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Serendipity at Christmas

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Serendipity at Christmas

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers

I was asked on TV the other day if I enjoyed the kind of professional life I lead—playing with computers by day and then coming and home to do the same thing at night. Some guys have it tough, right?

Actually, what I do at the office is much different from what I do on my own time. At the paragraph factory, I train reporters and editors, fix problems that come up, program some of the software we use and write a weekly newsletter for the staff. I don't get a chance to do much playing.

I do all my writing away from the office. And that means I do a lot of work in my off-hours, too. I also do all my e-mail away from the office—we don't have corporate e-mail at the newspaper—and that takes up a lot of time. Last week, for example, I received 30 to 40 letters a day just from readers. The other mail takes up time, too.

But I consider all of this a gift. I'll try not to get too schmaltzy about this, but I have never felt so lucky. This is a good time of year to feel that way. Christmas is when we are supposed to think more about giving than receiving, and I usually feel proud at this time of the year that I've been able to help so many of you in one way or another.

But I've realized something else. It's much more important.

This Information Highway is a two-way street. Electronic mail and interactive Web pages and Internet phones and all the other communications methods on the Net aren't avenues for broadcasting my opinions. They're ways we use to talk to each other. They're ways I learn from you.

They're roads many of us have never taken before. Like the links on Web pages, these pathways sometimes lead us to discoveries we would never have found otherwise. They often lead us to new friends, and they sometimes bring us back to the friends we thought we had forgotten.

Best of all, they bring us together. I am reminded often of the reader who raged against me in an e-mail letter the first time he wrote to me. I'm not made of steel; I raged back. Our letters went back and forth for two weeks, each one a little less biting than the ones that came before.

Something happened. I think each of us realized how little we actually disagreed once we stripped away the arguments over the fine points of one kind of computer or another. We've long since become good friends. We've stopped writing to each other about computers and operating systems. We discuss more important subjects now.

That's what serendipity is all about. It's not just the unintended discovery of exciting new things. It's finding out something new about yourself, about others, about the world beyond your nose. It's all about new friends and timeless ideas.

Schmaltzy? Maybe. Next week we return to the mundane stuff. For this week, schmaltzy couldn't be better.

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