April 17, 2009

A Little Bird Told Me

There is a lot of twittering going on out there. I guess now that Oprah is tweeting (with nearly 120,000 followers after posting her first tweet only 4 hours ago), Twitter has officially become mainstream (you just can't get any more mainstream than Oprah). You can't buy a Fail Whale t-shirt at Target yet, but the mere fact that this image has become a pop culture icon illustrates just how popular Twitter has become -- especially since you don't actually see a Fail Whale unless the network is overloaded!

I've been meaning to post for the last week about my own experience with Twitter. I have been to two tech-oriented conferences in the past month or so, a regional Library Technology Conference in March, and MinneWebCon a week and a half ago. It's only rather recently that I have been able to bring a laptop computer with me to conferences, so it's still very much a novelty to me. (Judging by the number of people with Internet-capable devices on their laps or in their hands at MinneWebCon, I am probably among the last! ). Although handicapped somewhat by the umbilical cord of my power cable (the battery will not hold a charge for more than 5 seconds), I found that technology has enhanced my conference experience in some interesting ways. Not only does it allow me to take notes more efficiently than I could with pen and paper, the wonders of wifi allow me to connect to the Internet and immediately follow up on anything of interest that a speaker mentions (or occupy myself with any number of entertainments, if things get boring). It seems that live blogging is now passé. The latest trend is to tweet one's way through the day.

Continue reading "A Little Bird Told Me"
Posted by ldfs at 12:49 PM

February 5, 2009

On Reaching the Age of Forty

I've never wanted to be older than my current age. While the other girls were pining for the day they'd be old enough to wear make-up and shave their legs, I worried about getting old enough to have to pay bills and taxes. While others looked forward with great anticipation to being old enough to date, drive, stay out past midnight, or drink, time dragged me unwillingly through puberty and into young adulthood. I waited until I was almost seventeen to get my drivers' license (quite a feat in the Midwestern suburbs, believe me).

It's not that I wanted to remain a child. I simply knew that as soon as I got older, I'd wish I had appreciated my youth more. In other words, I spent entirely too much time thinking. I was a strange child who listened when adults said things like, "kids your age always . . ." and "kids your age never . . ." and vowed to myself to be or do just the opposite of what they expected. When I finally did get my drivers' license, I went three months without driving because I heard my dad say he was sure I'd always be asking for the car. I can be stubborn that way.

In some ways, reaching forty feels like reaching a sort of no-man's land. Not young, not old. Every other decade seems more momentous. Thirty was a bigger deal -- sort of the official cusp of adulthood, and fifty sounds more distinguished -- half a century, after all. Forty feels very . . .average, I guess, a state I mostly try to avoid.

O the other hand, in Jewish tradition, 40 is one of the most significant numbers. In the Hebrew Scriptures, it rained for forty days and forty nights during the great flood, and the Jews wandered for forty years in the desert before getting the word they were headed for Israel. So maybe I'm finally leaving no-man's land, rather than entering it. The first forty years of my life were a probationary period, a trial to test and strengthen me for what lies ahead. I'm looking forward to entering the promised land.

Posted by ldfs at 2:17 PM

December 1, 2008

Post-Turkey Ponderings

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It heralds the arrival of winter, which I love, and even if the day after it is undoubtedly the most unabashedly capitalistic one on the calendar, the holiday itself has managed to remain relatively free of the commercialization that plagues pretty much every other American celebration. It really is about being with family and good friends and enjoying the blessings of their company and plenty of good food.

Ah yes, the food. Everyone assumes the Thanksgiving feast they grew up having is the True and Correct menu. Most people don't even think about it until they experience Thanksgiving with a different family and are forced to confront the question of proper side dishes or the conundrum of the pies. This fantastic post says it better than I ever could..

I have been aware for a long time that my family has a few of its own Thanksgiving peculiarities. For one thing, since I grew up with no extended family within a thousand miles, our celebration has always been shared with a motley crew of family friends. As a kid, the core group was always my mom, dad, and sister and one other family of four, with various other people in supporting roles. As I grew older, the group evolved. All but one of the members of the other core family moved out of state and gradually, following in my parents' footsteps, I accumulated a group of friends my age who have now become regulars. The biggest change came two years ago, when we joined forces with my husband's family (including his parents, two sisters, and their families).

With the changing cast of characters, I think our family Thanksgiving traditions have remained more flexible and adaptable than most. Over the years we have incorporated such "innovations" to the menu as mashed potatoes, bread, and even lentil loaf (in addition to, not instead of the turkey), not to mention the comings and goings of dessert fallacies like cheesecake (cheesecake on Thanksgiving? C'mon!). But even in as liberal a household as ours, there are still a few sacred cows. Here are the three commandments of the Friedman Family Thanksgiving:
1)Remember the pickles, and forget not to place them on the festive table. Gotta have pickles.
2)Forsake not the jellied cranberries. The kind in a can that you slice up into discs. Other cranberries may be present, but not to the exclusion of the sacred jellied cranberries.
3)Thou shalt honor and protect the stuffing (and yes, we call it stuffing not dressing, though no one has actually cooked it in the turkey since I was a kid). Ours is made not of breadcrumbs but rather (drumroll, please) . . . noodles, kind of like a savory kugel. I think there was one time my mom tried to substitute a wild rice-based stuffing. We don't talk about that time.

This year we hosted a record 20 guests for dinner, with 3 more for dessert. After the cleaning was all done, the extra chairs and tables stored away, and we collapsed in our beds in the wee hours of Friday morning, thousands of Americans were converging on Wal-Mart and Best Buy, even paying people to hold their place in line. As we snored happily, a man was being crushed to death by shoppers hell-bent on buying a plasma-screen TV for under $800.

I don't even have cable.

Posted by ldfs at 1:45 PM

November 26, 2008

On the Road Again

After just over six months of carlessness, I am now the proud co-owner (along with my husband and the bank) of a brand new, "tidewater blue" 2009 Honda Fit.

Not my actual car, but looks exactly like it.
(courtesy of cathfach724)

This also marks the first time in my life I have owned a car other than a VW. Not that I have owned many cars. I'll be 40 in February and this is only my 2nd car -- well 3rd if you count the junker we had for about a year before we bought the car that died this past May. I inherited the VW habit from my parents, who had a continuous line of VW ownership dating back to the early 60s, when my dad got his first car, a Beetle. Though they did own a Buick station wagon as a second car to haul us kids around when we were little (and the camping gear, natch), we always had at least one VW in the family. The staff at the VW dealership knew my father by name and the guys in the shop always knew to treat us right. When it came time to buy my first car, I had no trouble converting my husband, who was jaded by a series of unimpressive Chevrolets, to the faith. We bought a VW Golf, first the used one I mentioned above, and then a new one, which served us well for 11 years until its sudden decline this past spring. So you'll understand what a shock it was a few years ago when my parents gave up their Passat and bought a Subaru Forester because they needed a car my dad, who has mobility problems, could get in and out of more easily. It was as if they had announced they had announced they were joining the Hare Krishnas. I was at first shaken by their defection from the VW family, but when bolts of lightening did not come and strike them dead, I realized that I, too, could seriously consider looking for a car that didn't necessary come with fahrvergnugen, whatever that is.

Continue reading "On the Road Again"
Posted by ldfs at 9:34 AM

September 18, 2008

Bridge to Somewhere

No, this is not going to be a commentary on Sarah Palin and her dishonest claims to have nobly stood up against pork barrel spending on unnecessary building projects that use taxpayers' money to benefit only a few people on a remote island in Alaska. Oops, too late.

Actually, this post is about the bridge across the Mississippi -- the rebuilt Interstate 35W bridge, which opened early this morning. Although the bridge is little more than a stone's throw from where I currently sit at work, I haven't actually seen it since it opened to the public. I did, however, go on the Star Tribune web site and watch a short video of the first wave of traffic, led by first responders and DOT maintenance trucks, making its way across the river shortly after 5am. You can see the various colored lights of the emergency vehicles twinkling in the darkness like Christmas lights, and hear the honking of the horns.

The whole thing was quite moving, for some reason. I haven't quite been able to put my finger on why. Certainly I'm relieved that the inconvenience of the detours is over, and I'm looking forward to much less traffic at the U of M West Bank exit, now that people won't be so tempted to get off there to use the 10th Avenue Bridge. But it's more than that. I didn't have a close to connection to anyone who was killed or injured when the old bridge fell. There's nothing that explains why I felt so emotional. But watching the two lines of traffic approaching from opposite ends of the bridge move towards each other, finally meeting in the middle and closing the dark chasm with a ribbon of light and sound, I just felt like something important had happened. A connection. A completeness.

I suppose the shine will be off quite quickly. New traffic snarls are already developing south of the bridge where people merge on to westbound Interstate 94. Sooner or later, we'll be hearing about the first fatality on the new bridge from some car accident. The elegant white concrete will inevitably prove an irresistible target for graffiti vandals. In the meantime, I'll enjoy this sense of wholeness, this satisfaction in the rejoining of the northern and southern halves of my city. In the words of E. M. Forster, "Only connect . . . live in fragments no longer."

Posted by ldfs at 12:07 PM