Tag Archives: The Internet

Yearbook Pet Peeves, the Internet and PC

12-30-2013 11-00-31 AMOne of my favorite things to do as a child was to browse through my mother’s high school yearbooks. I remember looking at the photos of the teenagers, reading the blurbs under each photo and anticipating my own high school years.

In at least one of the yearbooks the students were asked their pet peeves and they were listed under their photos along with their academic and extracurricular highlights and ambitions. I focused on these pet peeves of the Elgin High School students in the early 1950s.

Because I was on a sort of quest to become perfect I made a list of them in a notebook to make sure I did not ever do whatever these students found annoying. The only two I remember were: “Wearing pink with red” and “The song, ‘June is Busting out All Over’”.  I vowed to never be caught wearing pink and red at the same time or ever singing the song “June is Busting out All Over”.

The others were similar – simple things that teenagers of the time just didn’t like. Nothing mean about them – just something fun for the yearbook. I however, took it to heart. I never did become perfect, and probably threw out the list because I realized it was silly, however you’ll still never hear me sing “June is Busting Out All Over” or wearing pink and red at the same time.

12-30-2013 11-04-16 AMFast forward several decades. Now, instead of my mother’s yearbooks, I like to browse the Internet. I usually start with Facebook – the yearbook of the world – and read what people are doing and what they are thinking – some of which are pet peeves. Sometimes people post links to lists of what might be considered pet peeves.

I no longer keep a list of what I should be doing or should not be doing to make my fellow man happy, but I do take a lot of things to heart, just as I did with the pet peeves from the 1950s. If a Huffington Post contributor suggests I not comment that the weather is wonderful where I am when someone posts a photo of a thermometer reading below 0 degrees F, I’ll try to not do that. If I know that one of my Facebook friends hates it when I cross post from Twitter to Facebook, I’ll stop. If my brother doesn’t like my political views, I’ll either stop posting them or not include him in the group of people by whom the post is seen.

In addition to simple pet peeves, there are also the PC kind. These are more dangerous to ignore. For instance is it Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays? No matter what you say you are bound to insult someone. I used the term “Christmas Tree” in a post a week or so prior to Christmas and someone responded, “What’s Up?” which made absolutely no sense to me in the context of my post. I worried that he might be Jewish and be insulted that I said Christmas Tree instead of Holiday Tree when talking about a decorated evergreen in a public place. Once, on a private forum, someone said that using the prefix “uber” to mean “very much” was disrespectful because it was used in Nazi Germany. I don’t ever use “uber” because of that. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written an innocent response to a Facebook post and ended up deleting it because I was afraid it would somehow be taken the wrong way. One of my greatest concerns is hurting feelings or annoying someone.

I could go on and on but I am sure someone, somewhere has a pet peeve about long blog posts with too many examples. I think you get the picture and I need to realize that you can’t please everyone all of the time and be it pet peeves from the 1950s or opinions of Internet entities or Facebook friends – I should just relax and not worry so much. Or should I worry more? It certainly gives my time on Facebook a different flavor. What do you do in these situations?

Defining sentiment

Sometime between December 1986 and December 1990 Dean and I saw “Les Misérables” at one of the big theaters in Washington DC. I’d like to think it was 1986 or 1987 — before it was even on Broadway, but I don’t think we were that forward thinking. I only remember where I was working at the time because I remember talking to one of the mothers of the students I taught about seeing the musical and she said she was not interested in seeing it because she’d seen a lot of violence in her life.

Anyway, I loved the musical. I cried buckets of tears at the end and hummed the music for weeks afterward. I purchased the record album and played it constantly. I must have played it even after having my first child because Clare became such a fan of the music that she wanted to see the musical when it was in town. She and I went to see it, probably at the National Theater where she got to sit on a kidney-shaped cushion so she could see over the people in front of her and when we left the theater the young actor who played Gavroche was being whisked away by his mother directly in front of us. Clare loved the musical, of course, and the album was played in the house for many years.

I’ve since seen most of the movie versions of the book (although have never completely read the book) and own a VHS of the “10th Anniversary Concert” that includes many of the various casts on stage singing their songs.

When I heard about the movie version I was excited until I heard Anne Hathaway was in it. I do not like Anne Hathaway (sorry Anne — nothing personal — your acting annoys me). However I have heard that even Anne is pretty good in it and she dies in the first part of the story anyway. Clare and I decided that we would see the film after all.

Until today all of the reviews of the film version I heard or read have been very positive, with only a few negative bits and pieces. In fact, I’d never heard anyone admit they didn’t like “Les Mis”.

Today while I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed I saw a link to a New Yorker article with which a Facebook friend said he agreed 100%. I clicked on the link and read the article that begins:

“I want to render a public service. I want to suggest that even if you were deeply moved by “Les Mis,” you can still save your soul. I don’t think you are damned forever. Salvation awaits. I realize that we are not supposed to argue about taste. De gustibus non est disputandum, as some Latin fellow said. But, in fact, critics do nothing but argue about taste. And I realize that emotion is even harder and riskier to argue about. But, as we have new experiences, emotions change. Therefore, in the interest of public health, I will try to bring cures to the troubled. But first, a few words about the movie version of ‘Les Misérables.'”

The article goes on to say that the music is “juvenile stuff”, emotions are “elemental” and “engineered”, the comedy repetitive. His bottom line is:

“It’s terrible; it’s dreadful. Overbearing, pretentious, madly repetitive. I was doubly embarrassed because all around me, in a very large theatre, people were sitting rapt, awed, absolutely silent, only to burst into applause after some of the numbers, and I couldn’t help wondering what in the world had happened to the taste of my countrymen—the Americans (Americans!) who created and loved almost all the greatest musicals ever made.”

He then mentions what he considers better music and musicals (“Carousel”, “West Side Story”, “A Star is Born”, “Top Hat”, “Singin’ in the Rain”) and challenges people who love “Les Mis” to watch those for comparison.

While I agree that maybe the music is not as good as other music and the story does evoke tears purposefully, I don’t think it is just that. For me it is the memory of seeing it many years ago — going to the theater and seeing an accessible “opera”, getting caught up in the (melo)drama, crying, sharing it with my daughter. For me it is the sentiment, pure and simple.

The article and discussion of the article and “Les Mis” on my friend’s Facebook page reminded me of an article and ensuing discussion I read about a local business having to move because of increasing rent. Some of the folks commenting were all about the sentiment and some were all about “get over it, the store is a chaotic mess and not of this era”. Some admitted to crying when they heard the news and others couldn’t see the value. While I agree that the store was often untidy, I also don’t want it to go. Going into the store was like a step back in time. A real variety store not unlike the Ben Franklin where I got my first job in 1973.

In each case it is a matter, I think, of the non-sentimental folks just not “getting” the sentimental folks. Sentiment is not something that can be easily shared. You can describe reasons for the emotions, but unless someone shares the emotions and memories they are just not going to get it. This is not saying they don’t have a right to their opinion, but a gentle opinion is much preferred to a harsh one.

The folks commenting, one in particular on the matter of the local business was very harsh and, in my opinion, downright mean at times. On the other hand, the folks commenting (and original poster) on the New Yorker link on Facebook were much more understanding of the sentiment involved. The article was harsh and seemed to demean those who liked the musical, but the humor with which it was written softened that for me.

We are now facing the loss of another local business. Looking forward to the discussion of that. Luckily there is a Facebook page for that.

Strangely appropriate April Fools Day Prank

A while back I wrote about not being able to feed birds because of a rat problem in our neighborhood. I quit feeding birds (at ground-level) and we quit putting any food scraps in the compost heap. We’d not seen a rat all winter so thought we were good. Just now, however, I looked out the back window and saw two brazen rats eating grass seed under the ginkgo tree. I walked outside and noticed a rat-sized tunnel heading towards the center of the compost heap.

I went back inside and fired up the Internet to find a solution to rats in compost heaps. One of the links was “How to get rats and mice out of compost — 8 steps (with pictures).” I clicked the link and I scrolled down the page and was surprised to see pictures of cats, some sprawling, some playing peek-a-boo, among the pictures of rat-repelling suggestions. Surely this is a mistake, I thought, are just they going to tell me to sic my cat on the rats?

Then I remembered today is April Fools day and AdBlock is giving us photos of cats instead of ads.

Here’s a screenshot or three.

I am still not sure what to do about the rats in the compost. I guess we cannot compost anymore. Or seed our lawn.

At least we don’t have bears. Or porcupines.

An open letter to email newsletter subscribers

Dear Subscribers to Email Newsletters:

I am not speaking for the spammers of the world. I am not a spammer and think spammers are quite horrible and deserve to be banned on ISPs. I am speaking for people who send legitimate email newsletters to people who asked to be placed on email newsletter lists, either by signing up on the Internet or adding their name to a list in a shop or at an event.

Please do not mark legitimate newsletters as spam when you get tired of receiving them. A legitimate newsletter will have a link to unsubscribe your email address (usually near the bottom of the email). Please use that link instead. If you mark legitimate newsletters as spam you are hurting the reputation of the address of the sender and if too many people mark the newsletters as spam, the person sending the emails will be banned from sending emails. Many newsletter programs will also ban newsletter authors if too many list members mark their newsletters as spam.

Yes, clicking “Spam” in your email program is easier than scrolling to the bottom of an email newsletter and clicking unsubscribe, but please take that extra couple of seconds and unsubscribe that way. It really is the right thing to do. Many people who send legitimate email newsletters take great pains to make it easy to identify who the email is from and how to unsubscribe.

Thank you very much.

Love,

A legitimate newsletter list sender

An Un Post

I find it kind of amusing and a little upsetting that the tiny prefix “un” has become a common threat or even a weapon these days in social media venues.

On Twitter, when someone “follows” you it is usually a good thing. It usually means that they find what you have to say of interest. Sometimes people unfollow you too — most of the time you don’t notice it. Sometimes you notice it and wonder why they did unfollow you, but it really isn’t usually a big deal. Some people, however, think that they are so important that they can threaten to unfollow others in order to change the followee’s behavior. (Please note that neither of the people below follow me nor do I follow either of them. I searched for “unfollow” on twitter.)

Bitchh I will unfollow the shit out of u, keep dickin !
Twitter unfollow threat
Who the fuck cares about a damn justin beiber birthday. If people keep posting that shit ima unfollow you.
Twitter unfollow threat

Then there is Facebook. On Facebook people “friend” you. Often it is because they actually know you in real life or online. Sometimes it is because they admire you. Occasionally they might even be stalking you. I’ve not seen “unfollow” used as a threat much on Facebook, but the threat is sometimes implied. Here’s one that is more of a stern warning than a threat.

The next blues band from who-knows-where that sends me an invitation through the message inbox, instead of the invitation feature, is going to get "unfriended." Sorry, folks, I'm not going to attend your show 1,000 miles from here. I didn't sign up for FB to be spammed with ads.
Facebook unfriend warning

Finally, the last and possibly meanest “un” threat is “uninstall”. I’ve only seen this in the comments of my phone’s “market”. I have an android based cell phone and the android market is full of useful and not so useful applications — most of them free of charge. Anyone can create an app for an android phone and upload it to the market. People download it via their phone and sometimes rate and/or comment on their experience with the app.  Sometimes people say things like, “Great app!”. Sometimes they say, “Useful app, but it needs such-and-such.”. And sometimes they say, “This app is a waste. Uninstall!”. Sometimes it is probably a waste or doesn’t work properly, but tossing in the word uninstall is like salt on a wound. It is not only unnecessary it is there to hurt someone who gave them something for free in the first place.

I don’t like this trend at all. Our language and our society need more positives and fewer negatives. It seems that the more avenues that are opening for people to communicate with each other, the more ways some people are finding to hurt each other.

My 24 hours away from the Internet

Not counting using my phone to check Facebook notifications (one time) and email (about 10 times), I spent yesterday Internet free. I mean I never used my computer to connect to the Internet.

Here’s what I did instead:

  • Gave a real live, in-person presentation to approximately 40 people about PDF accessibility with a woman I’d met via Twitter and my PDF accessibility blog (my first talk to that many people in 8 years not counting the brief one at a funeral)
  • Drove back and forth to Rockville twice
  • Watched my son’s wrestling team win their meet
  • Visited with son and husband while they packed waited for their ride to Snowshoe for two days of skiing and male bonding (2 adult males & 3 male teens)
  • Leafed through [every page] of the used copy of Jeff Smith’s Frugal Gourmet I recently picked up at a library sale.
  • Made and ate croque monsieur (and half an avocado with balsamic vinegar) for dinner (oh, yeah, and some red wine too)
  • Watched 2 movies (I Love You Man & The Yes Man — [was I missing my men?]) on Cinemax which we get free for 3 months because Verizon hopes we forget to cancel and then they can charge us even more money than they already do
  • Went to sleep at 9:30 (possibly result of red wine)

And you know what? Nothing bad happened. I didn’t get any important emails that I had to answer by last night. No one had a pressing question about PDF accessibility on my accessibility blog. No one had an email that had to be sent immediatly on my neighborhood email list. The wrestling coach didn’t have a post that had to be put up ASAP.

Will I do it again soon? Probably not.

Was it refreshing to stay away from the Internet for a whole day? Eh, it was fine. I didn’t really notice until this morning.

Did I accomplish  more than I would have done had I been online some of the day? Not really. Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe.

Do I have a problem and am I addicted to the Interenet? No comment.

Gotta love the Internet

Well, you don’t have to love it — but it comes in handy now and then.

Remember our naked tree? Well, I bought some new lights — extra special ones at target. These lights are distributed by Phillips and called “Stay-lit”. Apparently they have a microchip in each bulb holder and they remain lit even when the bulb is broken, missing or burned out.

Now, I’m no electrical engineer, but I thought that modern Christmas Tree lights all did that — remained lit even though one or more of the bulbs were burned out, but the old fashioned kind were different. Something to do with the way they were in the sting — series current vs parallel current. Aren’t microchips overkill?

I guess I was mistaken, because we’ve thrown away countless modern Christmas tree light strings in the past few years.

Anyway — back to why the Internet is cool. So, I get home and Clare and I (mostly Clare) put up the 3 strands of lights. We turn them on. They look nice on the tree. We promise to put ornaments on the tree sometime soon.

The next morning we turn the lights on again, and one of the strands blinks intermittently. Not regularly — just randomly and for random lengths of time. I’m annoyed. These are brand new lights that promise to STAY-LIT on the box. If I wanted them to blink I would have bought blinking lights. So I’m left with a few options:

  1. Live with it
  2. Take the box back to Target (which would involve removing them from the tree, packaging them back up, finding the receipt and driving to Target)
  3. Sending them to the company (which would involve removing them from the tree, packaging them back up, finding the receipt, packaging them for mail and driving to the post office and waiting in line)
  4. Locating information in some online forum about why these lights might be blinking

So I chose option d. I searched Stay-lit bulbs and clicked on a link that looked promising:

http://www.staylit.com/

I’d found the site of the inventor of the Stay-lit Christmas Tree light bulb string. He even provided his email address, so I emailed him with my problem.

An hour or so later I got this reply:

Dona:

Sounds like a bulb is not making good contact.  Also, there is a microchip in every socket that may not be connecting properly IN THAT SOCKET.

One way to find the culprit is to pull the bulbs out one at a time until the string goes out.  When you pull a bulb out and nothing changes put it back in.

If you give me your telephone number and a good time to call, I will call you to discuss.

John Janning
Dayton, Ohio

I was pleasantly surprised. The inventor of the product telling me how to solve an issue with the product. While I’d expect this of some software developers, I didn’t necessarily expect the inventor of the Stay-lit bulbs to answer me and offer support over the phone — at his expense.

The fact that this man turned 80 in March is also surprising, considering my dad is also 80. But maybe not so surprising. I’ve got neighbors that are in their 80’s that are as active as Mr. Janning seems to be. Here’s some text from the web page:

John is also a motivational speaker on the subject of creativity and imagination. John is the inventor of the liquid crystal molecular alignment invention which perfected the liquid crystal display and made possible the large scale manufacturing of LCD’s back in the early 70’s. (See the article on “Liquid Crystals” in the Spring 2002 issue of Invention & Technology magazine – published by Forbes). He is also the inventor of the thermal printing wafer – used in all thermal fax machines around the world today and at many retail store checkouts. He holds a number of patents in plasma display technology.

I turned the lights back on and found one that was not lit, wiggled it a bit. The light came on and didn’t blink. I responded that it worked and he replied that he was glad it was an easy fix.

Me too.  And I’m glad I made a small connection with someone as bright and motivated as John Janning.

It grows on you…

You know the phrase “it grows on you”? I’ve never really believed it until recently when a couple of things have gown on me.

One is a movie I’ve tried to watch a couple of times: The Science of Sleep.  I’d had high hopes for this film when I saw the previews and knew that Gondry was involved, but the first couple of times I began watching it, I didn’t like it. I thought it was contrived and silly for no reason.

Then last night, I sat down to watch it again. I began from the beginning and watched it all the way through and LOVED IT.

I wonder what was up the first two times.

Another thing that has begun to grow on me is Facebook. I joined because I could. My kids were on it and I wanted to know what the pull was. I found little to interest me – no one but my teens and their friends seemed to be on it. I got lots of friend invites when I joined, but because I didn’t know those people online nor off, didn’t accept the invites.

Recently I was “friended” by a former classmate of mine – someone who got me sent to the hall in 3rd grade. It’s interesting to see what his life has turned out to be – although since his brother married Dean’s cousin, I could have easily found out that way.

In the past few days I’ve begun to explore that (and Myspace) more and I think I could become a convert.

That’s all I need – another Internet addiction.