Stringers go back to school

... What's THAT thing? Where's this go? Don't yell at me, please ...

from Don Norris

A couple of weeks ago, John Averell (that's Doctor John Averell, our genius technical wizard) thought it would be good to run a refresher course for our group of SilverStringers. Not a bad idea, the group said, and they all voted to support the project.

Well, Pluto is our operating program -- totally unique -- which permits us to write a newspaper (The Melrose Mirror) on the internet, to add photos, write headlines, do captions, make fancy layouts ... it is a marvelous and innovative instrument, built at the Media Lab at MIT.

Trouble is, we all tend to get into a groove, and we get really good within that groove -- but we forget about all other things that are part of the overall picture.

Actually I'm the company's amateur whiz, because I love my computer. I love ANY computer. And I dig writing, and making digital photos, and putting them all together to produce a good story. Meanwhile, all the other guys say, "Hey, let Don do it" and they forget the codes, the tricks, the sequences.

All they do these days is to Write. I guess that's not so bad, because in our 12 years of publishing the Mirror, we've gathered several trophies, some national and international recognition -- for citizen journalism. So I really shouldn't feel bad about all this school stuff.

I did attend the third session, and I had to swallow my giggles as I saw grown people struggle with simple codes. So help me, my dear friends looked like little kids with an amazed look on their faces, just staring and staring at the screen. I saw grown adults sneaking a peek at a neighbor's screen. Delightful. Humorous. The way life is.

I reached for a small Nikon backup camera, and started shooting -- just grab shots, just true-to-life expressions, at the wonderment of the code, the programs and the computer. It was delightful.

And all this while John, with a somber and straight face, continued his instructions, passing from student to student, never raising his voice, never chuckling, never being overbearing. He was the epitome of calm and composure.

This is the problem all of us -- writers and readers -- suffer: We get in a rut, we know how to get email, and maybe we can negotiate the net to a favorite website, and we forget the basics of this sport -- using a computer, knowing a computer, being competent with a computer.

And so John's call for a new look at the technical end of our business is certainly warranted. And in spite of my giggles, our class learned, once again, how to put a photograph into a story. Nice work.

In the photos, top to bottom, are:
1: John, Shirley Rabb, and Ella Letterie.
2: Russ Priestley and Dr. Ed Boyd.
3: Phyllis Fewtrell, John and Ella.
4: The computer classroom at the Milano Senior Center.
5: Kay McCarte, Joe Sullivan and Ella.
6: The class: Average age is 77.

December 7, 2007

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