that being used as a noun or a verb?).  She was incredibly patient, and we fell into a routine:  I try to do something and screw it up royally.  I send her a desperate message.  She uses the 16 hour time difference to fix whatever I messed up while I sleep, then sends me a four minute video demonstrating what she had done and where I went wrong explained in terms and at a speed I can comprehend.  Then while she sleeps, I break something else and we do it all again.  I’m sure there was some well-deserved eye-rolling and exclamations of exasperation when she first opened the site on her Aussie morning to see what havoc I had wrought.  But the bottom line is that she was the trauma surgeon to my Evil Knievel-esque attempts at stunts I never should have tried.  The fact that you are reading this is testament to her abilities.


Thankfully, now that the site is up I can just write and take pictures.  That’s low tech.  Perhaps that’s one of the attractions of living on a boat and cruising The Great Loop for me:  simplicity.  It’s a language I already speak, a rhythm I can follow.  Boats follow basic laws of physics.  Tides are predictable.  Charts give you a big picture if you want it and the tiny details if you need it.  Life is contained in a few hundred square feet, lived by sunrise and sunset.  So we continue our search for a boat.  We’ve narrowed down the type and makes and made our list of desired features.  Dave recently added a Yacht Controller to the list.  When I asked him what that was, he said it was a remote you could use to drive the boat.

A remote?!?   Oh my!

17 thoughts on “Widgets and Pixels and Slugs! Oh My!”

  1. You write so beautifully, I feel like I’m right there with you, so vicariously is better than struggling myself. Thank you for your persistence!

  2. Dayle-Lynn Decker

    Me laughing . . . I feel you as I am not techno-savvy. At least you had Danica. I would have had to really hire a millennial to build my blog. Good luck on the boat . . . looking forward to seeing the pictures. I’m willing to wager it will be bigger than your dad’s. Loved going out on that when we were kids.

  3. You are adorable! You made me laugh so hard! I totally agree with you in regards to ALL that techie stuff! It gives me anxiety beyond belief.

    I work for a company that is run by young adults my daughter’s age. I get on these meetings and they ask for me to do things with my computer that I have never heard of. All the other ‘kids’ in the meeting do so without batting an eyelash, and I am left in the dust with a dazed look on my face. When asked, does anyone have any questions, sometimes I am brave enough to say, I have no idea what you are talking about. But other times I just shake my head, vowing to figure it out later. I these young adults look at me like their grandma, thinking, isn’t she cute the way she can’t figure that out?

    Anyway, I LOVE you blogs! I am soooo happy you had Danica to help you because they are purely delightful. I look forward to the next one.

    You are so brave to go on this journey. I know it is going to be spectacular!

  4. kdseefari just earned “Read first” status in my email box. This post is equally hysterical and maddeningly accurate. Please keep ’em coming!

  5. I think I had an inkling of your technology avoidance when you would only use a wind up clock in college. I still remember how loud it ticked. Haven’t tried to do web development in years but there should have been an a development environment that let you design a page with relatively very little script writing.

  6. That yacht controller has potential as a tarot card, don’t you think?
    Good luck with your boat search and in muddling through your blog beginnings! I love your posts. Greetings to Dave too,

  7. Laughing out loud as I read this!
    I read the comments and then tried to comment but couldn’t figure out how to get back to the comment box! Just helping to illustrate your point….😂

    1. Matt was always laughing at me when I asked for his help because he would discover I had like 50 tabs open because I couldn’t figure out how to get back to something and end up just starting over. But I wouldn’t know I had all those open.

  8. What a great morning read. Since I couldn’t sleep now that I’m 60 and actually have the time to sleep, I turned to FB. I laughed and felt we had just caught up after a long period of time. I was reminded of us first meeting on Facebook. Congratulations on this new venture. I am now more motivated to start a podcast. I figure my 8 year old granddaughter can get me started!

  9. Douglas Holderman

    Okay …… have been thinking about starting a blog for the last couple of years and you have convinced me – I’m NEVER gonna do it! I am totally with you in the reduction of frustration caused by technology!

  10. These are amazing! I’m not ready to jump in and try this adventure myself but I’m so inspired by yours. It simply delights me to share in your adventures and observations. Thank you! Can’t wait to read the next one!

  11. Karen – I feel like you are expressing my life! I called my son the other day as I wanted to work on/update/start using again a website I have (joancarolart.com) as I had forgotten what little I had learned before. lol. I can speak my primary language (English) and ‘medical’ pretty well and dabble a bit in ‘art’ and ‘cycling’ languages but am forever lost in the language of computers. And, after 33 years of work association I speak a bit of ‘military’ but it changes so fast I still get lost in operational acronyms. – joan

  12. You are channeling many of us with technology frustrations, while adding the clever writing style of Dave Barry (a South Florida humorist). Keep up the great work!

  13. Karen you are a hoot. I love reading your blog. You’ve also now helped explain the iPhone photo mystery to me, so while somewhat technically challenged, you can add iPhone help desk to your credentials.

Comments are closed.