Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lost in cyberspace

It's been a rainy day in my hometown, so after my aerobics class and trip to the grocery store, I settled in to spend the afternoon trying to become better familiar with, perhaps even a functioning member of, the "online community."

Several hours later I emerged with a headache, eyeballs that feel like they're bleeding and a need to experience something, anything, tangible.

I'm an introvert, so I'm okay never actually talking to anybody, and I have a raging case of context-dependency, so I can be pretty happy finding interesting articles and blog postings with links that lead to more. And I really do want to understand this online world that's developing around me, rapidly changing the way people develop, find and consume content and connect with each other.

So I posted tweets on Twitter and updates on Facebook, found several blogs to follow, shared some links with co-workers, read dozens of cyberstories. Thinking about stuff is my primary hobby, and there's plenty to think about on the world wide web.

But after all of this, I'm exhausted. I can feel my brain cells gasping for air after way too strenuous a workout. And I know I didn't even touch a sliver of the breadth and depth of what I might find of interest in cyberspace.

It's too much information, times 1,000. Maybe 1,000,000.

It all leaves me vaguely uneasy. Like I've spent the whole afternoon inside my own head, bumping up against, but not really interacting with, other people who are inside their own heads too, each of us dumping out whatever happens to be in there for all to read. It's easy to see how people can, in this environment, be less than judicious in what emits from their keyboards and get themselves worked up over perceived offenses and ignite tweetstorms. A mob mentality forged from multiple isolated souls.

Well, like I said, my brain cells are tired, and I think they're preparing to mount an insurrection against any more work today. Out there in the real world -- I just looked out the window to check and be sure it was still there -- I see a late afternoon sun peeking through the clouds. My stomach, which continues to exist in the tangible world, is beginning to signal it wants some tangible food, and Mr. James, who gives not one holy hoot about anything virtual, is requesting a walk.

Time to rejoin reality.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Get over it

This week my employer joined the growing ranks of organizations who are being forced to trim their payrolls. No telling whether my job, or those of the smart, creative people I work with, will stay or go. No telling when we'll know. It's not a unique circumstance these days, of course, but just because the list of those hit hard by the lousy economy grows longer every day, doesn't make the uncertainty any easier to deal with.

But then again, what's really different?

I go to bed at night and assume I'll wake up in the morning. I assume my family is safe. I come home and assume my house will be there, not burned down or blown away by a tornado. I drive over a bridge with no fears that it will collapse and I won't crash into something on the highway. That if I grab a hamburger from the drive-through, I'll eventually clog my arteries but I won't be afflicted today with e-coli. That if I turn the faucet, clean water will come out, or if I flip the switch, light will fill the room. That terrorists won't fly planes into my building.

None of that is certain. But if I worried about all of that, I'd spend my days in a quivering heap. And that's my inclination in this situation.

The truth is, my job isn't really any less certain today than it was a week or month or year ago. I just took it for granted, as I do so many things that aren't at all certain, and aren't even expected by many others with whom we share the planet.

So, I just need to get over it. Deliver value today. Do the best I can to help turn things around. Appreciate what we have today (and schedule that doctor appointment while I still have insurance....) Just like Mr. James, enjoy a good belly-scratch now and deal with tomorrow when it gets here.

Because one of these days, I won't wake up in the morning, and I don't want to have wasted all the time between now and then worrying about what I can't be certain about.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Any regular visitors to this space will notice a new look today. While there's something (often, a lot) to be said for consistency, I was tired of the brown background. So I've changed it up a bit.

Fortunately for a technophobe like me, Blogger makes it r-e-a-l-l-y easy. Pick a new template, click on "save" and pouff what was old is new. Or rather, what was old still is -- there's not a bit of change in the content -- but gets to wear a new outfit.

So don't look too closely. Aging actresses who've undergone a few too many facial surgeries don't fool anyone (have you seen Joan Rivers lately? Or even the not-that-old Lara Flynn Boyle? eeeks...). Neither should the new colors and arrangements of elements on the page. It's the same old stuff in a new package.

As they say, it is what it is, with or without facelift.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Like minds, me and the Times

Thanks to my friend Patty, who sent me a link to a piece from the New York Times, titled "Life Lessons from the Family Dog" by Dana Jennings. Different dog, different situation, same idea. I've excerpted below. We are blessed by our canine companions.

Our family dog started failing a couple of months ago. Her serious health problems began at about the same time I was coping with my own — finishing my radiation and hormone therapy for prostate cancer.

Her full name is Bijou de Minuit.... She is a 12-year-old black miniature poodle, and she is, literally, on her last legs. Her hind quarters fly out from beneath her, her back creaks and cracks as she walks, she limps, she’s speckled with bright red warts the size of nickels, her snore is loud and labored (like a freight train chugging up some steep grade) and she spends most of the day drowsing on her pillow-bed next to the kitchen radiator.

She is, I realize, “just” a dog. But she has, nonetheless, taught me a few lessons about life, living and illness. Despite all her troubles, Bijou is still game. She still groans to her feet to go outside, still barks at and with the neighborhood dogs, is willing to hobble around the kitchen to carouse with a rubber ball — her shrub of a tail quivering in joy.

Human beings constantly struggle to live in the moment. We’re either obsessing over the past (”Gee, life would’ve been different if I’d only joined the Peace Corps.”), or obsessing over the future (”Gee, I hope my 401K holds up”). We forget that life, real life, is lived right now, in this very moment.

But living in the moment is something that dogs (and cancer patients) do by their very nature. Bijou eats when she’s hungry, drinks when she’s thirsty, sleeps when she’s tired and will still gratefully curl up in whatever swatch of sunlight steals through the windows.

In spending so much time with Bijou, I began to realize that our dogs, in their carefree dogginess, make us more human, force us to shed our narcissistic skins. Even when you have cancer, you can’t be utterly self-involved when you have a floppy-eared mutt who needs to be fed, walked and belly-scratched. And you can’t help but ponder the mysteries of creation as you gaze into the eyes of your dog, or wonder why and how we chose dogs and they chose us.

Good dogs – and most dogs are good dogs – are canine candles that briefly blaze and shine, illuminating our lives. Bijou has been here with us for the past 12 years, reminding us that simple pleasures are the ones to be treasured: a treat, a game of fetch, a nose-to-the-ground stroll in the park.

Simple pleasures. As I lazed and dozed at home last summer after surgery, there was nothing sweeter to me in this world than to hear Bijou drinking from her water dish outside my door. It was if her gentle lap-lapping ferried me to waters of healing. I’ll miss her.