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The Second Half: Kindling sparks a fire

June 23, 2010

By Kathleen D. Tresemer
Columnist

I love this time of year! First, it is warm and pleasant outside, and I can sleep with my windows open. Second, even though it is six months since Christmastime, I can look forward to some presents—see, June is my birthday month.

“At your age, I would think birthdays had lost their appeal,” one cynical Second Half pal groused. People who don’t just LOVE birthdays astound me.

“Any day I wake up is a good one,” I chirp, “but my birthday means I made it another whole year!”

“Not if you feel like I do,” Cynical One complained back at me.

Yeah, I can see it…if you feel lousy or in pain, another day is another challenge. But for me, this year is another success story, what with the yoga and the eating better and the losing weight—all in all, a terrific year to be alive.

Besides, the prospect of birthday presents always makes me feel great! And this year, I received a totally cool present: a Kindle reader.

Being both writer and maniacal reader, the concept of a portable reading device is pretty exciting. Not only that, but it has a screen that looks like paper—none of that weird computer-screen effect. Consequently, I can even read outside at my picnic table or going down the road in our horse-drawn wagon, the perfect blend of old-fashioned sentimentality with technological convenience.

“But I can’t give up my books!” cried many of my Second Half friends.

“Who says you have to give up books?” I argued. “Did you give up going to movies when videos and DVDs were introduced? Did you give up eating fresh food when frozen pizzas hit the market? Who stopped washing their hands because hand sanitizer was invented?”

Typically, all I get from that tirade is a blank stare. I try again, “The Kindle and other readers are just another venue for reading material…it won’t replace books, it is simply another option.” More blank stares.

“Think of the academic advantages,” I say. “Kids could get all their school books on a Kindle and, especially for college kids, this could greatly reduce the expense and inconvenience of buying and carrying so many books.”

Second Half teacher friend half-heartedly agreed, “Yes, and they could easily update books on topics such as current affairs or computer technology, areas that are changing so rapidly.”

“What are you, 100 years old?” I wonder about folks who, only a few short decades ago, embraced innovations with exuberance: hand-held hair dryers, wireless phones, and television shows such as Saturday Night Live and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.

I wondered what others in their Second Half were thinking about new technology like the Kindle, so I went to the Over 50 Web site, where their motto is “Don’t Let Us Get Sick, Don’t Let Us Get Old, Don’t Let Us Get Stupid, Alright?”

On the site’s Personal Growth/Technology page, David posted his article, “What is a Kindle?” (find this article at http://www.over50web.net/personal-growth/technology/what-is-a-kindle/) discussing the benefits for such a device. Some of his points are:

→ The display is similar to an actual book;

→ Wireless connection lets you download immediately, from anyplace—saves gas and travel time;

→ Vast amount of book choices—including subscriptions to newspapers and magazines—and you can read sample pages before buying;

→ Books are cheaper on Kindle, and there are thousands of free books, too;

→ Kindle is green technology—saves trees, gas, travel time and uses very little energy;

→ Kindle books can be read on your PC at home;

→ Kindle travels well and conveniently, even on an airplane.

Since I started reading publicly on my Kindle, folks ask to try it. Two of the people who tried mine have now ordered their own because, “It’s just so cool!”

Look, I’m not without sentiment. I have boxes and shelves of books I can’t bear to part with, and I can get totally lost in a bookstore for hours. I love books! And I think anything that gets more people reading is a big plus, especially in our era of literacy concerns.

The Literacy Council says:

More than 40,000 adults in the Rockford region read below the fifth-grade level and struggle daily with the tasks you and I do almost without thinking. The Literacy Council was founded in 1985, and started with 40 adult students. Currently, the council serves more than 4,000 people annually, including adults with limited literacy skills, children and families.

What does that do for you? It makes me cringe just a little bit. How could you hold a job or perform any task without the ability to read? I couldn’t even shop for groceries if I were unable to read labels—imagine what it would be like to be so disconnected from the rest of society! Volunteer at The Literacy Council Web site (http://www.theliteracycouncil.org/index.php?page=volunteer) or call for information at (815) 963-7323.

Speaking of literacy, the concept of diminishing our language even further with texting and Tweeting makes me shiver with dread. “Everything has its place,” I sigh, when the youngsters rave about these technological options to actual communication, “in moderation!”

Does that sound OLD?

I delight in the changes each year brings, the opportunities and enhancements that make life exciting and relationships more accessible. So, here’s my plan: I’m simplifying by giving books away to folks who want them and reading more on my Kindle. This cleans off my shelves and feeds my brain…happy birthday to ME!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at kdt-insights@hotmail.com.

From the June 23-29, 2010 issue

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