Sunday, December 14, 2008

End Of The Semester

This is my last blog post for the online graduate class I've been taking. I will make an effort to continue to blog regularly after this class is over. ENG 830 has made me fall in love with my own blog all over again! I read an article for this class by Stephen Krause in which a student asked the question, "How empowering is is to be forced to blog?" I laughed at that when I read it, but now I can state definitively that it is empowering to be "forced' to blog. The article made a case for blogging as a method for training writers. The unidentified student who voiced the original opinion was in an online class similar to the one I'm taking now. Krause's 2004 class was ultimately a failure. i think if he were to teach it again today, student response would be completely different. The blog explosion that has been taking place has been phenomenal. Everyone has a blog these days.

I never gave much thought to blogging other than as a way to satisfy my own ego via some humorous, relevant and irreverent content--with a healthy dose of snark thrown in. I didn't see blogging as a way to hone my use of language but that lesson is one that I have taken to heart after one semester of "forced" blogging. Any chance to use, and improve my use of, language is valuable. As an English major, I can use my blog as another academic outlet. As a fiction writer in training, my electronic musings could very well end up in some of my work. Blogs are yet another tool through which writing/English teachers can force their students to sit down and write. If the experience is a good one, those students will continue to use the tools at their disposal. I spend another 60-120 minutes a week blogging--two hours of writing on top of the creative writing and journaling I do every day.

End-of-semester final thoughts--the snarky ones. I'll save the real ones for the class discussion boards:

Facebook is fun and so far, stalker-free (knock wood)

Amazon's Kindle is SOOO Star Trek:TNG. Remember how the Enterprise crew read books on tiny little handheld screens? OMG, it's like the future, only now.

I love Apple. I hate Apple. Now that my older iPod no longer functions, thanks to my plugging it into my new laptop thinking it would work (what was I thinking?!) I'm leaning more toward Hate every day.

I prefer email over IMing. I never, ever text.

Eddie Bauer emailed me a $10 gift certificate good toward any item. Because I now had a discount, I bought a sweater I wouldn't have otherwise bought.

And finally:

I am very, very tired.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Reconnecting Through Facebook

Last week I blogged about the fun and frolicking Facebook has afforded me in recent months. While Battle of the Bands and virtual Christmas trees are enormously entertaining, I can finally see why social networking is so popular. For me personally, the one redeeming aspect of Facebook, beyond the fun and games and endless poking (I know, I keep harping on the poking) is the fact that I have been able to reconnect with a few friends I thought I'd never hear from again. I know I mentioned this in last week's post, but I want to be a little more specific today while discussing this one aspect in which Facebook has enriched my life.

When I was in college I had a friend named Dave. He was a hometown friend rather than a college friend so I saw him during breaks and all summer long. Dave, along with my sister Lyn and I, was a musician, a guitar player. Dave, Lyn and I used to jam a lot, mostly renditions of our favorite songs, or reaaally bad, amateurish "compositions" (I use the term loosely) of our own. Most of the time we would play in our friend Ion's basement. Looking back twenty-two years later, our rendition of the surf classic "Wipeout" wasn't so bad. Hey, at least we didn't do "Stairway to Heaven."

Not long after I joined Facebook in September, I received a Friend request from Dave. He was typing in names of long-lost friends to see if anyone popped up and discovered I was now on Facebook. I have to admit I've done the same thing since joining, and luckily, the old friends I basically cyberstalked weren't offended. We've chatted a few times since reconnecting--twenty-two years is a lot of time to catch up on. It's been great hearing about my friend's life and his family. Dave pokes me every single day. I poke back. He sends Drinks requests often. This is one of the games I just can't stop playing. The more drinks you send and receive, the more drinks are unlocked. The game's goal is to get drunk--in a virtual sense, of course.

This is the beauty of the electronic age. I have been able to correspond with someone I thought I'd never hear from again. Our friendship is conducted entirely electronically. We leave messages on Facebook, write on each other's walls and e-mail occasionally. Contact ranges from a simple comment on a silly status update to long emails where we catch each other up on our lives. We haven't really gotten to the telephone stage yet for some reason. Maybe, after twenty + years, electronic communication is enough. Maybe we'll work our way up to real-life communication. My friend asked me if I was heading down to CT for Christmas. For the first time in 6 years I'm staying here for Christmas. Otherwise, we would have met somewhere in person. I'm sad not to be able to see Dave in person, but for now, "e-communication" as I'll call it, is enough. We check in on each other almost every day. We share photos, joke with each other, reminisce--all online. For now, it's plenty. The internet has brought us back into each other's lives, even if it is in a smaller sense than the friendship we once had. But thanks to Facebook, we're sort of picking up right where we left off. We each have the same sense of humor, same sensibilities. It's nice to know there really was no falling out between us, we just drifted off on our separate lives. It happens. But Dave and I are cool. We'll probably meet up again sometime in the near future. For now, I'm off to Facebook to send him another ornament for his virtual Christmas tree. And poke him.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Adventures in Facebooking

I began my first completely online college course back in September. While the course has been fraught with some technological challenges for me, the one requirement I was initially opposed to was having the join Facebook. I'm basically a loner in the real world so naturally I'm much the same in the virtual, anonymous world of the internet. I didn't want to join a social networking site. Facebook is for kids, i told myself, dominated by teens, tweens and twentysomethings in order to keep track of their friends in between the constant texting and iPod usage. Mainly, though, I was reluctant to join Facebook out of fear of stalking and harassment. Turned off by the stories of MySpace and Facebook incidents, the last thing I wanted to do was join and post my real name out there for anyone to see. At first I found the site daunting. The layout confused me. Someone from college--someone i was not particularly fond of--tried to Friend me. I ignored the request until he sent it again. I had to formally Ignore him. It made me feel like a jerk. Particularly annoying were the ever-present ads. I found the fact that they were sometimes tailored to the hobbies I listed in my profile to be a little creepy. And for some reason, Facebook feels the need to remind me on a daily basis that I am over Forty and single.

Fast-forward three months. I love Facebook! I have to admit: I loved Facebook almost immediately. Right off the bat I had a handful of friends as each member of the class added their classmates to their Friends list. There's something gratifying about receiving a Friend request. It makes me feel popular. I wasn't prepared for how addictive Facebook is. The Friending with a capital F! The games! The Gifts! The Poking! Where does it all end? In the three months I've been on Facebook I've reconnected with a number of old friends I never thought I'd hear from again. Within the first week online I received a Friend request from a guy I went to high school with. Soon after that a college friend contacted me. When I saw another mutual college friend in her Friends list I contacted her. Two friends of mine in Scotland contacted me as well. It's nice to be in contact with these people again. I didn't have any falling-out with any of them, life simply got in the way and we all just drifted on to other things and places. It happens. So far no stalking or harassment has taken place!

I was unprepared for the extent of Facebook's networking capabilities. Not only individuals use Facebook; organizations, indie publications and music labels maintain an online presence. Know who else is on Facebook? Rock bands! I now get up-t-date information on tours, album releases and surprise appearances from my favorite artists. Most of the bands only have the option to become a Fan rather than Friend, but Denver-based Dressy Bessy actually has the Friend option. And they accepted my Friend request! Now I, along with 4,325 other people, can count Dressy Bessy as a friend. It's sad, but it's all I have in my otherwise pathetic life. Another thing I was not expecting: groups. There are groups for everything, from fans of certain TV shows to rock bands to political organizations. Groups are fun! The SSC English department, Grad School English majors and our literary publications have Facebook groups.

Poking around Facebook is fun. Reconnecting with real-life friends has been rewarding even in the short amount of time I've been on Facebook. The time-wasting aspects are fun, such as Battle of the Bands and Drink Requests. I'm getting annoyed at being bombarded with the Li'l Green Patch requests though. Beyond Facebook's initial playground-like euphoria, Facebook's benefits are becoming clear. Facebook fulfills a basic social need. For me, it's been an enhancement to my reall-world life rather than a replacement. As long as that is the case, I will continue to network and socialize. Beyond the internet opportunities to network are everywhere. Indie publishers abound on Facebook and along with them, the opportunity to submit work and to connect with people already doing what I want to do: write. Event invitations are opportunities to meet locally in person and participate in open mikes, poetry slams and other events.

I finally see why Facebook, and social networking online, is so popular. And yes dear Facebook, now that I've had some time to mull it over, I would be interested in meeting a hot over-forty doctor.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's a travesty!

I spotted a photocopied sign posted around campus yesterday and for the first time I truly wished my cell phone could take pictures. The sign was posted by a (presumably undergrad) student and read as follows:

Please return this book. I need it. If you seen or stole it please call 978-###-#### so I can come get it.

After the word "you" someone wrote" 've." After the word "stole" they wrote "n."

The sign ended with typed all caps exclaiming "I NEED THIS BOOK!!!" I had an evil urge to write in "Obviously!" but I took the high road and walked away.


Lately I've noticed a lot of bloggers and forum posters are using the word "loose" in place of "lose" and "loosing" in place of "losing." For example: "What do you do when you loose one of your knitting needles?" Feeling obnoxious and superior to these people, I would secretly chuckle at their misguided use of language. But the more I encounted the mistake the more paranoid I became. The final straw was when I saw the word used in this headline in the NY Daily News online the other day. Is something happening within our linguistic conventions in which this is a now an acceptable practice? I was beginning to fear for my academic sanity when, while googling the link for the Daily News article, I spotted this little nugget from the Columbia Journalism Review. Thank you Merrill Perlman!!

While I'm on the subject, when did "addicting"--as in "I can't stop playing this video game, it's very addicting"--become a word?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wiki cool! Or, Adventures In Wikipedia

Wikis are the topic of this week's second post. Before I started this class the only wiki I had ever contributed to was, of course, Wikipedia and that was only a minor one-time contribution. If you must know, I contributed a vital piece of information regarding the British cult sci-fi TV show Doctor Who. Specifically, that he has tried and failed to get to two 20th-century rock concerts that we know of--Elvis Presley in the 1950s and Ian Dury and the Blockheads in 1979--before intergalactic evildoers diverted the good Doctor and his time machine. Pretty useless I know. So this leads me to wonder where exactly Wikipedia's true value lies. Is it in providing complete and accurate research information on relevant social, political and academic topics? Or is it merely a wonderland in which every detail-obsessed fanboy or -girl can go nuts over their favorite TV show/superhero/rock band? The amount of detailed information collected on Star Wars alone is staggering.

For me Wikipedia is my go-to source for all things pop culture. Has a celebrity just died? I head over to Wikipedia. Have I just discovered a new band? I'll look them up on Wikipedia. Did my current celebrity crush just break up with his girlfriend? Sweet. He did. I never use Wikipedia for serious academic purposes due to the potential for misinformation, although I did consult it briefly once to see how The Merchant of Venice ends in order to make a minor point in a short essay. Wikipedia is a lot of fun, but I approach it with a constant underlying mistrust of the information it contains. Because that information can come from anybody sitting at home in front of their computer.

Wikis in a controlled academic setting can be very valuable indeed. I believe that, despite the best intentions, when the information-gathering forum is opened up to include anyone and everyone--that's when you have to take everything you read with a grain of salt. Because Wikipedia is written by human beings. And human beings can be jerks. They can also be wrong on a number of occasions. There's something irresistible about seeing one's contribution in print or online; this brings the potential for someone to rush to post information. Perhaps a date is wrong or some other piece of information wasn't researched. Wiki's innovation is the ability to remove or correct data as well as add it. But who's watching the watchers? I have a very cynical outlook at times, and I often wonder if celebrities are writing/adding to their own Wikipedia entries. I keep thinking of the Simpsons episode where Snake the criminal is outraged because someone edited his Wikipedia entry. As a result he wants them eliminated.

Here is a list of some of my recent Wikipedia searches, just as a matter of interest:

Michael Crichton. He was married six times. Who knew?
Hellboy. The comic book/movie franchise. As a newcomer, it was a good place to get an overview of what's going on.
Manhasset, NY. This is my hometown. I just wanted to see what Wiki had to say about it.

I did one other search recently to see just how all-encompassing Wikipedia is. I have a friend in Scotland who is what I'll refer to as a minor regional celebrity. He's a DJ for a radio station that broadcasts all over the North of Scotland. Just out of curiosity one day, I typed in his name to see if he has a Wikipedia entry. He does.. I haven't asked him yet if he wrote his own entry, but i just might.

Should I help Wikipedia by expanding it?

I think not.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blogger Down.

Not Blogger the site, me, the, uh, blogger of this blog. Thanks to a nasty cold that i suspect may in fact be the flu, I've been down for the count since Saturday. I managed to make it into work on Monday, but by Tuesday I was feeling a lot worse. I called out sick from work the entire rest of this week and spent it hopping between my armchair in front of the TV to my bed. my schedule is basically the same every day: get up at 1:00 PM, eat some toast. Go back to bed at 4:30. Get up at 7:00 or maybe 8:00, eat some soup, go back to bed. Needless to say, homework, housework and the major apartment tidying I need to do before Thanksgiving guests arrive did not get done. This really annoyed me because I have so many things I need to get done that I could almost cry. Rather than improve from one day to the next, I'm actually getting sicker. I have a new computer and some new gadgets i need to learn how to use, and all I did this week was sleep. Last night I had what I'm convinced was a Nyquil-inspired nightmare. In this dream I received an invitation to a former co-worker's Christmas party. I hadn't worked with him for a couple of years so I thought it was weird, but in a rare moment of "gee, I'll go out and have some fun," I went to the party, (Note: co-worker in the dream is in fact someone that didn't exist in real life.) When i got to the party he looked at me in surprise and asked me what I was doing there.
Me: You sent me an invitation.
Host: *awkward pause*I did? Oh. I must not have updated my email address list for a couple of years.
Me: . . .
Host: Well, since you're here, its' good to see you. You can stay if you want.

Why am I bothering you with this when I should be ruminating on Instant Messaging and its role in either the enhancement or destruction of society as we know it? This story brings me to one of the great mysteries of our time: the flu shot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't take. Sometimes the doctors prepare the wrong flu shot and everyone that got that shot is at risk anyway. And how come people who get the flu shot are protected from the flu, but they can still get a seriously nasty cold? I got my flu shot three weeks ago, and by Sunday I had to make an emergency trip for cold supplies and ended up at Walmart, where you can buy Dayquil and Nyquil without having to sign a form promising that you won't use the medication as part of a home meth lab. If I'm not actually suffering from the flu, then this is one seriously grotesque cold. If it is the flu, I'm majorly annoyed. It wouldn't be the first time I got the flu after receiving the flu shot. A manager in my office got her flu shot last week at work. I and some other co-workers were surprised because we didn't see another email about it. "The executives get the real flu shot," I quipped. Maybe I was closer to the truth than I could have guessed? ;-)

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Technology hates me. So does freakin' Apple! is it too much to ask to have a working computer and reliable internet access? You know the new laptop I wrote about earlier this week? I tried to go online on Friday and I kept getting a message telling me that Safari could not find any servers or websites. I was connected to the internet but Safari couldn't find anything. So I had to call in a state of panic last night. I had to lug my new laptop back to the Apple store. I explained that the internet worked for one day and now it didn't. And you know what? The guy was truly stumped. He tried a lot of different things I confess I don't understand. Using Airport, Safari worked fine. But I've heard a lot of things about its susceptibility to hacking so I wasn't eager to switch. It took him an hour to fix it. he finally reconfigured the network access information, or whatever, and got it working on dial up. He told me that Airport isn't as vulnerable as I'd heard, so I asked him what I would do if I wanted to use it. He showed me the "taco" icon at the top of my screen and gave me a quick lesson.

When i got home I was anxious to make sure the computer worked. I found that the technician had not only left the computer on, thus draining the battery, he left the setting on Airport. I switched it back to the modem, logged on...and got nowhere. Safari was once again not working. After a few choice curse words I noticed there was a choice for configuring the network. I had nothing to lose, so for the name I just typed in Earthlink, typed in the access phone number and my account information and hit apply. Thank God, it worked! Was this all I had to do in the first place, or did the technician fix something that would have prevented me from doing this? And why did the Earthlink helpdesk guy in India not tell me to do this? I am SO over Earthlink at this point. I'll save the outsourcing lecture for another time...

Buying a new computer was supposed to end my problems and, to be honest, it's fun being able to buy a new toy. But I'm annoyed and tired, and behind on work for this class because i couldn't do everything I needed to on the library and computer lab machines.

I brought my 2nd generation iPod to the store because I had stored all my fonts on it so I could just copy the fancy ones I'd installed over the years over to my new machine. Easy, right? Apple had other ideas. The Macbook just can't recognize the older iPod. My sister has an iBook and an older iPod that my new computer does recognize (she transferred some music videos onto it so I know it works). maybe i can plug the older iPod into her iBook, copy the fonts onto her slightly-less-older iPod, then plug it into my computer. I could install all my fonts, disk-by-disk if I have to but honestly, this process should not be this difficult. It's been a hassle. And I'm not a technological idiot! I know my way fairly well around a computer.

I've cleared off my computer desk, rearranged it with my new stuff, and added some decor to the wall in that area. I'm going to relax, turn this computer off now, and starting tomorrow, with a new week, I'm going to enjoy my new stuff, get caught up, and go forward. Sorry to rant on and on about all my techno-problems! Thanks for reading. :-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I'm technologically viable again.  I detailed my iMac woes at the start of this semester, ad nauseam.  After eight years my beloved Strawberry iMac was out-of-date and barely functional.  This week, I took the plunge, gritted my teeth, went to the Apple store and bought a new laptop.  It's faster and holds twice as much memory out of the box than the iMac did after I bought and installed extra RAM over the years in order to max it out.  Thanks to a rebate I got a combination color photo printer/scanner for free!  On the down side I'll have to buy upgrades for Photoshop and Illustrator, but it will be worth it in the end. Oh yeah--and I had to buy an external USB modem because the computer doesn't have an internal modem.  I had to drive back to the Apple store because I didn't for one minute think that a new computer wouldn't have an internal modem in it.  Yes, I still use dial-up.  I don't want to hear it.  Someday I'll be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but for now I don't want to be bothered with having to switch ISPs, etc.  Sucks to be me, I know.  But at least I got a free printer.

Having a working computer means I can now resume blogging, a task made increasingly difficult on my old Mac.  I like blogging.  It's a conceit, I know, and I know that no one reads them, but there's something satisfying about publishing my own online journal.  I actually have three blogs.  My knitting blog gets the most hits thanks to the many knitting and craft forums I belong to.  This blog is my "smart blog." I started it when I became serious about writing again. I mostly review books and zines and other literary topics, though recaps of the latest Doctor Who episode crop up quite often.  I have a sewing and stitching blog as well, but it only has a couple of posts on it over the past two years, mainly because I'm still just learning how to sew (no time!) and I don't do other needlework as often as I knit.  I won't bother to post a link.

Most people may find this funny, but knitting blogs are hot right now. No, really! Google "knitting blog" and it returns 531,000 results.  Everyone and their Goth kid sister has a knitting blog  these days. I confess that, as soon as I became aware of the phenomenon three years ago, I had to have one, too.  I think for me the appeal is part showing-off, part bonding with like-minded people all over the world, part archive.  Knitting blogs are a wonderful medium that lets people share patterns and tips, ask for and receive help from one another, and share resources and stories of who in their family taught them to knit.  Knitting is passed on to a new generation as Internet-savvy teens and twenty-somethings flock to the craft.  In turn, these bloggers are sharing tips to older knitters on how to set up their own blogs, how to upload pictures, and how to have more fun using the internet as a tool for exploring an ancient craft.  Sharing--and blogging--is a wonderful thing.

In case anyone's interested, here are some of the more "famous" knitting blogs out there:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"It's all about self-absorption today. The BlackBerry makes you go into yourself. The computer makes you go into yourself. E-mail makes you go into yourself," she says. "It's a huge world out there. We must just stop and get out there and be nice to somebody."

This quote appeared in today's USAToday in an article on Emily Post and the deplorable decline of manners in today's society. Who's being quoted? It's none other than Sarah Ferguson, Dutchess of York. I especially like the first sentence. It sums up my general feelings on why there is a distinct lack of manners today, especially in the younger (teens and twenties) generation. The first assignment for this class was to speculate on the role email plays in society. Is email dead? Is it being replaced by other, faster forms of electronic communication? My posts to the online class forum were very similar to the thoughts expressed by Sarah Ferguson. the self-absorption part hits home for me, since I deal with the self-absorbed on a daily basis, and have long attributed it to the instant gratification obtained by modern forms of communication people have at their fingertips. That's really all I have to say for the moment. No big, meaningful sociological exploration of the topic for now, I just wanted to indulge in a small sense of validation. I guess we redheads think alike.

Thanks, Fergie.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sleep Deprivation...Must...Type...Paper...

I detest weird, obnoxious dreams. Over the years I've had what I call recurrent "school anxiety" dreams. They first started in the 90s when I was trying to get through art school. I enjoyed my classes, but a combination of illness, lack of funds, and scheduling problems plagued my experience. I began to dream that I was back in college, where I finished my undergrad, but I was my current age. In my dreams I had a car (I didn't when I was an undergrad), I was an adult (I use the term loosely) and I was living on campus on some sort of sabbatical from work. In these dreams I endlessly searched for either my dorm room or my mailbox. I rarely found my dorm room, and when I did, there was something not-quite-right about it. Either the door wouldn't lock, or it only had 3 walls instead of four, opening up into someome else's room, that sort of thing. As for the mailbox, I never found that at all. I'm not a psychiatrist but there's some sort of message here. Either A.) I'm trying to find my room, which I believe represents a sense of belonging, or my "center" if you will. Or B) I'm trying to find my mailbox, and I never do. Clearly, I'm "not getting the message," right?! The most astounding part of this recurrent dream is the scenery: it has been exactly the same every time I have this type of dream over the past 10 years or so. The campus doesn't look quite like it did in real life, but it looks exactly the same in every dream. It's always night. Sometimes I'm driving around campus or through town on my way back to campus. I marvel at how things have changed, or how things have stayed the same in this very vivid nocturnal landscape. I also marvel that I'm driving at all since I didn't have a car or a license when I was in school. In all these dreams, no one likes me. I attribute it to the fact that I'm 10 (and now 20) years older than everyone else.

These dreams stopped once I finished art school, but they returned with a vengeance last fall when I entered graduate school. The scenery and premise of the dream remain the same ten years later. This time I attribute them to a general academic anxiety. I had design projects at art school but no research papers. When I started graduate school it was easily nineteen years since I'd written a paper or engaged in heavy research. I was nervous about the coursework, and the very words Graduate School struck a bit of fear into my heart. This time around I tend to find my dorm room more often than not, but it's still a little off. Sometimes the walls are slanted. Often I get to the back of the room to find that it adjoins another room with no dividing wall. I have dreams where I'm in a new apartment that does the same thing--opens into another apartment--and it really ticks me off. I'm sure there' s something subconcious about that but I can't figure out what it could be. Feel free to email me with your suggestions.

Last night I had a very different but equally puzzling school-related dream. I was sitting on the concrete area near an outside swimming pool. My sister was with me. A lot of other students were sitting there also. It was supposed to be my current school but didn't resemble it at all. Right behind the pool was a football field. A game was just about to get underway, there were swimmers waiting to use the pool. Then a man came along and stood in front of all of us seated on the concrete. He started to give a lecture. "If America is an unaltruistic wheel that has run out of grease," he began, "then what does that mean for the rest of the world?" Brilliant! I thought. Then someone whispered in my ear and I woke up. So what does this latest dream mean? Apart from the odd but promising sound bite I have no clue. I'm sure the professor's words are inspired by the current economic crisis; they certainly reflect my opinion that perhaps America should look toward solving its own problems before spending money to help other countries. (God that makes me sound so conservative. Or does it?) At least this time I was part of a classroom discussion. Maybe it signifies that I no longer feel like an outsider who doesn't belong, or deserve to be in, school.

My dreams are nothing if not multimedia extravaganzas.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I don't usually wax political but...

The President is going to go on tv again today in another attempt to push his Wall Street bailout plan. Please, we already know what he wants to do. Obviously the nation has a major problem with it. Bush didn't get what he wanted, so he's going to go on tv again so he can harangue the nation into accepting what he wants, so we in turn will cajole Congress. It's so typical of the protect-the-rich attitude Bush's administration is famous for. Maybe, if the government had cracked down on the out-of-control increases to home loan interest rates before they got out of control, we wouldn't be in this mess. Perhaps if the lenders we're expected to bail out had lowered their interest rates as more and more of their customers went into bankruptcy and foreclosure, we wouldn't have this problem. These lenders are sitting back while Bush fights their battle, knowing full well they are the ones responsible.

Switching gears: I'm still trying to finish reading Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass. I keep picturing Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig as I read. I have lots of assignments due by the end of this week so I won't get to it until Monday, if then. I also have 1.5 fingerless gloves knitted. I need to finish that as well.

I'm still utterly enchanted by Facebook!

It's raining cats and dogs right now.

I need some chocolate pudding.

Friday, September 26, 2008

My Life: A trail of abandonded websites.

I'll start with a quick follow-up to two issues I've been blogging about this semester: the demise of my iMac and my annoyance at the liberties retailers take with my email address. I mentioned earlier that I was so angry at Apple's refusal to service its older-model computers that I was tempted to fire off an email blasting their lack of regard for long-time customers. Apple headed me off by sending an email to inquire whether or not my visit to the Genius Bar was satisfactory. Here was my chance. I politely made my opinions known, and checked off that I did not want a follow-up phone call to discuss my experience. I generally expected a half-hearted and ultimately meaningless email to follow, something along the lines of "we're sorry you were not entirely satisfied, yada yada yada." What I received this week was an email from Apple advertising "iMac: the perfect desktop computer for your home." Right. Because a) I gave the Apple store my email address for the purpose of confirming an appointment, and b) they now know I need a new computer...With that, I'll lay this subject to rest.

This week's assignment is the World Wide Web itself! I'm currently working on my personal website--the first one I've created in years. I remember how excited I was when I first went online way back in 1993. There were thousands of websites, or, as most individuals called their personal website back then, homepages, to browse through. I was desperate to join in and build a homepage of my own. But first, I needed to decide on a subject. I needed to find my "thing." I joined Geocities early on, delighted with their little virtual "neighborhoods" that would host a user's web address. After much consideration I decided to go with a Riot Grrl theme. Thus, Grrlzine was born. Armed with an HTML guide in one hand and a web graphics book in the other, I put together what I considered to be a pretty snazzy--and snarky--website. And I broke all the rules regarding good web design in the process. Animated GIFs? Check. Busy and confusing backgrounds? Check. Haphazard image placement? Check. If that obnoxious dancing baby animation had been around in 1993 I probably would have included it. In the meantime, a tiled photograph of Diana Rigg as her Avengers character Emma Peel--rendered in hot pink and black contrast in Photoshop--would have to do. I updated Grrlzine slavishly for a few months until it was brought to my attention that another woman was publishing an actual paper zine called Grrlzine--and had been for quite some time. She got there first, and she was way cooler than me. Undaunted, I switched tactics and launched Avenue A soon afterward. My new "thing" would be a NYC-centric art and pop-culture guide. I was way out of my element. Apart from a virtual art gallery featuring my artwork and photos, and a lame list of my favorite shops and restaurants in NYC, there wasn't much content. Eventually I lost interest, and gave up on contributing to the internet. Sure, millions of other people with nothing interesting or important to contribute continued to contribute, and that's one of the pros as well as one of the cons of the internet, but for me, well, I simply gave up.

These days I prefer the quick-edit instant satisfaction of the blog's format. I'll discuss my blogging habits later on in the semester. For now, I've dragged out the HTML guide (thank you Visual Quickstart Guides!) as I immerse myself in yet another crash course in coding.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Hey, guess what people? I'm now a part-owner of a multi-million dollar failure of a financing company! But I can't keep track of which one I own. AIG? Lehman Brothers? I forget. I, along with all of you, get to bail out the rich greedy b*****ds who have enormous mansions, pensions and bank accounts by taking on the bad debt they accrued by constantly raising the adjustable interest rate on home mortgages. All because I'm an American taxpayer. Whatever. Just put it on my tab, along with the war in Iraq.

In order to supplement a class assignment I spent a lot of time this week perusing the mind-boggling variety of Yahoo Groups. Before I began this class, I belonged to one, count it, one Yahoo group run by a local clothing and accessory store. I like getting updates on their sales and their cool evening events such as art shows and DJ parties. I still belong to only one Yahoo Group because, frankly, I get enough notices in my email inbox already, ranging from yarn sales to fabric sales to a fitness center begging me to rejoin. The latter is particularly annoying, but it illustrates why I used my Yahoo email in the first place: to keep the utter CRAP away from my real email address. I use Yahoo for a variety of functions: blog-generated email, email from retailers and e-tailers, the Yellow Pages, and internet radio. Anything is possible on Yahoo, yet I never use it for its original purpose: that of a search engine. In the early 1990s, in those heady days when I eagerly explored the vast network known as the internet, I flipped between Yahoo, Lycos and a third search engine whose name I can't even remember. Yahoo quickly became my search engine of choice. This lasted through to the year 2000 when a young upstart by the name of Google came along. I first heard of Google in a USAToday article describing a new trend in which people were "googling" blind dates before the first meeting to see what information came up. I've been in love ever since.

I searched the Yahoo Groups for quite a while this week. While I'm tempted to join a Harry Potter knit-along in which every participant is knitting the Ron Weasley giant block-letter initial sweater, I ultimately decided I didn't have the time, or the inclination to keep up with various knitters all over the world, kindred spirits though we may be.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Wave makes me sad.

Thanks to internet radio stations like Pandora and Yahoo I can enjoy a trip down memory lane by tuning into my favorite music from the '80s. Neon accessories, rubber bracelets and spikey hair may be a thing of the past, but thanks to internet radio, I can hear Boy George asking "Do You Really Want to Hold Me?" or Devo exhorting us to "Whip It" at any given hour of the day. This is a good thing. Music fans anywhere can choose from a virtually unlimited list of genres and create their own playlists and stations. Thanks to the all-encompassing, cross-media capabilities of the internet, these stations link to band biographies, similar artists for fans to check out, and, most importantly, links through which customers can purchase their favorite music. No matter how bizarre, old, or obscure, if it's included on an internet radio station, it's been made available to purchase. This is also a good thing! For years I have been searching for the original 7"single version of an obscure new wave song "Nowhere Girl" by an equally obscure British new wave band called B-Movie. Long out of print, my only option was to scour used record stores and Ebay in hopes of scoring a less-than-pristine vinyl copy, or to buy an entire compilation album that may or may not contain other songs I like. The soundtrack to the film 200 Cigarettes has the original version, and is not a bad album altogether, but the film I relied on to relive the glory days of new wave so disappointed me that I refuse to buy its soundtrack! Any movie in which Casey Affleck and Courtney Love are the couple you're supposed to be rooting for can't be good. But I digress.

I was in high school during new wave's heyday of 1980-1984. When my high school glory days came to an end, so, did new wave's. The terms "Alternative" and "Modern Rock" sprang up to describe the slightly left-of-center rock music. Thanks to the internet, I have created my own New Wave station, chock full of the music of my youth, with its gloriously off-kilter aesthetic. My station includes "Nowhere Girl" in its original synth-heavy glory, as well as a host of other songs that meant a lot to me when I was growing up. When played this song, it was a good twenty years or so since I'd heard the original version in its entirety.As soon as I hear the synthesized opening bars of "Nowhere Girl" I'm immediately transported to the bedroom in the house in which I grew up. I spent a lot of evenings sitting in my beanbag chair listening to the only new wave station in the NYC tri-state area. It was great to hear this long-lost musical gem again, but I had a rather unanticipated reaction when I heard it: I teared up! Yup, I got all verklempt as soon as I heard it. The point of my story? Thanks to internet radio, I've discovered just how much the nostalgia I feel for my teenage years can get to me. These days I find myself older, slightly wiser, and still trying to decide what I want to do when I grow up. New wave transports me back to a time in which I had very few worries, a time in which I was certain things would be different when I was older. Hearing my favorite songs these days reminds me of the hope and certainty I felt as a 14-year-old looking to the future.
It's not the up-tempo songs that make me sad, though it's great to hear them as well. Among the dozens of fly-by-night, one-hit-wonders the new wave era spawned, a lot of good music made its way over here from across the pond, even if the American audiences generally didn't appreciate it. "Oblivion," "The Bugle Sounds Again," anything from Aztec Camera's High Land Hard Rain album still makes me somewhat emotional. This album was a Christmas gift from my mom in 1984. I listened to it for two months straight through Christmas break and into the second semester of my freshman year of college before It hit the fan, so to speak. My parents' divorce and various related issues clouded the rest of my college years and changed my life irrevocably. This album reminds me of the last carefree days before things got ugly. "Wishful Thinking" by China Crisis, with its gentle orchestral qualities does the same thing. The Bongos, vintage Elvis Costello, Squeeze, all these bands take me back to my high school and early college days, and that makes me a little sad becasue as adults, we all, to varying degrees, wish we could see things the way we did when we were younger.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

E-mail: How Much Is Too Much?

In the November 14, 2007 issue of Slate Chad Lorenz announced the death of e-mail. He has obviously never shopped at Bath and Body Works. I gave this store my e-mail address when they told me they would occasionally email coupons throughout the year. That was two weeks ago. I've received an e-mail from them literally every other day since August 28. They e-mailed me twice in one day on September 3rd. If e-mail is truly on its way out as Lorenz suggests, no one told the promotion and sales department at Bath and Body Works. Lorenz's position on e-mail, along with this week's other articles and discussions really made me stop and think about a form of communication that we all take for granted by now. Our study of e-mail made me stop and think, for the first time, about how much e-mail I receive from places where I've shopped, both in-store and online. It finally dawned on me: if Igive someone else permission to e-mail me, just how far does that permission extend? How much is too much?

Here is a sample of some of the e-mail titles in my Inbox this week:

Bath and Body Works new Black Amythest Fragrance is here!
Find the car you've been looking for!
Bath and Body Works Free Aromatherapy Offer Inside!
Best suprise are in bedroom (sic)
and finally,
Four Goats and a hank of cashmere

The last title isn't as distressing as it sounds, by the way, since it comes from a knitting website I subcribe to. The third title presumably is somewhat distressing. I obviously didn't open it...

Bath and Body Works is really beginning to annoy me, and that has me postulating on the abuses of e-mail. Maybe their e-mailing privileges should be revoked. As I mentioned above, I've received e-mail from them every other day advertising limited-time discounts and special offers, most of which are available through online purchases only. If this company seriously thinks I have the money and inclination to buy bath products every other day, maybe they should stick their heads out the window and take a look at how much gas and groceries cost lately.

The knitting website I subscribe to is even worse than Bath and Body Works. Knitting Daily is an online knitting forum run by Interweave Knits in order to supplement its quarterly magazine. Knitting Daily posts articles and surveys on knitting trends, new fibers and pattern and technical help. The editors update it on a daily basis. They also e-mail me on a daily basis to let me know that the daily update has been posted to their site. Daily. I implicitely gave them permission to contact me when I voluntarily submitted my e-mail in order to register for this free site. But again, just because I gave them my e-mail, does that give a company license to bombard me with electronic communication? In Knitting Daily's case, I can't see what purpose is served by such frequent contact. I as a subscriber am fully aware that they update the website every day. I already pay this company good money through my subscriptions to two of their publications. What good does e-mailing me so often do?

It's the same with every shop I've ever purchased from. Old Navy, Eddie Bauer, and Lands End have been offering me special deals for weeks, if only I'll buy any pair of pants or spend $100 on outerwear. So once again I'll ask: When I give someone permission to e-mail me, are there limits on how far that permission extends? Apparently, the assumption out there is that there are no limits. Of course I can always unsubscribe to the worst offenders, but occasionally there are times in which I genuinely wish to be notified on sales or other promotions. So it seems that I have no choice but to put up with all the superfluous e-mails, or to get cut out of the loop altogether. As luck would have it, I could use some new pants, so I'll put up with all the e-mail for now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Strawberry Whine (Continued)

For today's post I'll continue my ruminations on the need to keep up with the internet's technological advances. In the post below I whined extensively about my 8-year-old iMac's obsolescence. I don't mind the slow operating system on my iMac as much as I mind the fact that the damned thing requires more RAM and updated operating software just to be able to surf the internet. Eventually the hardware could no longer keep up with the software. I have 1 gig. of RAM in this computer, and I use it for everything. Internet surfing, paper writing, graphic design and my creative writing projects. Right now I have all of my projects safely saved onto Zip disks, but I'm not sure when I'll be able to access them.

I brought my iMac to the Apple store two nights ago. The technician took one look at it and said, "I don't know what I can do for this model because we stopped making it . I'll check it out for you but technically we're not even allowed to look at these anymore." Thank you, Apple customer service. I'll save the rant about deserving appropriate technical support no matter which Apple I own for another time. To my surprise the computer started up without any problems, but when he plugged the Zip drive in, everything froze and disappeared. I was a little confused, but at least the technician didn't charge me for looking at it, and he got my zip drive out of my zip disk as well. The drive worked on his newer iMac without any problems, so obviously, I'm facing the inevitable task of having to replace my computer sooner or later. No one actually laughed at my iMac, but a few techies shook their heads in a mixture of pity and disgust, and one young salesgirl went "AWWWW!" and patted my iMac in the same way one pats a dog's head.

So this is my dilemma: Do I continue to buy new equipment every 5-8 years? It looks like I don't have a choice, which means most internet-savvy consumers don't, either. Part of the iMac's problem is OS10.4, which is running on a G3 processor. The technician told me that 10.1 would be better to use with such an old processor, but I bought the upgrade because I could no longer access the internet using 10.1. As I said in my earlier post, living without internet access is not an option. 24-7 on-demand access to news, entertainment and shopping is taken for granted these days. I refuse to live without the ability to check my course materials, shop online, and communicate with friends and family from the comfort of my own home. The internet has brought the entire world to everyone's doorstep, and once we've become accustomed to that, there's no turning back.
I attended Parsons School of Design (of Project Runway fame!) in the nineties. Every single computer lab on campus was wall-to-wall blueberry iMacs, which means, of course, that many major learning institutions invested huge amounts of cash on Apple technology. I wonder how much Parsons had to spend to replace all those Blueberries. It doesn't seem very customer-friendly to me.
I'm fast approaching middle-age and already I can feel the crank letter-writer coming out in me. I'm almost tempted to write a letter--well, by letter I mean e-mail--to Apple letting them know how I feel. In the meantime, I'm not sure what to do. This sounds stupid, but I haven't plugged in my iMac since I brought it home from the Apple store. I'll get around to it this weekend. If I can still use it for everything except accessing what's on my zip disks, I'll take that for now. But if that' the case, what will I do about my novel-in-progress??

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Online Rhetoric, but first, please stand by...

Just in time for ENG830: I have somehow offended the computer gods.  I'm experiencing technical difficulties.  It's just my luck that my computer conks out one week before starting a completely online course.  My 8-year-old Strawberry iMac gave out last week.  The problem? None of the icons shows up on the desktop.  Not the hard drive, not the zip drive, not the folder full of downloaded knitting patterns and, especially horrifying, not the folder full of my papers for the summer class on American Lit I just completed.  My Doctor Who wallpaper still displays, however, so I'm hopeful that my hard drive is all right, just playing hard-to-get (to).   I lugged my computer down a flight of stairs and out to my car and drove to Best Buy to seek help from the Geek Squad.   The security personnel tagged my iMac as soon as i went through the automatic doors so it wouldn't look like I was stealing it.  Seriously? Does anyone even sell these things anymore? Remember these iMacs? They came in those weird round shapes and fun fruit "flavors?" The "geeks" at the Geek Squad told me they couldn't do anything for such an old Mac, so I had to make an appointment with the "geniuses" at Apple's "Genius Bar." Don't get me started.   Keep in mind, this is the same store at which a salesman once asked me if I knew whether or not my computer had a CD slot. Don't get me started on that either, or I'll go on and on about the CompUSA salesman who called me "baby" and made fun of the Mac "dinosaur" CompUSA fell all over themselves to sell me nine months earlier... . I fully expect to be laughed at when I walk in with my old-school iMac.  Pre-internal CD burner.  As a die-hard Mac fan, this is a problem I've continually had to face: Apple's annoying habit of rendering their own technology obsolete 6-9 months after it was introduced.  My iMac is old, but perfectly serviceable.  In the meantime I've had to resort to my backup computer: an equally obsolete iBook.  I'm already having problems.  I can't sign up with AIM or Facebook through Safari, and, after spending an hour writing this post, Safari quit (unexpectedly mind you) and I had to seek out my sister's newer iBook to finish. For some reason, Blogger's autosave didn't work on my computer.

What's the point of my anecdote? I share it to ask this question with my ENG830 class: how important is it to keep up with online technology, and what happens to those who can't or won't keep up?  I'm hoping the loss of my computer is only temporary, yet already I'm scrambling to work online.  Buying a new computer is not an option at this point, so I would have to use communal computer labs in order to do my work.   Internet access is not only increasingly convenient, it is increasingly unavoidable.  The Department of Education has made its financial aid application available only online, along with the paperwork for federal student loans. Entertainment, news and media are available 24/7, and updated at all hours of the day or night.  Internet enhancement is becoming more and more integral to modern life.  My technical difficulties transcend inconvenience; they are affecting my ability to participate in a prescribed component of my graduate degree.   

I realize my problem stems from my personal computing platform of choice.  Apple is notorious for relentlessly updating its technology, but on the other hand, I've avoided major software bugs and steered clear of Vista-like debacles.   The fact is, it is extremely necessary to keep up with online technology.  As we move toward a more technological society, the internet is at the forefront of information dissemination.   Breaking news and video are available online almost instantaneously.  Students can complete courses or even entire degrees online.  The lack of internet access is not an option.

What about those who are wary of the internet?  I work with students and parents, and there is a great deal of resistance to the internet among parents and older, non-traditional students.  The people i speak with who can't or won't keep up with the internet are frustrated at the lack of options when taking care of their academic paperwork.  I have heard anger, frustration, fear and even sheer panic in their voices.  I can understand their frustration, but to me it's equally frustrating as I try to help them.  The truth is, the speed and universal accessibility of the internet is changing information and administration.  Whether it's a university or a government office, once the decision to go completely online has been made, it's up to everyone to learn how to keep up, or be left behind.

I'm hoping my iMac is repairable.  Instant access to entertainment and news is a necessity, not a luxury, and I have become accustomed to having it available in the comfort of my own home.  I'll spend as much time at the computer labs as I need to, but in the end, I'll probably do what I have to--and spend what I have to--to surf from the comfort of home once again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Reading is Fundamental

I'm sorta cranky today. I'm back at work after a nice, relaxing mini-vacation I planned around yesterdays Federal "holiday," I slept so deeply that I was overtired when I woke up this morning, and I'm now harboring a slightly irrational fear that some of that massively recalled beef has ended up in the meatballs of my Italian Wedding soup from the office cafeteria. Not to worry, though, says the FDA. We all consumed most of that meat long ago!

My birthday fell during my mini-vacation; it was, in fact, the point of my taking a few days off in the first place. Thanks to my sister, I picked out three books for my birthday presents: One I have been dying to buy for months, one I knew of and recently decided I wanted to read, and one spur-of-the-moment choice that looked pretty interesting. Thanks to my school work I haven't had much time to read purely for fun. I finished two of the books during my time off. I'll give you a mini-review of them, shall I?

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Philips. Gotta support a fellow (now not-so, in her case) struggling author. I'd been waiting for months for this to be released in the US and almost ordered it from in London in the meantime. It's modern-day London, and the classic Greek gods are forced to share a dingy house, where they've been driving each other crazy for centuries. Artemis, goddess of hunting, is a dog-walker; her twin Apollo is a TV psychic. Bored to tears and coping with ever-weakening powers, they indulge in their favorite pastime: revenge. When two sweet but nerdy mortals stumble into their path, gods and nerds must join forces to save the world. I couldn't put this book down. It's entertaining, funny, and if nothing else, a very basic lesson in Greek mythology! The New York Times criticized this book, which, the author admits, is a lighthearted story. Amazingly, their review actually criticized the author for blogging repeatedly about Strictly Come Dancing, the Brits' original version of Dancing With The Stars! Dear NY Times: buy a sense of humor already.

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. I admit I wouldn't have wanted to read this if it didn't involve knitting. That said, I enjoyed this book, but I read it with a lot of eye-rolling, if you know what I mean. Weepy chick lit is not something I usually enjoy. This plot was too formulaic: men are jerks, women should stick together. The back cover guarantees right from the start that the unthinkable will happen...Add equal doses of getting royally screwed over with saintlike proportions of forgiveness, and you've basically got this book. It's an emotional roller-coaster, with a knitting pattern and a recipe in the back.
It's the story of single mom Georgia and her daughter Dakota (it's a states thing, get it?!) and the yarn shop Georgia owns. Women of different backgrounds congregate on Friday nights. Life and all its problems ensues. I found it too sugary-sweet in several places, in particular the spunky 90-year-old Scottish granny who dispensed the obligatory accumulated wisdom; too unbelievable in others--New Yorkers just do not get that involved in the lives of other New Yorkers. Hell, most of them don't even know who their neighbors are. OK, I don't know who any of my neighbors are, either, but you get my point. Having said all this, I'll go see it when the movie version starring Julia Roberts hits the theaters this summer.
The third book is The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar. Set in New York City by its Scottish author. Neil Gaiman loves this book, and that's enough to pique my interest. In between school work, maybe I'll get to read it before summer comes.