A Funny thing Happened the Other Day
January 8, 2010, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Internet, Internet Communities, Uncategorized

Not ha-ha funny, strange funny. I recently received a comment on this post I made many months ago, regarding my purported resemblance to Dorothy Parker. “Dottie and Me” received the most hits of anything I’ve ever posted, for reasons I have never fully understood but that nonetheless delight me to no end. I clicked the link to approve the new comment, entered my login information, and there I was, in my WordPress account.  That may not sound funny at all, but the last time I tried to log in with exactly the same information, I could not get in to save my life. Oh well, there was always Herr Machine when I desperately felt the need to share a figure of the United States made entirely of meat or a video of William Shatner performing “Rocket Man.”

I thought about contacting WordPress support, but there always seemed to be something more urgent to do.  For one thing I’m now selling books on Amazon in addition to eBay and Bonanzle.  I had considered dropping eBay, but the other funny thing is that my sales there have picked up and I’m still having fun.  These efforts are all very time-consuming but somewhat enjoyable, and if I squint real hard I can almost pay my bills.

I am also still  seeking a real job while doing some freelance proofreading work on the side. I’ve mostly applied to libraries and I do have my fingers crossed re: a position that is still unfilled, but I haven’t had a lot of nibbles. Looks like I picked the wrong time to start a new career, but I refuse to give up.  I know I’m a hard sell due to my lack of experience, but if I can just get someone to give me a chance, I will make myself useful.  I have always prided myself on my ability to find work when I need it, so this joblessness has been a great learning experience in all kinds of ways, some of them painful. I keep retooling and submitting my resume in true sisyphean fashion, because what other choice is there?

This has been a brief post just to say boy howdy and thanks for reading.  I never cease to be amazed at the persistence of Web content, and thank goodness for that. By all means do visit Herr Machine, but you know I’ll be back.


The Case for Facebook

I’m one of the many people who signed up on MySpace and then never spent much time there, partly because the interface was such a cluttered jumble it reminded me of my living room.  Since the unutterable horrors of my living room  are precisely what I am trying to block out of my mind when I go online, the whole enterprise was doomed from the get-go.  By comparison, the premises of Facebook were so clean and well-swept as to serve as a reproach, so much so that spending time there felt like a visit to corporate headquarters stepping over mops wielded by overeager custodians.

I registered with Facebook as a Dominican student because I knew that’s what I was supposed to do, but I stayed away for several months, until I read this Farhad Manjoo article in Slate, called You Have No Friends.   I do too have friends, I thought, but Manjoo had me at the subheading, Everyone else is on Facebook.  Why aren’t you? I do highly recommend you read the article, but if you really can’t be bothered, the subheading sums it up.

Manjoo might as well have been speaking directly to me when he drew a parallel between Facebook (FB) and cell phones, because I prided myself on being one of the last holdouts on the latter.  I despise phones to begin with because I can’t  hear and I can’t read the lips of disembodied voices, plus the last thing I wanted was to be more reachable.  As someone for whom silence is both a balm and a creative stimulus, I am able to absorb more than enough gab from my eight-year-old to meet and sometimes exceed my daily requirement of human vocal utterances.  I finally gave in when I realized how much easier it would be to simply pull out my cell and call home when I was traveling.  I’ll never love it because it’s a phone, but it sure beats paying through the nose to call home from hotel rooms or struggling to hear over the announcements on an airport pay phone.

There’s no question I had what Manjoo refers to as an “attitude” toward cell phones, but I could no longer justify that attitude in the face of the profound cultural shift that made cell phones ubiquitous.  References to FB had begun to pop up more frequently  in my readings and social interactions before I read “You Have No Friends,” so when Manjoo drew that parallel between FB and cell phones, I said Oh, I See and moseyed on over to see what was happening.

As an old fart of 49, I belong to the fastest-growing demographic segment of Facebook users.  In some ways this is not surprising, as the site was originally aimed at college students.  FB grew because people found it useful, creating a loop of improvements in which the site continued to become more diverse and interesting as the privacy controls were tweaked and users found ways to opt in to the social stream without feeling they had signed up to be objects in a digital panopticon.

A socialist friend of mine referred to Facebook as this absurd social network that makes it easier for the police to find people and I could not argue with that perception.  It’s just that I don’t care.   The police could already find me if they cared to do so, because we own a home and I am engaged in various public endeavors, including online selling.  Among my wares are honesty, transparency, and consistency,  not coincidentally the same values I embrace as a writer.  See how that works for me?

For better or worse, the denalynn (denalynn2001 on Bonanzle) who sells on eBay is the same denalynn2001 who’s on, who is the same as the Dena Tarlin who writes and is a Supremely Excellent Judge on the Beckoning of Lovely project.  My stock in trade is my authenticity and reliability, so the more tightly I can weave these endeavors together, the more strongly and efficiently I can build The Dena as a brand and the greater chance I have to someday earn a living doing those things I do best.  It ain’t rocket science, but I totally understand that it might not be for you.  The good news is that this constitutes  TOTAL NON-ISSUE, so if you are fretting about it, just please stop right now and start worrying about something that merits your attention.

Because we Westerners are so endlessly and pointlessly dualistic, there has existed since the early days of social networking a debate as to whether these entities are inherently good or evil, dangerous or life-altering in a positive way.  In true Zen or existentialist fashion, the only possible answer is yes.  The same response applies to Facebook, and if you absolutely despise the place, then by all means do stay away.  We have absolutely no desire to make you harm yourself, silly.

If you are feeling social pressure and can’t handle saying no to either your friends or your “friends,” I would encourage you to explore how this lack of backbone might be manifesting itself in other arenas of your life.   Follow your gut instinct and don’t be a puppet, but do take a moment to make sure you aren’t being obstinate just for the sake of obstinacy, thereby making things more difficult for yourself than they need to be.

Beyond those who simply don’t care to be on Facebook (not that there’s anything wrong with that), there exists a more baffling subcategory of holdouts who refuse to register because they fear it will somehow suck up their lives and their time.  This fear strikes me as being approximately as rational as the old superstition that cats are prone to suffocating people by sucking their breath as they sleep, a problem solved in most cases by simply shutting the bedroom door.  If you register an account on Facebook, you are obliged to spend only as much time on the site as you wish.  I have Facebook friends who haven’t updated their status since I registered and others who tend to do so several times a day, and although I do generally enjoy the updates, I have no preference as to how other people use their accounts.  If I did it wouldn’t matter, because you are totally responsible for driving your own bus here.

If you do opt to register an account on Facebook, there is no need to fret about your levels of disclosure or participation.  Again, we have that lovely phrase, Opt in.  Beginning with your profile, I could personally not care less if you post a picture.  It might be in your interest to do so if your name is something very common like Tom Jones, unless you want to get a lot of friend requests from ladies who throw underwear, but it’s no skin off my nose either way.  Alternatively, you may wish to post a pic of your pet labrador or Nick Nolte’s mug shot.  It’s all good, as far as I’m concerned.  Just do what pleases you, okay?

The same principle applies to your name and your profile, meaning you should disclose as much as you want and no more.  If you don’t want everyone to find you, be creative with your name.  You can call yourself Captain Howdy for all I care, building your network by friending a few people you know and then adding people as you find them.  If compartmentalization is your bag, you can customize who can see what parts of your profile by tweaking your privacy settings.  If you are like me and can’t be bothered to remember who has access to what version of you, then just let it all hang out and let the consequences fall where they may.

The best guideline to determine what to put up on the Web aside from quasi-private exchanges like emailing and instant messaging is to ask yourself Would I mind if my mother saw this? Just assume she will, as will your boss, your neighbor, and your child.  Mothers can be especially dangerous, as they are endowed with special spy powers instilled by their sense of entitlement to know anything and everything they can discover about their children.   My mother is so technophobic she still thinks she can’t jack into the Web without America Online, but she googled my most common Web ID and found this blog.  I hadn’t mentioned it because I rarely discuss anything here that would vaguely interest her, but when she stumbled on it I just laughed.   Having asked myself that all-important question and ascertained that I didn’t give a rat’s ass, there was no problem.

Having settled that you shouldn’t register on FB if you hate the place, you only need to share as much information as you want, and you are free to spend as much or as little time as you like there, why am I writing this?  Very simply, I have found that I both like Facebook much more than I thought I would and find it makes it easier to reach the people in my network.  I like seeing all my contacts in one place, where I can update my status for the whole crowd, message a friend and chat with a Beckoning of Lovely collaborator, share a link or a video, or post my 25 Random Things (see below).  This is yet another of those Facebook non-issues, so by all means don’t create one if you don’t want to and don’t read other people’s if they disturb you that deeply.  I could personally care less if you just want to read mine but prefer not to create one yourself, and if something I or someone else has revealed is too intimate or boring or abysmally spelled, stop complaining and go build yourself a shed or write a novel.

Facebook is not and will never be a substitute for face-to-face encounters, but it’s a neat way to follow what your friends are doing, thinking, seeing, writing, and creating when you cannot see them.  We are all so busy, rushing hither, thither,  yadda, yadda, yadda, which tends to create a huge backlog of information that we once had to select from and process when we met. Thanks to FB, I already know Deb has been overloaded, Gretchen visited the Dells, and Robin has an adorable little girl  Although it has been accused of doing quite the opposite by serving personal information up in byte-sized nuggets, I find FB creates depth in my understanding of a person to the extent that I choose to follow their updates and read their content, and, well, if I don’t want that much depth, I just don’t go there.  As they say in 12-step programs, it’s simple, but it’s not easy.

Freedom and responsibility frighten people and may bring heavy consequences when they are abused.  People have lost jobs, spouses, money, and their good reputations by not thinking carefully enough about what they posted on Facebook, and if you think for one moment this could not happen to you, there is a concept in psychology called illusion of invulnerability that might just have your name on it.  On the other hand, if you are game and want to explore the possibilities of social networking intelligently and conscientiously whilst perhaps even having a bit of fun, then FB is for you.  Just don’t even try to poke me, because I really hate that stuff.

Now, for FB abstainers and those who want to see for themselves what the heck the kids are up to on Facebook these days:

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. Don’t feel obligated, but it is fun…(To do this, go to “Notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, post it. Then open it and tag 25 people…in the right hand corner of the application.)

1. This is the first note I’ve ever posted on Facebook.
2. I was born in Peoria, Illinois on 9-9-59.
3. Turn those nines upside down and what do you get?
4. My father died last year, but his name was Trevelyn and my mother’s name is Evelyn.
5. I am rather severely hearing impaired, and until I learned to read they had me in the “slow” class. SURPRISE!!
6. I attended both grade school and high school with Jon Ginoli, who went on to found Pansy Division, the pioneering gay rock band. We published a fanzine out of Peoria called “Hoopla,” but Jon did all the work.
7. My uncle by marriage, Frank Fahrenkopf was the Chairman of the Republican National Committee under Ronald Reagan.
8. When I go-go danced, I looked like this:

9. I adore Rufus Wainwright and have seen him perform 10 times in a total of 7 different states. The next time will be in Philadelphia on Valentine’s Day.
10. I’ve got a monkey and I know how to use it:
11. Thus far I’ve earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I like to think I won’t subject myself to further schooling, but one never knows.
12. It is my dream to one day own an Air Hockey table.
13. In the context of a discussion about tabloid talk shows that took place in a hotel bar in Louisville, Kentucky, Dave Davies of The Kinks once told me, “You must be good in bed.”
14. I scored in the 99th percentile on the MAT (See #2)
15. One of my peak experiences was dancing onstage at Foxy’s to “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll by Joan Jett with a male friend of mine whose club monicker was “The Naked Guy” for exactly the reason you would think. I met him in philosophy class at UIC.
16. I went through a phase of reading quite a few books about murder, trying to get inside the head of someone who would kill another person. I still have all those books, although I read much more about other things these days.
17. I’m a mac person.
18. My mother was born in Nevada and I grew up visiting Las Vegas almost every summer. I still have a strange affection for the place.
19. I once tried on a vintage all-weather coat that had I’d purchased in a thrift shop several years ago and felt something in the sleeve. It turned out to be a dirty terrycloth pouch with 10 $100 bills in it. I used the money to go to Las Vegas and see Rufus Wainwright.
20. My best friend and I once won first prize in a Halloween costume contest at Club 950. We were zombie housewives from Downer’s Grove, years ahead of our time. We looked like this:
21. I am shamelessly addicted to “American Idol” and watch every minute of every episode, after which I drop all of those people like hot potatoes until the next season starts.
22. I’m extremely good at finding things.
23. Spiders. Don’t like them one bit.
24. I believe the greatest philosopher of all time was Dr. Seuss, but Camus was no slouch.
25. I have been appointed to the cabinet of the Chicago-based judging panel for her Beckoning of Lovely project as a Supremely Excellent Judge. I am more excited about this than anything I’ve done in awhile and I think the end result will be, well, lovely. Here’s the project url:

The Art of the Deal

Today I found myself looking for the best price on a Sony 32″ Bravia (Seems to be the most TV out there for the money, no?).  Fiddling with various search terms on Google, I tried just the serial number–KDL-32L4000–and came up with a link to a new and genuinely innovative site called Beat That! Describing itself as 100% community driven, the site actually pays members to find and post the best deal on a given item.  There are some limitations on the numbers of submissions and what sorts of deals qualify, so I would strongly recommend you read the page on How to Submit Deals to Beat That! if you are interested.  I believe they even pay via Paypal, which makes it quite convenient.

At any rate, I was all happy when I turned up a rate of $544.12 from Preferred Photo until I saw their merchant rating was only yellow when green was what I wanted to see.  As much as I was disappointed that my search for the right price continues, I like the way Beat That! works and I will for sure return to find deals if not to submit them.  This is a great model for doing business, because it rewards the best searchers with a powerful incentive to not only find the best prices but to identify reputable sellers.

It’s nice to see there is such a steady influx of innovative new Web communities, as I see Bonanzle has now grown to almost 12,000 users.  As usual some of this shiny new stuff will stick and some of it will float away, but with eBay having descended into a state of ever-worsening alienation and disgruntlement it’s just nice to see that someone still believes there is a better way.  Whether or not Beat That! will turn out to be a better way to find the best deals on the Web is yet to be seen, but I’m a great believer in the straightforward but surprisingly elusive principle of paying people to do what they do best.

November 30, 2008, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Internet, Pop Culture, Uncategorized, World of Wonder | Tags: ,

I felt like I wanted to check in here, having been absent for awhile.  For awhile there, I had my hands full with various Thanksgiving-related activities (not to mention having The Daughter home from school all last week), so my writing and Pilates have both fallen by the wayside.  I need to get back to flexing all those muscles, and one of these days when I have some time to myself, I’ll write another longer post.

Right now I’m just thankful that I got this cool shot of a hawk in Peoria on Thanksgiving Day (click to enlarge):


I’m also thankful for my tumblelog, Herr Machine, as a place to manifest my maven nature in a more visual way when language fails me.  I know there’s a lot I want to say, but I also know the holidays inevitably pull me in a lot of directions that all lead away from this keyboard.  Will I attend the spouse’s annual work Christmas party at the Field Museum?  If so that demands shopping, as does the daughter’s annual school Christmas show.  And then someone has to do the Christmas and Hannukkah shopping and wrap the gifts, and you only get one guess as to who that is.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m still keeping this space alive, but I don’t know how much I’ll be around in these demented times.  Please look, but if you don’t find me here be sure to mosey on over to Herr Machine and see what I see.  Either way, I’ll be around and I’ll have my antennae out.  We aliens like to be useful.

Introducing Herr Machine
November 22, 2008, 6:03 am
Filed under: Internet, Pop Culture, Uncategorized, World of Wonder | Tags: ,

I have a love-hate relationship with writing as much as I do with my hearing aids, because I have to do it and yet it can be quite the struggle at the end of a long day.  There are few things more frustrating than waiting until after my daughter goes to bed to write and then finding I cannot stay awake long enough to finish a sentence, and I’m tired of thinking “I should post about x and never getting to it.

I have tried various bookmarking thingies such as Google Notebooks, but I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to try Tumblr.  It is incredibly fast and simple to use and it lends itself to visual presentations rather than verbal ones.  I find at the end of a long day when my daughter’s had a meltown or I’ve had to do too much parental socializing, I don’t want to deal with words.  I find the writing process draining at such times, whereas I get energizing kicks out of arranging fragments like I do on Tumblr.

I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen or heard something awesome and thought “I should post about that,” only to lose track of “that” because I found myself pulled in another direction. Herr Machine is a place for me to collect all my little thats, an electronic wunderkammer where you will sometimes find that clicking on an image takes you somewhere else you might want to go.

I feel now that my little online universe is complete, so we’ll see what kind of synergy develops between this space and the new one.  It would be nice if I could inspire some of you to start your own tumblelogs, so please do take a stab at it and let me know what you think.  I’ll also add Herr Machine to my links, so if you come here and find tumbleweeds just click up there and you’ll go straight to my happy place.

Comcast Watch
September 2, 2008, 8:47 pm
Filed under: Internet, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

Shortly after my last post regarding my absurdly slow cable internet service, Comcast sent a service person to do a home visit.  He checked our connection, agreed it was unacceptably slow, examined the wires, and said something about rain, which he supposedly fixed.  Things were better for a week or two, but today my connection has ranged from 100 to 200 KBPS according to the McAfee Internet Connection Speedometer.  The same source indicates a cable/DSL connection should run at least 500 KBPS, so I currently have smoke coming out of both ears.  Last night’s post took me about twice as long as it should have, simply because I constantly had to reload pages and twiddle my thumbs every time I wanted to change something.  We are mulling over the possibility of switching to satellite, but I don’t feel like I should have to.  I just want Comcast to provide what we signed up for without our having to constantly chase after them and shake our fists, but apparently that is too much to ask.

Of course we shall have to call them back again, because blogging about this problem will not get it fixed.  I am airing my complaints in a public forum because I believe we are by no means the only customers who have these problems with Comcast.  I hope that by talking about it, I may contribute to some type of collective pressure that will encourage them to work on upgrading their services to correspond with what they promise.  Quality and service for the money are concepts that should be a given, because anything less is insufficient.

A Knol of My Own: Las Vegas Solo
August 29, 2008, 6:32 am
Filed under: Internet, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Today after many hours of work I finally published my first Google Knol–Actually my first two, because I also published a biographical Knol. I don’t see any reason why you should pay attention to anything I say unless I can back it up with some credentials, especially in a competitive information market.  I am very fortunate to have a lot of training and experience to bring to the table and I think the Knol format is an exciting platform to explore my personal obsessions and share some of the multimedia subject collections I created in grad school.

I am interested in so many things that it was awfully hard to choose my first subject, but then it occurred to me that more people have found this weblog searching for information on traveling to Las Vegas alone than any other subject.  I did blog on the subject years ago, but I realized I know a lot more about it than I shared in that post.  It was the perfect Knol, because I felt that venue would attract more readers than I could hope for here and it is a subject I enjoy talking about almost as much as being there.

I have other projects in mind for Knol and may disappear from time to time when I am in full project mode, but I do still intend to continue post here when I have something worth saying and the time to say it.  The beauty of this self-indulgent format is its flexibility, as well as its faithfulness.  It’s the closest thing to a journal I’ve ever managed over a prolonged period of time,  a writing accomplishment regardless of what you might think of the format.  I’ve already tried to stop blogging and it’s never worked, so I surrender.