Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Challenge of Change

We're imaging documents from the 1890's now.  By our next post we'll have "turned the century."  Many more of our documents are on printed forms rather than scraps of paper.  We're starting to see more typed information with the invention of the typewriter in the 1860's and its becoming more common in business and government.  "Modernization" and a raise in standard of living are evident in every aspect of people's lives.

Our probate records show receipts for imported goods from Europe, piano lessons, and sewing machines.  We've yet to see a decline in horse shoeing and veterinary services, though, since horsepower is still quite literal in the 1890's.

Change comes, and with it come both positive and negative consequences.  The beautiful cursive handwriting by the earlier clerks is now a rare treat to find in the 1890's.  

Truly works of art--the clerks' documents of the mid 1800's

The high-quality "rag" paper that made our earlier documents easy to handle has now been replaced by cheaper wood-pulp paper that, because of the acid in it, often crumbles in our hands when we try to unfold it.

Cropped the best we could using the manual cropping templates of the "old" software
Auto-cropped by the updated software--no input from us at all.

I have had cause to reflect on change and improvement this past couple of weeks, because we have been "updated."  The software that FamilySearch develops and maintains for doing our imaging has a new feature--auto crop.  It was hinted at over a year ago--the solution to many of our challenges with probate documents of infinitely variable sizes and shapes.  Until its arrival two weeks ago, we had to determine, on the fly, how to best crop each document so that it was captured in its entirety without adding extensive unneeded "black" around the image causing it to be more pixels than necessary.  We had become quite proficient at creating and using a battery of cropping templates that we controlled with a "stick" of extra computer keys.

Our stick of extra computer keys.  Now we only need a few of them.

We prided ourselves in developing those skills and producing efficient and complete images.  Now, with the new software, the most challenging part of our day has become child's play.

One of our loyal Terre Haute missionaries, test driving the new "cropper."

Our hard-earned skills are obsolete, like the 1870 clerk's beautiful penmanship.  He was no longer praised for his art but was faced with learning to type on the newfangled QWERTY.  Don't misunderstand.  The change in our case is definitely an improvement.  We have so much more latitude in how we place the document down to be captured, and there is very little chance of an image not being perfectly cropped.  Instead of our being faced with the option of 10 to 15 cropping templates, we have only 5, and those are more for our convenience than for an actual need.  It really is a modern miracle.  We see the potential of maintaining a daily output of 1800 to 2000 images and they'll be more consistently and tightly cropped than we could ever have done before.

One change I'm grateful for--a new all-you-can-eat Japanese buffet in town.

Yet, I am mourning the passing of our "generation."  New missionaries won't even know about the skills that we, for a year, depended on.  This feeling of obsolescence is not a new feeling for me.  Do I do calculations with a slide rule even though I spent a semester in high school learning how?  Do I put pen to staff paper when I compose these days, now that computer notation software is available?  I don't have to "dial" a phone any more.  I don't have to listen for the bell to ding that signaled the end of a line of text and my need reach up and "return" the carriage.  The list goes on forever of my skills that advancements have made obsolete, the "lost arts" that used to be every-day occurrences.

We're grateful for improvements in medicine--Ann is a 7-year survivor of breast cancer.

What have I come to better understand?  That the real skill I will always need, and that I must improve at every day, is the ability to change.  I need to be resilient.  I need to be quick to adapt to my changing environment.  What worked for me yesterday may not produce the best results tomorrow.

The Lord has blessed Indiana with its own temple--a sign of growth in the church.

As a missionary I call that skill to change and improve "repentance."  Over time it is my hope and faith that it will bring about my redemption and sanctification--my being brought into a unity with God.  I am striving to acquire His skill set in every aspect of my being.  A couplet from a hymn comes to mind:

Change and decay in all around I see;
O, Thou who changest not, abide with me! 

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