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Doug's Diggings: That new phone system; bear sightings

Bear sightings are much more exciting, but regular wildlife sightings in the back yard of Marge and Paul Dormody include a flock of 22 hen turkeys along with this big tom turkey photographed by Paul on April 10. Submitted photo

If you're older than 40 you probably remember a day when you purchased a phone for your home or office, plugged it in and you were ready to go. If you're older than 60 you probably remember the day when the phone was provided by the telephone company as part of the service.

I was again reminded last week that the world has changed - as the saying goes, "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

At our Star-Observer office in Hudson we installed a new phone system last week. A lot of behind-the-scenes work went on before the system was switched to "live." But, before the big switch came, the new phone system involved training sessions.

I mean, this new phone is not a phone - it's basically a computer, complete with a monitor!

I thought the old phone, which was maybe 10 years old, was pretty up-to-date. It had the stuff I needed like voice mail, do-not-disturb button and a few other features I probably never used.

When the competent lady came to train a group of us last week, she probably knew I would be a "project." I'm sure younger people cringe when it comes time to teaching an old dog new tricks.

As I looked at the abbreviated manual to get us up and running, she probably noticed the beads of sweat building on my brow!

The abbreviated manual had the following headings listed and several had sub-heads also. We were expected to learn how to operate the phone before it was scheduled to go live - just two hours later! Among the main headings were: to place an internal call, to place an external call, to answer an outside call, to place a call on hold, to retrieve held call, redial, directory, call transfer, call pickup, conference call, park, park retrieve, paging, call forward, do not disturb, call redirect, night, one touch buttons, change ring tone, record, ringer volume, voice mail and log in from outside system.

The phone does it all; I can even have my work calls forwarded to my cell phone if I choose.

Suddenly I'm thinking - it's going to be tough to do my job if I can't make a phone call!

Fortunately the lady who did the teaching was very patient and very knowledgeable. By the time my hour of training was complete I had enough knowledge to work the system. When the switch to the new phone occurred a couple hours later, nobody in the outside world would have guessed that I didn't have everything under control.

I do get upset sometimes, however, when new technology is not necessarily simpler technology. For instance, the do not disturb button on my new phone. On my old phone hitting do not disturb involved hitting one button; one stroke - on the new phone it takes five strokes, the installer was able to modify it to two strokes, but with new and better technology I figure it should be no more than one stroke.

It's like a lot of things in life, however, a month from now I'll wonder how we ever got along without the new phone. One more thing, with the new system, everyone in the building has their own direct phone line. You can still call the Star-Observer line (715 386-9333) and be transferred to my phone, but if anyone is interested, people may now call me directly at the newspaper office at 715 808-8600. Don't get your hopes too high after hours, however. I haven't used the technology yet to forward those calls to my cell phone!

While we're on the subject of phones, my wife and I just bought a new Smart phone - Oh boy!

Bear sighting

Although much more frequent in recent years, bear sightings are still exciting when one shows up in your back yard. I'm sure it can be a little unnerving to see a bear in your yard grabbing onto a bird feeder and, in some cases, wandering onto your back deck.

I received a call from Marge Dormody, who lives in the town of Hudson, and she and her husband, Paul, heard a ruckus early Sunday morning. A big black bear was "attacking" a bird feeder in their back yard and nothing they could do would scare the bear away.

Of course, bear sightings are becoming increasingly common in and around the Hudson area. It wasn't too many years ago a bear was seldom seen south of Hwy. 8 - the east-west road near St. Croix Falls. At the paper it was a big deal if someone sent us a bear photo.

Interestingly enough, bear sightings have become so common around Hudson that it's hardly newsworthy anymore. It was newsworthy last October when Dan Feia shot a 648-pound bear near North Hudson. The bear was close to a state record. But, run-of-the-mill backyard bear sightings have become all too common.

The Dormodys have seen other wildlife in their backyard, including a flock of turkeys on a regular basis. Paul took the photo of a big tom turkey in their backyard recently.

Of course, turkeys are not nearly as dramatic as a bear sighting. Like most people, I'm sure I would be the first to get excited if I saw one of the massive beasts in my back yard!