February 12, 2009

Dog days of winter

It's amazing what can come up on a gentle winter morning.... We are in a frustrating weather pattern, every morning dawns sunny and full of hope. We spring (OK... grown and limp) out of bed with great expectations only to find that after a cup of coffee the sky has turned somber and checking email is all I have the energy to do. But then Oscar is off to school and Pat takes the excuse to head out into the crisp (cold) morning to accompany him on bike, until Oscar catches sight of other kids and then he pleads for the autonomy we are waiting for to continue on alone. He pedals off to school, and Pat pedals off to do laps around the country side for her exercise regime. Back home, on my third cup of coffee (small cups), I am dressed for labor and tuning up the internet to watch yesterdays Daily Show with John Stewart. I stretch for 10 minutes while laughing at yesterdays headlines and try to get out of the house before Pat gets home.

But not monday...

Instead I get a phone call from Pat asking for a ride as her brakes have broken and she has been bitten by a dog!!! She is fine. She was out on her normal route, and for the first time a large Rottweiler was there too. She kept her cool, didn't fall, but the wound was ugly enough. A large bruise and two small holes! She's on antibiotics and the dog is being "observed" by the vet.

There is a saying that "French people like their children and they love their dogs", so you can imagine the original conclusion that everyone comes to when they hear this story. It usually starts with "he's such a gentle dog" and after a few minutes might approach concern or apology in the dog owners case. They get over it, we get over it, and now everyone's on good terms, but it was a process.

It's a narrow road we bike down with our lives in France, never quite certain how any French habitue might interpret our actions. We have been approved for our ten year residency permits, which doesn't mean we are here for ten more years, but rather that we no longer need to plead for the right to stay here every year. And we got our latest building permit approved in record time, allowing us to add a few skylights and replace a few windows.

So for the week we are up, two acceptances of our existence and one reminder of whose territory we are on anyway.

February 7, 2009


One Word * 25 Things * Compare * Hot or Not ???

What is the value of Facebook in our lives?

I met some 20 year olds last year that explained that they don’t email anymore, they just I.M. on Facebook. I dismissed it as weird and generational, but as the page turns I have just sent my mother a video message via facebook!! What’s up? It was easier than typing and I got to show her my new haircut. But now here’s the obvious problem….can anyone now go and watch my clumsy 15 second ‘letter to mom’ and then comment on my haircut?? Is there any privacy on Facebook? How many of us turn our webcams away when we aren’t positive they aren’t beaming our quiet moments to the world??

Today it’s all the rage, perhaps I am a year (or generation) late in arriving, but all of a sudden I am considering making Facebook my home page. Everyday I’m learning 25 things I didn’t know about people I didn’t know. Once in a while there is something insightful, something I’m embarrassed to know, or an item worth repeating, but for the most part it’s drivel, but we’d all freeze up when asked for just three things, wouldn’t we? What about One Word? At least that one only takes a few minutes.

This is all the chain mail of our times, less postage, but oh so more prevalent, at least we are all equipped with an “ignore” option.

I am nonetheless enjoying Facebook, but I still don’t understand it. I don’t know what is front porch and what is bedroom. I’m not sure I can have a private conversation anywhere, if you are my “friend” do you have the backstage pass? It feels like an email until someone you barely know comments on it. As a replacement to email, it solves a problem that we never had, it let’s the message become even shorter. Do you know what Twitter is? I tried it during the inauguration but my post was too long, on Twitter you are limited to grammatically incorrect phrases of less than 140 words?!? The idea is a potent substance to character ratio, but I was challenged to find any substance there. WTF, is about as efficient as I can get. I’m not sure that we, as a literary people, need the less is more approach to communication; it certainly hasn’t done much for the past 8 years.

I think of myself as one of few words (as I ramble on about fewer words) and remember being taught by my dad to reduce each idea and sentence to as few words as possible. He was teaching me to write, efficiently and to captivate. Keeping sentences “short enough” is an interesting challenge and the virtual stationary of Facebook and Twitter is helping reduce our vocabulary to grunts and groans that can be hammered out on the incredibly un-clumsy face of an iphone.

But you (as Max Tivoli would say) dear reader, if you are still with me, enjoy this shrinking world as much as I do. We don’t wait for the postman to ring twice, we just check email, several times a day in my case. Time zones are crushed into the ether, I love you’s and what am I doing right now’s, thrown around the world in the time it takes to ‘right-click’. We all speak some sort of shorthand, lol’s, IMHO, and smiley faces, intending to communicate complicated emotions.

I don’t imagine “emoticon” is in the dictionary yet, but we all know one when we see one, and we all save keystrokes by speaking in the rhythm of our times. I’m not complaining exactly, and I just might make my home page Facebook yet. I feel a self imposed lack of privacy, but I live on another continent than most of you, so a lack of privacy is OK for now. “Social Networking” is a wonderful tool. I have found lost friends, buried within my “contacts” folder, I have been reconnected with people truly dear to me, I have missed heartbeats at being contacted by friends I remember only from darkened rooms, and foreign climes. Instantly I have access to every public thought they have shared, every picture posted, and I now know who their friends are. I have pictures of their children and I know what movies they like…ROTF….profoundly reconnected…who could complain? These are distant voices from previous lives, residing in evolved bodies… new datelines….so much spilt milk…so much lemonade…so many apps to reconnect us without postage…or lost regrets.

Suddenly we’ve been provided a tool which excuses the missed connections and unintentional absences we used to think of as inevitable. Like so much else, I’m glad I am old enough to have missed this in my turbulent adolescence, imagine the intensity of high school with Facebook!? Compare would have killed me! Perhaps we could explain this as “efficient socializing” but I’m happy to belong to an époque of slow food and proper sentence structure. Blogging is barely an old fashioned medium, only when compared to tweeting and poking, and it’s archival value is unknown. We try to find a place for each level of communication, we seldom call, we almost never write, emails have, however, drawn us all closer. I.M. and Facebook therefore have put us into the same room. I wonder if it’s all a fleeting thing. By the time I figure out how to make it my homepage, it’ll be yesterdays tech and we’ll all be marveling at the next tulip craze!

In the meantime… if I send you anything you wish you didn’t know, poke me!

Today's links:

The funny truth about Facebook: Click Here

Travel: 36 hours

Fantasy travel: Click here and Scroll to page 3


Efficient surfing: