Your Life In Review

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,800 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

The good people of WordPress opened their Year-End Review with those words – below this worldscape with bursting fireworks – and what blogger could resist? They went on to report that my busiest day was February 24, that one of the most-viewed was a piece on Eleanor Roosevelt from 2013 (Mrs. Roosevelt has nothing if not staying power) and most viewers were from the U.S. “with Brazil and Canada not far behind.” Come on, Brazil? The country of my birth comes through.

The cold, hard truth is that there are plenty of blogs that are viewed 5,800 times a day, of course, but you’ve gotta love the subway train analogy.

The sheer amount of data collected on our life’s work, and our lives, can still give one pause. WordPress is entitled. Without the nifty platform, easy-to-use format, multiple tools and automatic archive this writer would be virtually wordless. (Or restricted to Huffington Post, which attracted way more than 5,800 viewers to essentially these same words, but there’s a lot to be said for freedom of the WordPress.)

But what about Facebook’s now ubiquitous Year-In-Review? Who could resist at least scrolling through her life of the past year (and I hereby admit to posting the thing.) What boggled my mind was the uncanny way Facebook picked almost the exact photos I would have chosen. How did they know? Spooky.

Books have been written – and at least one film made – about The Examined Life, although I seriously doubt the Facebook algorithm-coders have read them. It has to do with trying to make sense of things, figuring out what’s important, sorting the good from the bad. Elevating the good from its place within the ordinary. Occasionally – though the idea was always for one to do it oneself – these Year In Review things may help with such a task.

But any way you look at it, our lives are undoubtedly being examined.

Farewell, 2014, and Happy New Year each and every one.

 

Re-emerging into the cyberforest

Forest

Forest (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

If a blog tree falls in the forest of cyberspace, does it make a noise? Probably not. Cyberspace may not even notice – which is a good thing.

A few months ago this blogger fell into the depths of downsizing purgatory: clearing out, packing up, moving house, selling house, the whole catastrophe. The goal was to move myself and mobility-limited husband out of the four-story Edwardian house he bought in 1973 and into a 1600-square-foot condo. This might have been easier if the good husband had ever disposed of ANYthing in those 40 years. Or if he had not celebrated the move by falling and winding up wheelchair bound two days post move, but here we are. Felled, like a couple of Monterey pines.

That’s the end of my tale of woe, until I start a new book on downsizing. (PS, the actual new book: Perilous Times: An inside look at abortion before – and after – Roe v Wade will be out, from YBK Publishers, on May 20!)

It seems that cyberspace got along just fine without a word from this corner. For all I can tell, even Facebook and Twitter got along without me, a downed blogger not even posting or liking or tweeting into the void.

But back in the more or less real world now there is plenty to be blogging or posting or kvetching about: serious stuff like small victories in end-of-life rights or egregious losses in reproductive rights; ridiculous stuff like women having foot surgery so they can wear fashionable shoes; and utterly incomprehensible stuff like the Winklevoss twins and their bitcoins . Since every one of these is of concern to boomers and beyonders, this blogger now looks forward to resuming occasional comments, a sort of one-tree revival in the cyberforest. Tree-huggers will always be welcome.

Friendship with Facebook

facebook

facebook (Photo credit: sitmonkeysupreme)

I am reading with just a teeny bit of skepticism about the class action suit brought against Facebook.  It will reportedly “put some cash in your pocket” if you’ve been in a “Sponsored Story” on Facebook, according to assorted sources. Snopes allows that this is not a hoax, but I’m not spending the money yet. Actually, I don’t have the time, what with trying to plow through all the uninvited posts (read: ads) on my page from people who are not my Friends. There is no way to un-Friend them. I mean, Merle Norman of Seneca? Voto Latino? I am all for Voto Latino (something I consider entirely my own business and certainly never told Facebook) but just between you and me, I thinkMerle Norman cosmetics are hazardous to your health.

Back to the class action business. No offense to our system of justice, but the class is too big and the action unlikely. Facebook lawyers are too many and too well funded, and the point of the thing too obscure. Unless you’re a lawyer yourself it’s probably not worth your time. Maybe that’s the upside: create jobs for lawyers. But as for all of us minions in the class? Don’t bet on getting rich.

In the umpteen class action suits I’ve been a part of — Earthlink, Bank of America, a bunch of other questionable corporate entities, the most I’ve gotten so far is a free lunch en route to a deposition for the anti-Earthlink lawyers. Don’t recall many checks.

I trust Facebook about as much as I understand them, which is not a bit. The abuse of “sponsored story” users may or may not be any greater than the day-to-day abuse of us ordinary users, who remain at the mercy of whatever programmer geek is in charge this month. But as long as I’m enjoying the occasional posts of assorted Facebook Friends — half of whom I’ve not seen in real time for years — Facebook probably owes me nothing.

It’s still fine if they want to send me a check.

Guns and children

Case O' Guns

Case O’ Guns (Photo credit: Gregory Wild-Smith)

There’s a women-for-guns photo floating around Facebook that should get an award for creepy-scary picture of the year. It features a pretty young blond with a baby in one arm and a rifle in the other. It praises all the brave women currently bearing arms (there are a lot of them, and we’re not talking military,) touts the second amendment and winds up with “…you could call it a woman’s right to choose.” For those of us already distressed about the growing infringements on women’s reproductive rights (not to mention the co-opting of  the term “pro-life,”) that’s a low blow.

I’m fine with women packing heat if they feel the need. And if they recognize that the simple fact of having a gun around vastly increases the chance of violence to themselves and their loved ones. But baby on one arm and gun in the other?

When we were young, my oldest sister (there were four of us) awoke one night to find a man lying beside her on her bed. After a great deal of shouting and confusion the intruder, who had come in the side door, dashed down the stairs and out the front. Nobody locked their doors in Ashland, Virginia in those days, though I’ll admit that for a while after that we did. The town sheriff was called, but no one was ever arrested.

The next day — after a night that began with six people in five beds but finished with three sisters in one and the frightened oldest in between her parents — my father bought a gun.  It was theoretically locked, and appropriately set far back on a shelf. But we all knew about it. My father talked a lot about his cowboy childhood in dirt-poor rural Texas, about shooting rats down at the barn, even about being briefly in the Army; we were not reassured.

Within a few weeks the presence of the gun became too much. My sisters and I explained that we were not afraid of future intruders, but we were afraid of the potential damage to them, us or innocent others represented in that ugly piece of machinery on the shelf. Finally, my mother chimed in.

“I want my children to be safe,” she said. “That gun simply endangers their safety.” The gun went off to wherever unwanted guns go.

So I wonder about the young woman with the baby on her hip. My sisters and I ranged in age from 8 to 16, and our mother still just wanted us to be safe. I wonder if that gunslinging mother really wants her baby to be safe?

Things that matter

My daughter, having survived intact when her truck was totaled on Christmas Eve, mourned the absence of her pit/Great Pyrenees puppy, who took off when the truck flipped. Apple the dog apparently decided things might be calmer in the wilds of suburban Atlanta. (Flo the very old part-Lab, opted to stay put; a two-dog loss might have been too much for Mom.)

Apple’s disappearance was the bad news. Here’s the good news: the outpouring of support, in the form of e-mails, Facebook postings and offers from childhood friends who hadn’t been seen in years to go search local pounds was overwhelming. It gets REALLY hard to stay forlorn in the face of love and support from friends, family and people you never heard of who are offering comfort and help.

At Nancy Pelosi‘s annual January gathering there was another kind of support in evidence — and for me another reminder of the value of lasting friendship. I got a quick hug from my favorite star Democrat, California senator Mark Leno, who is often talked about as a potential successor to Pelosi. He gets my vote: Mark Leno is smart, level-headed, perceptive and impeccably ethical. (We could do with more politicians who’ve had rabbinical training.) He is also still graciously loyal to his life partner Doug Jackson, who died of AIDS decades ago in the early years of that grim time. Doug was the son of old friends of mine in Decatur, Georgia, so my affection for the good senator goes far beyond politics.

The bad news is that wars and sadness are everywhere. (Though Pelosi listed her priorities: jobs, safety — read: gun control, immigration reform and overturn Citizens United; that would spread joy.) The good news is that friendships are more powerful than all of the above. And if you hang onto them you can nearly always get a hug when you need one.

Immortality in the ethernet

Is it possible ever to die in cyberspace?

I was recently urged by Facebook to do something obtuse because my friend Josephine (pseudonymed for very good reason here) is doing it and knows I will love it. Hmm. There’s just one small problem here: Josephine has been dead for well over a year. You’d think Facebook might have noticed.

Yet, there she is, smiling her gentle smile, alive and welcoming to the Facebook friends who surely wish it were so. What to do? Ask her daughters to wipe their mom off the pages of the Facebook planet? Bookmark the page for the cheer it brings? Or try to ignore it lest it become spooky like those answering machine voices out of the past? I’m still pondering.

On the other hand, I more or less died to the cyberworld myself about six weeks ago. This was not an intentional — or even dignified — death. As a matter of fact, I had contracted not that long ago with my very alive, cyber-efficient friend Ryan to help me close my Blogspot page, fancy up this one, figure out all these widgety details and generally add interest and gravitas to my presence in cyberspace. For a while, progress was made toward all that. But life, and a manuscript, intervened.

Having promised the manuscript of my one-day book Perilous Times: An inside look at abortion before — and after Roe v Wade to the nice folks at YBK Publshing by September 1, I suddenly, seriously needed to finish the thing.  And the only way I could figure out how to accomplish such a feat — we’re talking 1,500 words a day with a few last-minute interviews tossed in — was just to drop out of cyberspace and into computerland until it was done. So my long-dormant Blogspot blog, some day destined to die, and the fits & starts of this WordPress incarnation of Boomers & Beyond have been hanging out, forlorn and ignored, lo these many weeks.

This sorry state of affairs is at least not quite as bad as the state of  my late lamented paid gig with True/Slant.com. My True/Slant page has been hanging, frozen, in space ever since Forbes bought the site & I declined to write for Forbes (full disclosure: they weren’t begging me anyway) more than two years ago. It’s confounding at best to try to do anything (“Follow me” indeed) or go anywhere else on True/Slant; that page is dying an undignified death indeed. Not to mention the fact that anyone stumbling across it could reasonably think, “Poor dear, she hasn’t had a new thought in 782 days”…. since the only thing moving on the page is the tabulator that says how many days it’s been since this post.

The manuscript is done. The book will happen. Life has resumed. And this page will now get back to the business of offering thoughts about life, health and the pursuit of justice of interest to boomers, post-boomers and perhaps miscellaneous others. Thanks for dropping by.

facebook engancha

facebook engancha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is Facebook worth it??

Well, after all, maybe so.

I don’t mean the IPO. We didn’t get any of that stock for the family portfolio, and anyway, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll took care of the stock-buying issue (don’t bother) in a recent column.

What I’m talking about is the frustration of being at Facebook’s mercy; the bewildering, nonstop fiddling around; the unfathomable decisions made to let you see the postings of a few people you barely knew 30 years ago, only to decide you really would rather see those of other people you knew 20 years ago but not as well. Is it ever worth the hassle?

It turns out, if you put up with this foolishness long enough there could be a payoff.

I have a Facebook friend named Stephenie, whose back window anchors the narrow view through the trees and across the fence from my urban kitchen window. We met in real time some years ago when she hung a lighted wreath in her window the day I came home from having a mastectomy, and I took it as an omen for good. (She feared it was taken as offensive to someone when she found my note “To the people with the lighted wreath in the window” stuck in her apartment mailboxes, but we got beyond that.)

In addition to being young, smart, beautiful and very busy, Stephenie is a gourmet cook. I know the first part from our several real time encounters, and the gourmet cook part from her Facebook postings, which Facebook is currently allowing me to see.

Creamy Golden (Boozy Vanilla Bean Dotted) Custard

Creamy Golden (Boozy Vanilla Bean Dotted) Custard (Photo credit: Sifu Renka)

The latest was an absolutely gorgeous photo of a newly made Raspberry Tart with Whole Vanilla Bean Custard + Apricot and Pear Liquor and Brandy Glaze. Dripping with elegance.

So I added a little comment: “Feel free to call if you absolutely have to get rid of the leftovers;” clicked Enter and forgot about it.

Twenty minutes later the doorbell rang. And lo! there stood a smiling Stephenie with a take-out box of two slices of tart.

I am not divulging the real time address of my culinary source. But for once, thanks, Facebook.