Why I Use a Real, Paper Calendar

Technology is great as long as you understand how it doesn't work, and this Patch columnist explains why.

Recently, I received the following email from a person who missed a meeting with me:

Hi Howard,

Sooooo sorry.  I wish you would have called.  I would have scrambled out there or met you in Port or Cedarberg or ... ?

Unfortunately, last Wednesday, my phone wouldn't quit cycling on and off.  I went two days without a phone and then when they downloaded my backups, it appears that any changes I made on Monday or Tuesday of that week didn't transfer over.

Last night I got an e-mail reminder of a meeting I have on Friday and another email for an April 29 meeting.  Thank goodness, because neither had made the transfer. I am of course concerned that something else is missing and I hate having wasted your time.

I am in the midst of the (omission for privacy) grant this week and wonder what your schedule is like next week or this weekend?

So very sorry,

(Person who shall remain nameless)

The e-mail caught me at a bad time.

Two days earlier, I drove to Milwaukee for an afternoon meeting. The "coordinator" was supposed to have assembled a group of fifteen participants.  When I appeared, he went into semi-shock then pulled out his "electronic communication device" showing a blank screen, meaning nothing scheduled for the day. 

Fortunately, at that moment, two colleagues also arrived for the meeting. They saved me from looking like a crazy person.

Meanwhile the coordinator scrambled to track down the people who were supposed to be there. Only half made the meeting. We started late. All of them should have been there on time and ready to go.

Question: Should I have called in advance to remind these people of meetings we had mutually scheduled?

Both of these digital dependent people used their reliance on technology as an excuse. Glitch-prone technology is a key reason why I use a pocket calendar — no batteries, no power outages, no on-and-off switch, no lost data (unless I lose it — never have); plus it's not tied to my telephone or provider, or the internet, and it is also useful at tax time in several ways. 

I consider the aviation industry to be a pretty savvy source of information on reliable technologies and sound procedures.  Many newer airplanes have what are called "glass panels," meaning electronic displays of key flight data like yaw, pitch, heading, relationship to the horizon, altitude, speed, GPS, fuel, etc. It is vital information to know if, for example, you fly into a cloud.

But they also have what are known as "steam gauges," control panel instruments that do not rely on an electrical system.

Here's why: They are reliable! 

Older aircraft built prior to the computer chip, have steam gauges exclusively, unless they have been "upgraded."

By the way, steam gauges do not actually rely upon "steam," rather they are powered by vacuum generated by a functioning engine or engines. But don’t assume pilots call them "steam gauges" as a denigration of older technology.  Most actually prefer having the redundancy of a time-tested alternative system.           

I’m not a Luddite. I like technology. I was the first person in the office to have and use a desktop computer. Setting up spreadsheets convinced me I could write formulas — until that time I thought I was math challenged. Not so, it turns out. 

Fuel injection, solar power and automated computer back-up systems are also high on my list of cool developments. Digital photography and recording are miraculous.  I am into all of it. 

But I don’t like being someone else’s steam gauge. Except for the cognitively challenged and young kids, I think we each should be responsible for our own agenda. Expecting me to remind others about scheduled meetings isn’t likely to happen.  

D A "Andi" April 19, 2011 at 12:52 PM
Howard, no WAY should you throw away your paper pocket calendar. When it comes to important meetings, doctor appointments or picking someone up at the airport, there nothing like having it written down. I, too love technology. I use it every day for a number of different functions. I can honestly say however that I've NEVER used an electronic form of a calendar. For me, there's nothing like the reliability of writing it down.
Joe Zingsheim April 19, 2011 at 02:42 PM
I've been keeping a daily log/calendar/schedule since the mid '60's and will continue to do so. If and when an EMP(electro magnetic pulse) hits the earth and fries our computer chips, including the ones that run our cars, I'll be the only one to bike to the scheduled meeting!!!!!
Maggie Wright April 20, 2011 at 02:03 PM
My husband teases me because I still use a paper planner. Since we got iPhones, I do back everything up on there now but it all goes on paper first. In my business (wedding photography) I need to know where I am going to need to be and those are dates that cannot be done again so I can't mess up!


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