Friday 27 March 2009

I think I’m about done with facebook.  I’m sure some of you are thinking, “What are you THINKING?!?!” and others of you are more, “It’s taken you THIS long??” but it’s where I’m at.

I suppose I should clarify: when I say “done with facebook,” I don’t mean deleting my profile and exiling myself from (perhaps) the largest “social networking” site on the Internet, but rather just removing myself mentally from any feeling that it’s worth any more than the tiniest sliver of my time every month or two.  Moving somewhere that only has a dial-up Internet connection will likely make the “transition” a bit easier, but I think the time is right regardless of the situation of my life.

What started small during the 2003/2004 school year as a simple connection device for people has snowballed into an overwhelming cacophony of applications, causes, groups, fans, boxes, videos, tweets (I’m almost ashamed I know what those are), and probably many things I have no idea exist.  Once restricted to those with college e-mails, you can now get a profile with any (and every) e-mail you own.  What was for me a way to connect and stay connected — in the most basic of ways — with people I considered acquaintances and friends has turned into the online equivalent of show and tell where there’s no restriction of how long you present for or what you present about, and in fact we’ll assist you in presenting totally innane things that really have no value to anyone’s life whatsoever.  It’s gotten to the point where I think I’ll just keep the connections and recognize the positives for me in the whole endeavor — namely I can reconnect/update connections with people pretty quickly and easily — and dispense of all the excessive BS.  Facebook has become a place where you can write your memoir with no editor and include any multimedia you might want.

So things lately that have pushed me to this edge:

Friend requests for people I really have no reason to want to connect with — They might be distant relations or people I knew way back when but never really spent a lot of time with or connected with in the first place and have no desire to accept as a “facebook friend.”  Or former students I kind of know but it’s just a little akward to receive a request and hit yes…  I’ve denied a few, but then I’ve just gotten new requests from the same person, so now I just tend to leave them sit and ignore.

Facebook “e-mail” — OK, so I can understand if you don’t know my real e-mail and have to contact me through facebook, or if you’re sending something to a group, but if you know my e-mail, why do you have to send me a facebook-mail?  Most of the time I don’t see them when they arrive, and I usually forget to respond when I do, so if only for your sake, just send me a real e-mail.  Isn’t that one of the things e-mail is for?

Non-humans getting in on the action — So as if it wasn’t bad enough that a corporation has the same legal rights as a human, now they’re on facebook!  This isn’t a new thing, to be sure, but last night I heard on the local news, “Don’t forget to check us out on facebook and twitter.”  WTF?!?  Don’t you have something called a “website” where I could find you?  Why are you infiltrating the realm of humans?  Seriously, get out!

Everything that doesn’t matter — Really, “everything that doesn’t matter” could be most of the facebook experience.  Brian Unger recently did a satire with the premise that nobody really cares about all the mundane things we’re up to, so those status messages that tell people we’re in the shower (the third or so generation since “Away Messages”) need to end.  And for what it’s worth, all I need for “social networking” to really happen is a name, an e-mail, telephone, maybe a website, a person’s actual address, possibly their current career, and maybe, MAYBE, a little bit about a person’s likes and dislikes in areas like books, movies, TV, food, or a few other general categories.  And I guess I could accept some picutre.  Some.  And in case you’ve forgotten: THAT’S HOW FACEBOOK STARTED!

I’m coming up on my 5-year anniversary of “belonging” to facebook, and I really wish I could go back.  Though I, personally, almost can by what I decided to have in my profile and connect in the facebook universe.  I’d just have to remove the few applications I have decided to endorse by linking to them.  But with the constant inundation of all that is out there on facebook, I still feel trapped when I come across another’s profile and see the plethora of things out there that just make it, to me, a busy mess.

So whatever your opinion on the facebook world that currently is, I think my semi-close connection with it is coming to an end.  Instead, I think I”ll retreat to a lesser connection — facebook, you’ve been demoted to the status of “facebook friend.”  Good bye!

the haircut!

Tuesday 24 March 2009

It’s kind of hard to believe that it’s already been three weeks since I got my hair chopped off.  Though I still have the pony tail sitting in a plastic bag in my house, I will soon be sending it off to be used for the creation of a FREE wig for someone with a medical condition that causes them to lose their hair.  I still haven’t decided between the more well-known Locks of Love or the similarly altruistic Pantene Beautiful Lengths.  Either way, I’m confident it will go to benefit someone well deserving — with some strands, I’m sure, sold to help with the various overhead costs.  (I found a nice NY Times article — Lather, Rinse, Donate — about hair donation you could check out, too.)

It was quite the journey to a +10-inch pony tail, and I’ve had various thoughts along the way about growing my hair out, including this blog from January 2008 that is a good synopsis of various thoughts through the process.  The process of getting my hair cut was in no way traumatic or anything like that, but it did take some adjustment.  From going over two years gradually adjusting to longer hair as the hair grows a little more each day and then suddenly looking into the mirror and seeing the stark contrast to what you knew just an hour ago — it’s quite the shock, if you’ve never experienced it.  Even though who cut off a significant portion of their hair but still keep it “long” afterward probably don’t understand exactly how I felt going from this:

longhair1 longhair2

to this:

shorthair1 shorthair2

(Notice that while it may just be poor posture, it appears that with long hair, it’s pulling my head back by its weight while without the hair, my head if further forward.  Interesting…)

It took me about 2 weeks before I felt completely comfortable again with my hair length and style.  I remember back when my hair was a standard short length and I got it cut every 6 weeks or so, it usually took about a day or two to adjust to my new cut, so I figure that 2-3 weeks would be a similar rate of adjustment.

There are definitely people in my life (no names/relations will be named here…) who are trying to “guide” me to continue to cut my hair and keep it short, but I really don’t see much of a reason to, at least this early in the game.  And as I said to the hairdresser who chopped off my hair, “See you in 2 or 3 years?” — I’ll let you know how what choice makes the cut!

criticism of Israel still not an option

Thursday 12 March 2009

So just in case you still weren’t aware just how impossible it is for someone in the US, especially in the government, to criticize Israel, take a little look at this (short-ish) NY Times article: Israel Stance Was Undoing of Nominee for Intelligence Post.

A few excerpts:
“Mr. Freeman had long been critical of Israel, with a bluntness that American officials rarely voice in public about a staunch American ally.”
[Freeman said:] “Israel is driving itself toward a cliff, and it is irresponsible not to question Israeli policy and to decide what is best for the American people.”
“The critics who led the effort to derail Mr. Freeman argued that such views reflected a bias that could not be tolerated…”
“Some of Mr. Freeman’s defenders say his views on Israel are extreme only when seen through the lens of American political life, and they asked whether it was possible to question American support for Israel without being either muzzled or marginalized.”

I think that last quote is the most interesting: it basically says those in “American political life” (and once could say everyone in the US) are not to criticize Israel.  Period.

I heard someone say last night that what we need to teach our children to help them succeed, and to better the world in general, is critical thinking skills.  She said that we’re all taught to just accept and receive information without questioning it.  And how true that is, especially when it comes to issues of government — we’re taught to accept the beliefs and doings from high above as correct and step in line, or risk being called unpatriotic, a traitor, a communist/socialist, or something similar.

Until we allow for people to step forward and criticize others, including those who might be close to us — when done out of love for them and for all — we’ll continue to have so many of the problems that seem to have no solution, because we don’t give ourselves the tolls to fix them.

(For words of Freeman himself, see this statement.)


Wednesday 4 March 2009

A few vignettes:

— Substitute teaching, I oversee students working who share some conversation in the process. I overhear them calling things “retarded.” After the third time, I chime in and tell them it’s “inappropriate.” I don’t give a reason why.

— A girl tells the story: in Texas, that hand slapping game where one person places their hands palms down and the other person places their hands palms up under them and tries to slap the other person’s hands, that game is called “Retard.” If you slap the other person’s hand before they move them, you get to call them a Retard. The brother of the girl telling the story has Down’s syndrome. She recalls the day she came upon another boy having taught her brother that game and playing it with him multiple times before she arrives and stops them. In the course of their playing, her brother had been called “Retard” to his face at least 4 times. She tells this story as a play, all the while playing “Retard.”

— I ride in the back seat of a car with two people, one I know well, the other I’ve just met. They hold a conversation about job interviews. The one I just met refers to those who do unseemly things during an interview as “retarded.” He uses it as an adjective, twice. I say nothing. We arrive at our destination.

— My brother calls something retarded. I call him on it. He says he’s sorry. (But he still said it the first time.)

— I listen to a radio program where a woman speaks of our disuse of the word “retarded” when referring to people with mental handicaps. She mentions we still use “retard” in music to refer to slowing down. She continues speaking of her work with people with mental handicaps, omitting the no-no r-word.

For the past few months, I’ve been having a bit of an ongoing conversation with my parents (my dad mostly) about the power of language, or more specifically, perhaps, about the power of language to put people in boxes and more specifically yet how we can best describe people using language. I would suspect that when you hear the word “retarded,” if you had to categorize it as a “positive” or a “negative” adjective, you’d likely stick it with the negatives. (It should be noted that I’m all against dichotomies, and would prefer to place it on a positive/negative spectrum, but that’s another topic entirely.)

I haven’t done much research into exactly why or when “retarded” became a derogatory term, but for me, as long as I’m still connecting the idea of that word a general group of people for which the work innately is a mean factual description, I certainly won’t be using the word in a derogatory way when relating to others, and as long as it continues to be a derogatory term, I won’t use it as a descriptor for those with mental handicaps – both situations will likely last until my death, so hopefully you’ll never be hearing me speak either “retarded” as an adjective or “retard” as a noun, unless we’re discussing the word itself.

Language is powerful, and I think it’s important that we all recognize just how much of an impact it has on our thoughts and feelings to those around us. As the saying goes, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.”

a special day in the math class

Monday 2 March 2009

Greetings all!  I’ve been out of town the past two weeks, thus the lack of posts!  However, I have a few thoughts from that time that I’m hoping to get down on computer in the coming days, so watch out for that!

In the mean time, to get back into the grove of things, a quick note that Tuesday, 3/3/09 is apparently Square Root Day!  I found a few articles/posts describing a bit of the day:
AP story
Wikipedia article
Comment board from last SRD, in ’04

I don’t think I ever would have picked that out myself, but it’s kind of fun.  And then next weekend, right after Friday the 13th, we get to celebrate Pi Day. We should really all be preparing for a huge bash in 2015 — that will be a once in a lifetime opportunity; mark your calendars now!  And, of course, a should out to all you Science people celebrating Mole Day this October.  (And guess what I just saw — one of the “Pi Approximation Day” dates falls usually on my 1/2 birthday, 10 November, the 314th day of the year — I was destined to love that number and math itself, it would seem!)

And for those committed blog readers out there who know me personally, this is a heads up that I’ll finally be cutting my hair Tuesday (there has to be some hair/square root pun to be had, but I’m not finding it… the root of the problem maybe?), so I hope you weren’t wanting to say goodbye to it!