The Roundup -

Older Dogs Learning New Tricks


August 15, 2018 | View PDF

I used to believe that old dogs could certainly learn new tricks. After all, age and experience have to count for something. In the case of canines, dogs learn the fine art of manipulating their humans as the dogs age. They can learn at any age what it means when humans crinkle cheese wrappers but they can conveniently forget what a stern NO means if they decide they have something better to do. They learn what they need to know to keep their humans placated, and they will learn something new when they see what’s in it for them. They can still learn as they mature, they just need to see a reason for the new trick.

Older humans behave the same way, for the most part. We’ve learned what we need to know in order to reach the stage in life that we’ve attained. The thought of learning something new doesn’t necessarily please us, but if we have the desire or see a reason to learn a new skill, we certainly will do so. However, it does seem to take longer to master a new activity than it did a few decades ago. I attribute that to the fact that the file cabinets in my brain are stuffed with years of trivial facts and information, so it takes my gray matter longer to sift through this accumulated assortment of knowledge in order find a suitable spot to store the new tidbits of learning.

Therefore, I contemplate long and hard before I decide if I feel ready to tackle a new skill or if I prefer to let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak.

A few months ago, I conceived the idea of starting a web site about different aspects concerning Virginia City. I pondered the pros and cons of such a move, read all the information I could find about the feasibility of a web site or blog, thought about what I wanted to do, and after long deliberation I decided to take the plunge. I rapidly discovered that most of what I had read consisted of misleading information.

Several different informational pieces about blogs and web sites assured me that a person could have a blog up and running in 30 minutes. I took that misinformation with a large dose of salt, but I erroneously reasoned that if it took the average person a half hour to set up a blog, it would take a technological illiterate (me) about a month.

Hah! I chose a name for my web site, registered it, paid for the hosting, and rolled up my sleeves ready to create my very own blog and web site. Dozens of tutorials and videos later, along with the passage of a month or so, I had about half the site set up. It looked amateurish, I could not get all the little gadgets and pictures to work, and I had reached a total dead end.

More tutorials, videos, the outlay of money, and several phone calls later, I had proceeded no further in my quest to set up a web site. The blithe answers and useless information that I received to questions, and the statement that a person could have a blog up and running in a half hour, obviously proved untrue for this old dog. Considering the hot lines and all the available help (for a fee of course) available to people in my situation I realized quite clearly that I was not the only dog in the pack to have problems with setup and operation. I mean, there are dozens of services that provide technical support for people like me, all of them expensive, all of them offering some sort of service to get a web site or blog up and running smoothly with no troubles and promising .to select the proper format, help a beginner investigate the ins and outs of setting up a blog, and making the process seamless and profitable. Hah again.

So, there are a lot of old dogs, and probably young ones as well, struggling to set up a site that looks nice and will attract visitors. Only someone totally computer savvy could set up a web site or blog in 30 minutes. No way a beginner could complete such a feat unless he or she did not care what the site looked like or how well it worked.

I struggled onwards for a while longer, but finally decided that the process resembled eating an elephant one teaspoon at a time. When I decided that I hadn’t even consumed the left ear of that elephant, I asked a totally computer literate friend of mine and who has worked in publishing programs for years, what on earth I was doing wrong. She told me that Word Press, the program I had selected for my site, was very difficult to learn. Something that ought to take 20 minutes to complete took her three days to do in Word Press. When I heard that, I knew I had chosen the wrong setup to begin with. If it took her three days to complete something, I would see my 90th birthday come and go before I made any noticeable headway at all.

I canceled my web host, pulled my blog information, and quit. I don’t like the idea of not completing a project, but in this case, I had had enough. The next time I have a not-so-bright idea about starting something new, at least one where any sort of technology comprises the bulk of the learning process, I probably will forget that idea before it takes any sort of hold at all.

Did I learn something from all this? Yes, I did, but not the sort of learning I expected when I started this project, but at least I did learn something. Old dogs can learn, even if the information isn’t quite what he or she expected to learn at the outset of the project, and even if that learning consists of deciding not to proceed.


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