My #OneWord365 for 2022

My #OneWord365 for 2022

Curiouser and curiouser… Each year I do this #OneWord365 thing, and find myself alone in my “#OneWord365 tribe.” It’s not as if my word were “floccinaucinihilipilification.” In 2015, my word was #CommitmentIn 2019, it was #LimitlessIn 2020, I chose #ObservantIn 2021, #Imagine. I am not ready to move on from these general ideas, just yet. The word I’ve settled on for 2022 is #Curious. Care to join my tribe?

I have not accomplished all my past goals, nor have I abandoned them. #Limitless isn’t without its constraints; none of us get to live forever. I am slowly learning to let go of the things, activities, and habits that don’t bring me joy, in order to make room and time for all that might.

Resolution #1: To Be Fit, To Be Healthy

My fear of missing out (FOMO) hit a peak after 9/11. I was unable to sleep without having the TV on, as if taking my eyes off the news would allow something worse to happen. Some deeply irrational part of me was convinced that if I didn’t stand vigilant, watching and guarding the news, I would be responsible if something worse happened. This year, I have prioritized and focused on fun and fitness, and I have learned to let go of this terrible and irrational sense of being on guard duty. The world can fall apart after 11 PM; I’ll be sound asleep and dreaming of a better one. I’ve gone from an average of 3-5 hours’ sleep, to 7-8 hours’ sleep. I feel mentally and physically healthier, as a result.

I invested in a Garmin smartwatch, joined MyFitnessPal, and rediscovered the joy of swimming and playing in the water, both for fun and exercise. We went to the beach. I joined the YMCA and made a commitment to myself to work out three or four times a week. Since March, I’ve lost 30 lbs. I have 55 to go, but I view “lose weight” and “increase strength and stamina” as a continuing resolution, not a shiny new one to dust off and abandon in a week. I’m almost halfway there, and not giving up now!

My next mini-goal is to work out in the gym twice a week and swim 2-3 times a week, and to stay within my calorie budget. It’s too bad I can’t make extra payments on the calorie debt I racked up over the past two months! (I only gained back 7 pounds, but that’s 3 weeks of work to shed again – you’d think I’d have learned, by now, that those “cheat days” aren’t always worth it!)

Resolution #2: To Explore, To Travel

This past year, my husband and I have been able to travel some – triple-vaxxed and willing to mask up, in a world that is cautiously less restrictive, retired and able to schedule vacations for non-peak times, we’ve had fun exploring places old and new. Oregon, Texas, Florida, the Canary Islands, a short cruise to Cozumel… If I had a dollar for everyone on Gran Canaria and Tenerife who expressed surprised that a couple of Americans could find the Canary Islands on a map and hadn’t made some dreadful error in trip planning, I could go back tomorrow!

Perhaps my #OneWord365 should have been #Serendipity. I would have been alone in that one, for sure! As a kid, I wanted to be a volcanologist. Later, I came to realize that not only were volcanoes an awesome display of the power of nature and the universe, they were scary as hell. (Thank you, Mount St. Helens, for that epiphany.) While I am envious of my friend Asdis, with her “pet volcano” practically in her back yard, in Iceland, I realize that most volcanoes are not so tame. They don’t sit still while you study them – at least not the most interesting and active ones. Nah, they lob flaming boulders the size of Volkswagen’s at your head.

I still want to get close enough to touch molten lava, but I’m not going to lie; I’d probably wet my pants doing it. Since 2018, my husband has taken me to visit some of the most awe-inspiring volcanoes:

  • Haleakala at sunrise, where I nearly cried upon realizing that the billions of stars, in all their glory, were still visible, but we were being robbed of them by light pollution;
  • Yellowstone, which isn’t likely to erupt again in the next 5000 years or so, but which features dazzling geothermal areas and a mesmerizing array of thermophilic cyanobacteria;
  • Mt. Teide on the island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, which is very dormant but also absolutely breathtaking in its landscape. From the drive up to the top of Mt. Teide, we were able to see the ash plume from the eruption on La Palma.

We got to spend time with family, too, and that was wonderful – 2020 saw us cancelling get-togethers and holiday plans, and we lost family members and friends. Winter was subdued and challenging; we endured the deep freeze of February, but come spring, my husband built and I planted a raised vegetable garden. We got to spend Spring Break first with a visit with family in Dallas, then in Oregon. We found all the best playgrounds in Portland, visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, where our grandson got to sit at the controls of a submarine. We hiked in the woods, saw Multnomah Falls with friends, and enjoyed a stroll through a pretty little creekside park in Washington State. We ate all the yummiest food and ice cream!

We visited my Dad in Louisiana, and we thawed out in Daytona Beach. I was craving “Vitamin Sea” as well as sunshine and sand. We took a road trip through Dallas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee, stopping in Dallas to visit family, Hartman, AR to visit friends, then driving on to Memphis for some good times, good music, and good food.

We spent our anniversary in Las Vegas, which has changed and grown so much since we were last there, decades ago. Hard to believe it had been that long. We met up with friends who had just moved there from California.

Later in the summer, our grandson and his great-grandfather met for the first time, here in Houston. We hosted the first of what I hope will be an annual “Camp Grandparents” – we visited NASA, where he got to touch a moon rock and climb aboard a space shuttle; the Children’s Museum, where he learned how to use science to solve a mystery; the Natural History Museum and Cockrell Butterfly Center; and the Houston Zoo. He also got his first Happy Meal. Then it was off to north Texas to visit the rest of the family before returning to Oregon.

We took a cruise to Cozumel. then hosted Christmas at home.

What adventures will 2022 bring? I don’t know, but I am looking forward to them with great curiosity!

Resolution #3: To Write, To Publish

Six to twelve months… I wrote Movement: Mind and Soul six months ago, and vowed to spend the next six to twelve months resisting the urge to post my fiction and poetry online, rather than giving it a fair shot at publication. I may extend the deadline. I want to have at least 50 more poems and several short stories ready for submission by September. I do plan to return to participating in the Creative Copy Challenge, so I may post some here as well. These will be something of a warm-up, for fun.

I joined the Poetry Society of Texas, last year, and entered their annual contest. I won 9th place in the Qamar Award, and 8th place in the Shirley Elliott Cosby Memorial Award. I plan to enter the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc (OWFI) annual contest this year, as well. Last year, I won the “Technical / How-to” category with How to Create a Manuscript Template. I have no control over whether I win or not, but I do know that I can’t win if I don’t enter, and I can’t be published if I write nothing to submit.

I’m also planning to attend the Conference, this year, if we’re not in lockdown. It’s not the restrictions of the pandemic that get to me, but rather, the uncertainty and inability to make plans. The past two years sometimes feel like we’re living in a snow globe that someone’s tossing around like a basketball.

Resolution #4: To Read, To Learn

You would think that someone who has been an avid reader since grade school would not struggle to read for pleasure now, but despite being able to devour a good novel in hours – not days or weeks – I have read surprisingly few books over the last few years. I thought that blaming work or law school for this was just an excuse, but it turns out that I am not alone.

3.1K likes, 300+ replies and counting, and I didn’t find any that suggested otherwise. Now I think of myself as a burnt-out reader in recovery. I am determined to find the joy in it again. I refuse to give up; instead, I am making my reading goal more ambitious, not less. It’s just the way my brain works. One book a week – 52 books in 2022. Watch this space.

I am curious about and interested in so many different things that it can be hard to choose just one or two new things to learn and focus on them. Sometimes, though, that leads to being like the donkey, caught between two bales of hay, starving because he couldn’t decide which to eat first. I suppose I did learn not to kill plants, last year. And before that, I learned to crochet. How to make the perfect hot and sour soup, from scratch, and how to make haggis that passes for the real thing. I baked bread and a scrumptious dark chocolate cake from scratch. I made pickled vegetables. I competed in a District level speech contest with Toastmasters. Would it be too late, or too cliché, now, to learn a new language (I did get the lifetime license for Rosetta Stone – limitless, remember?) and nurture the perfect sourdough starter? No, it’s never too late.

Resolution #5: To Reflect with Gratitude, To Keep a Daily Journal

I have so much to be thankful for. But I really need to not wait for the end of one year – or the start of the next – to reflect with gratitude on all the good things in life. Or to frame my goals as SMART goals and tasks, and to review my progress towards them more regularly. I’m always very surprised at how much of what I imagine comes to pass, once I’ve thought about it and written it down, even if I forget to revisit it frequently. How much more might I accomplish, if I did?

I have never been good at keeping a journal. But I think I would have loved to discover one written by one of my ancestors. Even if it had been nothing more than an account of the weather and the day-to-day doings of the household, it would have been something special, I think. My daughter once found an old journal that I had written when she was born, but later abandoned as work and raising a baby into a toddler took up the energy needed to write it. She asked me why I’d stopped, and I wished, then, that I hadn’t. I don’t think I ever imagined, then, that she’d be interested in reading it.

It doesn’t matter. I don’t have the hubris to think that anyone will want to read it; I may hide it and forget about it as I grow old. Maybe some stranger will find it tucked under the attic insulation decades after I die. Maybe someone will read this blog post and look for it there, in vain. It amuses me to think about that.

This blog is a journal, of sorts, isn’t it? But, Dear Reader, I won’t bore you with all the details…

Happy New Year! Here’s to a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2022 for us all.

Extinguish the Flaming Social Media Trashpile!

Extinguish the Flaming Social Media Trashpile!

The “Fire Tetrahedron” of Social Media

Most of us learned about the Fire Triangle back in grade school. To burn, a fire needs three things: fuel, a heat source, and oxygen. Take away one of those things, and you can extinguish the fire. But there is also something called the Fire Tetrahedron: Add a chemical chain reaction to the fire, once ignited, and it feeds itself. It becomes significantly harder to extinguish.

Social media runs on things commonly called “social proof” and “engagement.”

Social proof is a lot like a middle-school popularity contest.

Engagement requires slightly more than passive eye-rolling from observers. The trick is to get your “followers” to do something. Basic engagement could be as simple as clicking the thumbs-up icon on Facebook. “Yay, you,” thinks the user. “Whatever.” If you can get them to spend a little more effort – to change the thumbs-up to a heart emoji, for example – you actually got something like a “reaction” out of them. But the holy grail of engagement – getting a thing to “go viral” or “spread like wildfire” online – requires the equivalent of fuel, a heat source, and oxygen. Add in a chain reaction – getting others to share and build on it – and “the algorithm” (a mythical, poorly-understood, often reverentially referenced or cursed) will “reward” you with its attentions.

Will it reward you with sales? Will it reward you with paying jobs as an internet “influencer”?

Honestly, I’m not sure what the ROI is on this largely thoughtless, mechanical attention. Some businesses see it as a matter of economic life or death, while others wisely ignore the whole thing. I think it depends on how much customers need, or more importantly, want, to interact with their favorite brands online and how good the social media teams behind those brands are at making their customers feel special.

That said, when individuals get caught up in playing “Burn, Baby, Burn!” on social media, it can come across as desperately pathetic. My theory is that it is killing genuine conversation and relationships online, spoiling everyone’s fun, and will eventually lead to burn-out and the (possibly overdue) death of social media altogether. Unfortunately, it will drag things like “community” with it, because by the time it’s all said and done, we’ll be so tired of each other we’ll wish we were hermits.

Fuel

Advertisers have long known that there are three things that reliably sell product: sex, fear, and death. You don’t need all three, but a combination of any of these three elements is best. Thus, “fear of sex” is good; “fear of dying in the middle of sex” is even better. Buy condoms and life insurance.

The fuel for engagement is a good story, a controversial opinion, a funny meme, or a cute cat. Throw in fear, sex, or death, and you’ve got a winning formula, for sure! “Fear of dying without ever getting laid” is another good one, and it’s not an unreasonable fear for those obsessed with promoting their “personal brand” and “going viral” on social media. There’s nothing wrong with knowing your “personal brand” or “going viral” with a good post, but when it requires the equivalent of an over-smoothing filter and animated sparklies on your entire life – when you start talking about “curating” your Instagram or “optimizing” your LinkedIn profile, consider the possibility that, as a living, breathing, flawed and ordinary human, you may be taking the whole thing too far.

Speaking of taking the whole thing too far, if your goal is to appear trustworthy and employable, don’t steal others’ good stories from somewhere else on the internet, then try to pass them off on LinkedIn as your own.

Heat Source

To get a “Like” requires very little effort beyond your followers’ desire to make sure you feel “seen” and validated. I could click “Like” all day, just to make you feel good about yourself. This is where a little pot-stirring can come in handy. In today’s powder-keg of social media, you probably don’t want to ask “Why isn’t cannibalism a good idea for population control?” Asking whether it’s okay to put pineapples or anchovies on pizza is about the right amount of heat. If you want to stand out from the crowd, don’t be an ordinary troll.

Oxygen

In all seriousness, the unethical social media “influencers” and wannabe “influencers” out there rival the number of zombies it would take to equal an “apocalypse.” Avoid giving them oxygen – also known as “attention.” It’s harder than you think. For years, we’ve been told “don’t feed the trolls.” We are still feeding the trolls. But next time you’re really tempted to share something from someone you don’t know, personally, stop and think, “Do I really want to do this? What are they gaining from it? Do I want to give them that?”

I’m not going to share the original links that prompted me to write the following posts on LinkedIn, but with very little effort, you could find them. And there are countless more examples – these are but two drops in a sea of superficiality and nonsense.

Nobody wants to end up as a bad example posted to Reddit’s r/LinkedInLunatics. And if someone asks you if you used ShlinkedIn, maybe you should scrub all your social media and rethink your life.

Chain Reaction

You are the chemical chain reaction. Each time you share, you fuel the fire and fan the flames. Before you do that, here are a few things to think about:

  • Does the headline match the content or is it just “click bait” that will set a reader up for disappointment?
  • If the thing you’re sharing is a news article, is it grounded in fact? Is it written by an ethical journalist or published by a reputable, reasonably-unbiased media outlet? Are sources cited, so that you can verify for yourself that the original information says what the article claims it says? Have you ever done that – checked the original sources to see if they say what it’s claimed they say?

    In 2008, a friend forwarded the email (shown on a blue background, dated Jan 6, 2008, though there were earlier versions of it as well) to me and asked me if it could be true. The original email contained a live link to snopes.com – where snopes is mentioned. Click the blue text – sure enough, there’s an article on snopes debunking the email itself. It was at this point I started paying closer attention to politics and political parties, and realized just how much seething hostility and lies lurked under the surface. None of this serves us, the people of this nation – or the world. None of it.

  • If what you’re sharing is an opinion piece, is it clearly presented as such, and is the bias clearly understood by all? Do you agree with the content of the opinion piece you’re sharing, or do you just think it’s a funny, catchy headline that sums up a thought you had – until you thought more deeply on the subject? Read A Pillow Full of Feathers before sharing.

Good things to share include:

  • A story about yourself, that’s true. Be sure to include details and avoid all temptation to exaggerate the heroic bits, unless someone else is the hero and you are thanking them.
  • A story about someone you know personally, provided you were involved in the action or have their permission to tell the story where you intend to share it.
  • Artwork posted by an artist-friend, which they shared online and which has sharing buttons you can use – to promote them and their art. (In other words, share – don’t download, then upload a copy of their art to your post!)
  • Stories, poems, and blog posts written by your friends, which they shared online and which have sharing buttons you can use – to promote them and their writing. (In other words, share – don’t copy and paste their words into a new post of your own.)
  • Links to books friends have had published, so that people can find out more and buy them.
  • A funny meme found on a site full of funny memes, or a photo found on a free stock photo site – shared in accordance with their Terms of Service.
  • A thought-provoking question and discussion of a topic that interests you.
  • A poll you made.
  • A compliment or expression of thanks to someone.
  • A funny cat video (again, of your own cat – or use the proper sharing buttons!)

This is just the tip of the iceberg of social media awfulness and how to avoid igniting the trashpile and feeding the flames. Let’s all resolve to do better in 2022, lest we contribute to the downfall of civilization.

Any more tips you’d like to share? Please, add them in the comments!

No Glad Tidings Go Unpunished! #Facebook and #Instagram

No Glad Tidings Go Unpunished! #Facebook and #Instagram

Greetings and Happy Holidays from InstaJail™
(“Just Add Water!”)

I am on a three-day ban from posting or commenting (I can still send suggestive DMs and tiny heart emojis), presumably because I followed too many authors and wished them “Happy holidays!” too quickly. I’m sure I’d told them all to buy Bitcoin or fuck off, it would have been allowed.

Well, dear @Instagram, joke’s on you – I can type faster than you can review my bitter complaint to the Help Desk, which I am guessing is located somewhere in the Himalayan hinterlands where everyone is fast asleep or applying for job openings at the North Pole.

Speaking of those openings, I hope that Santa isn’t advertising on LinkedIn, unless he’s serious about it being a very white Christmas. They operate under a thin veneer of professional respectability, but they do little to discourage imposter accounts and plagiarists masquerading as “influencers.”

P.S. In all seriousness…

Surely, by now, we all know there are good reasons to #DeleteFacebook, right? Like the imminent downfall of civilization as we know it (or maybe just the creation of uncivilization as it currently stands). Supposedly, Facebook whistleblower’s testimony could finally spark action in Congress (but I wouldn’t hold my breath).

Facebook and the other big, commercial social media platforms are just calling our bluff; they always have and will until they gasp their last. But they are about as “necessary” to our lives as cocaine, booze, or cigarettes and maybe more addictive and harmful, at that. Why do we stay? Because we’re addicts. We blame each other – “Because family and friends!” and “I’d leave, but then I’d lose touch with my grandkids!” and of course Facebook exploits the fact that we are the worst sort of enablers, all of us.

I’ve tried to leave, more than once, with less success than I had in quitting smoking. I’ve been smoke free since 2006, but damned if I could stick to my guns when it came to Facebook. Believe me, I am not standing here preaching at you with an air of superiority. WE have a problem.

Well Played, Facebook is about “that time Facebook tried to strong-arm me into installing their malware on my PC, but I took the jail sentence, instead, and made new friends.” See also:

Ash Wednesday: Observing Lent from a Secular Perspective is less about “observing Lent” than it is about “that time I reported actual kiddy porn on Facebook, only to be told (repeatedly) that ‘This does not violate our Community Standards.'” After a dozen friends reported it and got the same response, I could only conclude that Facebook’s “community standards” are the stuff scraped from the bottom of your shoe after a stumble through the dog park, or the murky depths of a cesspool. So don’t lecture me about compliance with “community standards,” Facebook, when you’ve set the bar so incredibly low.

We must enjoy being treated like Facebook’s lab rats. Click that previous sentence for scores of scholarly articles on Facebook’s psychological experiments, conducted on their users without their users’ knowledge or consent. Yet here we are. Still. They should at least pay us or feed us little treats – even Pavlov’s dogs and Skinner’s pigeons got little treats.

“Facebook published the results of a 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Unbeknown to users, Facebook had tampered with the news feeds of nearly 700,000 people, showing them an abnormally low number of either positive or negative posts. The experiment aimed to determine whether the company could alter the emotional state of its users.” They’ve been at it since at least 2012, and there’s no sign they have any intention of ceasing to manipulate millions of people until they are forced to stop.

As Rhett said to Scarlett O’Hara, Facebook and its ilk “are like the thie[ves] who [aren’t] the least bit sorry [they] stole, but [are] terribly, terribly sorry [they’re] going to jail.”

Which Social Media Site Is the Most Ethical? Let’s hope none of them break an arm patting themselves on the back. Because I’d argue that none of them dare claim bragging rights to being the “most ethical.” They could all do better. LinkedIn operates under a veneer of professional respectability, but they have as many imposters, trolls, bullies, plagiarists, and superficial “influencers” as any other social media platform. Their attempts at automated content moderation are as misguided and ham-fisted as any other.

Meanwhile, on most of these platforms, attempts to call out real wrong-doing or engage in real conversations are often infuriatingly (or hilariously) met with seemingly random “suspensions” and bans. Beware – if you’re staying on these platforms to keep in touch with family or friends, or to operate your legitimate business, you could be shut down without notice or recourse, because review of these actions by real humans possessed of common sense is nearly impossible to obtain. Despite them all giving lip-service to their desire to be more inclusive and “welcoming.”

Note, too, that if you report inappropriate content on LinkedIn, you’d best get a screen capture first. Because they will keep it on the site; they’ll just hide it from you (you little “snowflake”) so you don’t have to be offended by it. They won’t actually address the problem, in other words. But then, when they tell you it doesn’t go against their “community standards,” and you request an appeal, they’ll ask for your email address (which of course they already have, right?) and the URL of the offensive content, which they have conveniently hidden so that you can’t find it again.

Yeah. Happy holidays, everyone!  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for my family. I could fill a book with all the reasons why, but suffice it to say that I love them all and I am thankful that they are all well and happy. I’m thankful for every moment of tiime we get to spend together. When we can’t be together, sharing a meal at the same table, or enjoying laughter, travel, or a bit of friendly competition over board games or backgammon, I’m thankful for all the ways technology has made it easier to keep in touch. Modern messaging apps and video chat make the world just a bit cozier.

I’m thankful for good health. Aggressive treatment for three years has beaten osteoporosis back to “osteopenia.” That’s the brittle-bones equivalent of “pre-diabetes.” But with any luck, improvements will continue for a while. Then, back in September, I finally gave in and went for an overdue first colonoscopy. Ugh!! (Oh, go get it, if you’re due. It’s not pleasant, by any means, but just do it.) I don’t have colon cancer. Yay!!! But they did find a rare type of cancerneuroendocrine cancer. Fortunately, I live less than 30 miles from the world’s #1 cancer hospital. And the tumor was found and treated early, before it had had a chance to spread anywhere else. Most neuroendocrine cancers aren’t even diagnosed until the patient has had it for 5-8 years, by which time it has likely spread – because we have neuroendocrine cells throughout our bodies, in places like lungs, liver, and pancreas. Its absence, in this case, is confirmed by tests and an outpatient surgical procedure at MD Anderson. Doctors are are even willing to use the word “cured.” In an overabundance of caution, they also confirmed that there was no recurrence of the breast cancer I had ten years ago. Right now, I’m ridiculously healthy and extremely thankful for that. I guess that leaves me with no excuse for chocolate cake and couch-potato-ing. I’ve lost almost 30 lbs. since July – not one ounce of that was “unexpected,” attributable to cancer, or unearned through disciplined diet and exercise, by the way! I still have months to go before I hit my goal, but I’m right on track to do that by next summer.

I’m thankful for the teachers who have generously shared their knowledge, rather than jealously guarding it. There is an interesting discussion on Dan Antion’s post, “Pay It Forward.” Dan talked about soaking up knowledge, learning from others, gaining their respect and trust, and how some people prefer to keep their “trade secrets” to themselves. I commented, “There are those who hoard knowledge, fearful of competition, and then there are those who are always eager to learn more, to perfect their skills, and to teach the next generation so that they, themselves, can move upward and on – knowing that they’ll leave the world in good hands. Teachers are a special breed of humans, and we ought to appreciate them more.” I am thankful for the many good teachers – formal and otherwise – that I and my children have learned from. The bad ones’ names have long been forgotten.

I’m thankful that there is justice for Ahmaud Arbery, this week. We have a long way to go before society is truly equitable for all. Fundamental fairness should be the goal, not some mythical belief about how we are all equal.  We were all born with equal value, but failure to treat each other with fundamental fairness means that isn’t enough. Racism isn’t “over.” We’ve made progress, but we do a lot of back-sliding. We are not “better than this,” but we can be – and our future together in cooperative democracy and civilization demand that we be.

I’m thankful for food, shelter, and clothing. I wish everyone had that, at least. If you want to give this holiday season, consider giving to your local food bank. But give to them when it’s not a holiday, too; it does more good than feeding a family on just one special day. “Saying grace” wasn’t something we did at every meal – to me, it’s an internal moment of gratitude, not requiring lengthy prayers or speeches – but some childhood favorites (blessedly brief ones that touch on all the important points!) come to mind, today:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.  Amen.

Bless, O Lord,
This food to our use
And us to thy service,
And keep us ever mindful
Of the needs of others.
Amen.

If you’re not religious, you can adapt these prayers and let the sentiments expressed in them serve as aspirational reminders.

I’m thankful I’ve had opportunities to travel. I’d rather do that than drive a fancy car or buy expensive jewelry. If we can take anything with us into the afterlife, maybe it’s the impressions from a lifetime of soaking up the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures of the world around us. It’s a big, beautiful planet – how many lifetimes would it take to experience it all? My parents always believed that travel was more educational than time spent in the classroom. Both are important, but I know they were right – if I had to choose one or the other, it would be travel. Reading and travel do more than almost anything else to teach empathy – to open people’s eyes to the world around them, and to make them see both the differences and the common humanity in people who aren’t just like them. It’s really hard to hate people you know; it’s much easier to harm – not even through hate, but just thoughtlessness and lack of concern – the people who aren’t quite real to you because you’ve never met them.

I am thankful, today, but I recognize that for many Native people, Thanksgiving is also a “day of mourning.” I mourn with them. After much reading, I’m grateful that I learned a story of the first Thanksgiving that was closer to the truth than a myth – the version I was taught clearly credited the Wampanoag people for the survival of the settlers. It did not treat them as “supporting cast members.” The feast was depicted as something that would never have happened without their having taught the Europeans some very basic survival skills. But that’s where truth starts to crumble; as children, we knew nothing about tribal politics. We believed that the Pilgrims were more humble and more grateful than they were; we did not know that the Native neighbors weren’t exactly invited to share the feast, until they showed up with an offering of deer meat. We did learn that the European colonists failed to honor their treaties; they failed to keep their word. That was not glossed over, even in elementary school. We were sheltered from more brutal truths about the interactions of white people and Native people, over the ensuing decades, but I’m thankful that I didn’t learn some sugar-coated lie to be met with shock and disbelief and unlearned in adulthood. Gratitude and grief are not mutually exclusive; their intertwining is as complex as the history of humanity. Read the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address – I would reiterate its words here, as well.

I’m thankful for vaccines and those who step up to take them – not just for their own well-being (which should be a strong motivator) but for the sake of others in their community. They work. Maybe not perfectly, maybe not 100%, but they work. And they also help keep people out of ICU and alive if they are unlucky enough to get COVID in spite of being vaccinated. So do masks – they work at stopping your spittle from reaching me and my spittle from reaching you, and spit droplets are the little vehicles that virus particles ride through the air to get from one person’s lungs to another. No one ever said that cloth or disposable masks would stop the virus itself, but if we can stop little virus clown cars from ever reaching our noses and mouths, they work. It’s sure a cheap and easy thing to try, along with frequent hand-washing. And as an added bonus: these things help keep other nasty little germs away, too.

I’m thankful for the people whose hard work and sacrifices have helped to keep us all safer. We Are All Essential, but some work is more urgently essential to our health and well-being, and I am thankful for all who have been on the “front lines” during the pandemic, keeping everything going, often at great risk to their own health and well-being. Just as I believe the best way to thank a veteran is to pursue peace, I think the best way to thank our “essential workers” is to make their jobs easier in any way we can, and to support their businesses as we return to “normal.”

Enjoy the day – I hope that you are surrounded by family, friends, and plenty of all that makes you happy. I love Thanksgiving – it’s a holiday centered on people, good food, mindfulness, and reflection. It doesn’t demand frenzied buying sprees and never tries to gobble up all the other holidays, like Christmas does. Thanksgiving is quiet and warm. Have a joyful one.

 

 

Before Creating a New Facebook Account, Read This First!

Before Creating a New Facebook Account, Read This First!

Locked Out – But Not in Facebook Jail

It happens. You forget your Facebook password – you haven’t had to enter it in six years, but you got a new PC or mobile phone and suddenly you’re being asked for that ancient password. Do they think you’re Sherlock Holmes, with a vault marked “Passwords” somewhere in your Mind Palace?

You admit that you’ve forgotten it and you request a reset. You wait, eager for the email containing the magic link. Then, you  remember that the email you used ten years ago is defunct and you refused to give up a modicum of privacy to give Facebook a valid phone number that’s already listed in six online people finder sites.

If you had set up dual authentication or had a set of recovery codes printed and locked up in an actual filing cabinet, you’d be fine. But now Facebook is telling you that it won’t let you in without three forms of government ID, a utility bill, your last rent or mortgage statement, and a DNA sample. Don’t bother. It’s a black hole into which all your proof of ID falls – and nothing happens. This is where you compromise your privacy and proof of ID for no return whatsoSay good-bye to the last decade of your Facebook life, including any Groups or Pages you own, unless you had a trusted Admin who can give you Admin privileges and reassign ownership to you.

At this point, Facebook helpfully suggests you open a new account.

STOP! It’s a trap. Oh, it’s fine to open a new account, but there are a few things you need to do before sending your first Friend Request.

First, open that account. Choose a “friendly name” (if Facebook lets you) that resembles your actual name (without any spelling errors) or your high school nickname if it’s not too humiliating.

Add a new Profile picture that is different from your old one. Ideally, use a recent headshot that shows the real, recognizable you. It wouldn’t hurt to hold up a copy of today’s newspaper with the date prominently shown in the photo. Why? Because cloned accounts often steal public photos that you’ve posted in the past, and your Profile pic is usually public.

Add a cover image. This photo should show your personality, but should neither be too close to your core identity or too generic. OK – generic is fine, here. Use your own camera to take a photo of the wood grain on your desk. Include any identifying coffee rings and unique tchotchkes; you can use different photos at other angles to prove you are you, later.

IMPORTANT: Avoid using any of the following: patriotic images, treacly “inspirational” photos/quotations, military images, pictures of guns, images showing conspicuous wealth, religious images, children, winsome family pets, or free stock images. Why? These are used by and sought after by imposters. Get into the habit of assuming a few things that may or may not be true:

    • “Military man” in officer’s uniform with numorous decorations on his chesticles: Probably seeks connection with people who have relatives in the military. Looks for flags, eagles, military logos, photos of folks in uniform. Remember: Loose lips sink ships! Try a reverse image search. Play “Who’s that Admiral?”
    • “Military man” in fatigues, blowing shit up: See above, only now you can assume that they’ve assumed your military connections are all enlisted, not officers. Or that you love men who blow shit up and have ready access to lots and lots of firepower. “Hey, ‘bro – wanna hang out at the gun range, some time? I just need to move $900,000,000 and travel to wherever you are, first. Where are you?”
    • “Single/divorced/widowed man with sad eyes, holding small child or puppy on lap”: Ordinary phisher. Appeals to loneliness and kindness. Poor, tragic soul. Probably a teenager overseas, using his one hour at the local internet cafe to try and score a few hundred bucks from idiots in the USA. Real romantic prospects don’t cold DM anyone with “Hey, beautiful” or “what u up to babeeee”.
    • “Man holding cocktail in/in front of his private yacht/jet/exclusive resort, inviting you to join him with his bedroom eyes”: Oh, please. This is the gold digger version of the previous type. They just think you’ll be more likely to bite if you think his prospects of paying you back with exorbitant interest, later, are better. The guy can transfer his own money out of the country on his boat or plane, unless it’s drug money. If it’s drug money, you don’t want any part of that.
    • “Girl taking selfies of her impossibly round ass or boobs in a truck stop bathroom mirror”: Do you men get any variety at all? Do they even try? I get one of these women about every 12th attempt. I didn’t fall for “sad, rich single dad on a yacht”? Maybe I’m a lesbian. Send truck stop girl. I figure they’ll just keep baiting the hook with different worms to see if I’ll ever bite. I am a little insulted that no one has sent me a “Professor buried under a mountain of books in the university library archives” yet.

Seriously, no man or woman worth spit cold DMs a stranger with “Hey beautiful” or “ur pic make me so [adjective] I wan to [obscene verb] you.” But apparently, the flattery and the appeal to empathy/pity/abject horniness work all too well or they’d have given it up a decade ago. So just try not to bait the hook if this isn’t the kind of fish you want to catch.

Do all of the things outlined in this post: So You’re NOT Leaving Facebook? Do not even post on your Facebook wall before taking care of your account settings!

Post one explanatory post on your wall: Why did you start a new Facebook account? Be honest here. Did you forget your password? Were you locked out? Was your old account hacked? (Be sure you understand the difference between “hacked” – taken over by someone else, who can log into the original account, post to it, etc. – and “cloned” – where someone steals your public data and creates a whole NEW account (like you just did, here) to impersonate you. There’s a big difference.) Do not start sending out Facebook Friend Requests just yet!

Find 5-10 real life family members or friends who are known to your other friends and known to be “social media wary.” In other words, the sort that would never accept a Friend Request on the strength of “Mutual Friends” alone. Ask them to post on your wall first, explaining why you opened a new account and asking other relatives and friends to contact them if they have any doubts or questions. Make sure that these people know what’s going on.

Wait 24 to 72 hours. Allow others to send you Friend Requests, but do not start sending them out to all your former connections. Talk to people you know. Go ahead and post to your Profile, and the more you sound like yourself, the better.

Slowly start sending Friend Requests. Start with people you know best, and work outwards towards acquaintances. ENCOURAGE “Mutual Friends” to check with one another before accepting any Friend Requests.

Locked Out – In Facebook Jail

Wait it out. Seriously, just wait it out. Appeal your sentence. Rattle your virtual tin cup against the jail cell bars. Sing loudly and off key. Blog – now is a great time to start your own blog and focus on building a website that you control, rather than donating free content to the Mark Zuckerberg Empire. Think about why you need – IF you need – Facebook at all.

Try https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/801409666590556

Notice that question about AdSense, on the form? Odds are, if you aren’t a Business User, you’ll be met with resounding silence. Facebook Support is not there to help you. It’s barely there to help people who earn it revenue. You’re the product, not the customer. Abandon hope.

Whatever you do, though, do not get scammed into paying a third party “provider” to help you hack your way back into your own account on Facebook. There are thousands of those. As one friend of mine said, recently, “Where there is prey, there are predators.” Just tweet “I’m locked out of my Facebook account” on Twitter, and you’ll see. Just say “no.” Because whatever they’re proposing to do to “help” you will get you in (more) trouble for violating Facebook’s Terms of Service, and will just cost you money. Money that would be better spent on building your own website where you can complain at length about Facebook – or, better yet, ignore Facebook completely, right?