Friday, August 08, 2014

Did You Like Me?

Having the Facebook page has been interesting. I'm not sure people understand that they can "like" the page. I'm not sure why I should care. I think Facebook assumes pages are about promoting a business. I get messages about how a given post is performing. And numbers about how many people have been "reached". I really wonder how these numbers are gathered. If I look at the page or a post three times does it count as three? I'm trying not to think about it too much. When I used to write more regularly I spent a silly amount of time checking my stats. I'm not above caring about attention  but the purpose of the page is to nudge me into writing.
John McPhee wrote a piece that is (remarkably) available in full. I first read it right after I'd returned from three months visiting Mom and just before the idea of moving to the nest.  At that time I was determined to rewrite The Book. Moving took over and it never happened. McPhee writes about using letter writing as a way to cross "the electric fence from the actual world to the writing world." That wouldn't work for me. Even writing email sometime causes me to seize up.
He goes on to write about the pleasure of rewriting. I love rewriting. It's been a really long time since I wrote in any kind of sustained manner. But when I was writing for school my favorite thing was the rewriting. Once I showed David something I was working on and in about three minutes he'd marked it up in ways that taught me how to think about reorganization. Jo Ann did something similar when she told me to take out all the "ands" in something and see which ones I felt I needed to put back. I do over use the word and. I like it because it's the way I think. And. And. And. Or. But. But. But. But....she had a point. Those two moments taught me more about how to think about writing than all of the hours in MFA workshops put together.
He writes" Until it exists, writing has not really begun."
I've reread his piece a few times and reread it again as I began this recent push. He writes about something that is very true for me.

What I have left out is the interstitial time. You finish that first awful blurting, and then you put the thing aside. You get in your car and drive home. On the way, your mind is still knitting at the words. You think of a better way to say something, a good phrase to correct a certain problem.
When I wrote daily everything was a writing prompt. And if I was working on something it was in my thoughts like a constant buzz. Some of that has returned.
I have been checking Whiskey River most days. This bit is worth a full read but the line about writing because one is unemployable made me smile.
There have been times in my life when writing was a source of comfort. It was mostly journal writing and not writing I ever imagined anyone would read. Or if they did read it I'd be dead and they'd find my journals and then it wouldn't really matter if I'd said something stupid, or said it badly. At least not to me.
Very often, maybe always, when someone likes something I've written and leaves a comment, I reread what I've written. I'm trying to understand what it was that was appealing. I fret over something I could have said better. I wonder if I was clear. I can never separate from the imagined reader. It may or may not trouble the writing.
The page has 32 likes. Apparently I should aspire to reach 100. I can't see that happening. I can't say I wouldn't be happy if it were true. When I get a new like I feel very Sally Fields.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Mood Swing

When I heard that Facebook had been manipulating feeds in an attempt to mess with our moods I smiled. On any given day my feed is filled with pictures of cats and dogs. So many of my friends are passionate about animals. Not that pictures of cats and dogs can't be depressing. I have learned shocking things about what happens to animals on Facebook. More than once I've heard about a pet being dropped off at a shelter when they are too old or infirmed. Concentrically, the number of stories I read about pet rescues are heart warming. Sometimes there are ducks. Chickens. All manner of animals being adorable.
My feed is also full of platitudes. These actually often have an impact on my mood but not the one they're intended to have. Obviously a good attitude makes life easier but being able to feel all the possible emotions is a good thing. Platitudes often feel like scolding. We are being taught to focus on personal responsibility too often in stead of questioning institutions.
I read a really interesting rant on disability, which stimulated much thinking. I love when that happens.

"We are learning strength and endurance, not against our bodies and our diagnoses, but against a world that exceptionalizes and objectifies us. I really think that this lie that we’ve been sold about disability is the greatest injustice. It makes life, it makes life hard for us. And that quote, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude” the reason that that’s bullshit is because it’s just not true, because in the social model of disability. No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it into a ramp. Never. You know, smiling at a television screen is not going to make closed captions appear for people who are deaf. No amount of standing in the middle of a bookshelf and radiating a positive attitude is going to turn all those books into braille. It’s just not going to happen.It’s just not going to happen."

Exactly. Sometimes it's not about you. Sometimes it's about us. Sometimes it's about how we decide to be as a community.
And then there is politics. Oh politics. I follow a lot of political people and political news so my feed is full of stuff much of which is just not useful. Almost every day I see a post from the left followed by a post from the right both of which are saying things in an inflammatory way. Much of which is slamming the other side. I lean left. Lean far enough that I am close to submerged. And even when I agree with things that are being said I recoil at some of the posts on Facebook. I feel out rage and there are times when it feels satisfying to read someone being extreme but I'm not interested in that as a daily ritual. I'm interested in understanding.
I find it hard to take a public political stand these days for that reason. Things feel complicated to me. Most of my friends lean left but I have a few friends who are far more to the right than I knew. If I could sit face to face with them I'd engage in debate but I see things in comment boxes that make me cringe. And I want to jump in. Then I'm in a conversation with my friend and their friends. And I feel manic. I feel like I can't type fast enough.  
My mood is impacted in the moment that I read some things. My mood is impacted by what's going on in the world. But that isn't about Facebook.
My ... um ...mood has always been slippery. I can fall down a tunnel of gloom for no obvious reason and slip into near bliss at the oddest times. I've worked on being flexible enough to ride these waves. Facebook can experiment on me. I doubt they can keep up.
Oh. And the food. My feed has pictures of food. How PoMo is that?

Monday, August 04, 2014


I read an article in Harper's about people my age and older living in camper trailers and working in random jobs including Amazon warehouse work. The title and focus of the article is The End of Retirement. I also heard the writer on NPR and MSNBC. Her focus is important because it talks about how many people are working past what is thought of as retirement age. And working hard. Some of them had great jobs, made great money and lost everything in the crash. Some of them are people like me who worked hard but never really made enough to save.
Mom retired when she was 55. Her husband continued to work for a few more years and his money is the reason she lived as well as she did. Her frugality is another. And it is the reason I have a home and food in my refrigerator. The amount of money I have in savings and will get from Social Security wouldn't be enough to manage this. I am grateful and humbled and I also know that  I worked really hard in my life. Working really hard ought to add up to something. And I know that I would still be dragging myself to EA if they hadn't laid me off.
It's sad to say it that way because there are people who want to work at EA. Gamers are a culture and I was never really part of it. I still love my Sims. I am more of a gamer than most of the people I know but I was not gamer enough comparatively. The commute was brutal. The job was frustrating mostly because of the way things are there. I loved working on Sims2 but was so disappointed in Sims3.  And still I worked as hard as I could and I imagined I'd be there until I was in my seventies.
I've worked with older cooks and wait-people. Restaurant work is brutal. Physically, emotionally. And yet we all worked with as much humor and camaraderie as we could. I knew I couldn't do it much longer when I was in my forties. Hence college and the rest of that story.
Hard work. Education. It's supposed to add up. It shouldn't be so crazy hard to have a simple life.
The article talks about how relatively new retirement is and how it wasn't that long ago that people worked until they fell over. And there are more places in the world where people work well into old age than there are places where people retire. There are also people  who keep working because they love their work.The notorious RBG comes to mind. But the article is about the ideas we have and how they are not really true for so many people.
Harper's put a link to the article on their Facebook page and both there and on the NPR page it got a lot of push back. The article was talking about things from the perspective of how we imagine life in this country and what's real. The writer worries about what happens to people as they become too old to work. She worries about how they drive to Mexico to get dental work. But she also wrote about about the ways community built up among the people in their campers. And the ways in which living with less was freeing. Not enough for many of the people in the comment sections but it seemed to me she did.
I am a fan of tiny houses. I look at them all the time. I can't imagine not living here in the nest but I do often think about how I would design a house big enough for me and my books and still small. I imagine a piece of land big enough for a few of my friends and a garden and a greenhouse with a small lap pool. Swim and read and eat food from the garden. Yep. My paradise. I have most of that in the nest. I am that fortunate.
Younger people are choosing the tiny house lifestyle because it is affordable and it is stepping out side of the consumer lifestyle and enjoying living with much less. All of that is cool.
After I wrote about music yesterday and listened the new Chrissie Hynde six or seven more times (it's on right now) I wanted to own the disc. It reminded me of Veblen and the stacks of  sheet music on pianos in parlors where they were meant to display taste and culture. If I see a CD rack in your home I will look to see who you like. Same thing with books. Owning the disc is like claiming my cultural position. I imagine the fact that Facebook is letting everyone know who  I am listening to is the same thing.
There's an intersection of consumerism and working too hard to afford crap and loving things because they mean something and needing other people to know you like who you like and letting it all go. But letting it all go to be more Zen or less invested in being hip is different from working jobs that don't pay well and are hard on your body when you're older. In the article she talks about the trailer camps being decorated with bird houses and lawn ornaments. Some times stuff is just about making beauty.
Should we expect to be able to retire? Maybe not. Work is how we participate. I just come from an each according to his ability place. In Amazon warehouses someone my age is swallowing handfuls of Ibuprofen to get through the day of concrete floors and  repetitive motion. I was up to 20 pills a day when I left EA.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Blogging Around

In the past when I had nothing to write about but wanted to blog I'd redesign my site. I used WYSIWYG software and was often frustrated when I'd see the site on another computer and it looked nothing like I'd planned. I moved to Blogger when I was visiting Mom years ago because I couldn't take my computer with me but I could sign onto Blogger with her computer. I moved here exclusively when I started trying to blog again. I have never figured out how to assign to the blogger page and I worry about losing access to some of the old things. The posts. The links.
Blogger has added so many new features to the design tools. It's pretty easy now. And yet, this morning I couldn't get into it. I deleted some things from the blog roll either because they weren't being updated or because I just don't read the darn thing anymore. I did check some things out. The web is still an amazing place. Full of beauty.
I found Paul's blog, which I was aware of but it had seemed to be focused on design the last time I checked. This morning I checked out his music streaming suggestions. As I type I am listening to Rdio. I haven't spent much time with it but so far it seems a lot like Spotify to me. I am ambivalent about both. I wasn't able to sign onto Beats. Some problem with the way I was entering my birthday confused them. I'm unlikely to ever pay for any of these services. I won't use them often enough and the commercials don't bug me
Music was such a huge part of my day for so many years. There was always an alternative radio station. And there was the newest album usually by a female singer/songwriter.  I can't even track when it stopped being a reflex. I've been working on breaking up the background noise of news with dedicated times of silence. I mostly listen to music on the weekends. That's just crazy.
Two years ago I ripped my entire CD collection into an IPod and started listening to music more often. But it isn't a reflex. I listen to jazz and classical from my cable provider but those stations are just ... weak. I learned about Radio Paradise last year and it's pretty great. When I worked at EA I listened to and still do from time to time. But I have no habits.
And I don't buy new music. I don't have a lot of money. I always want books. I have downloaded about twenty tunes in the last ten years. I heard that Chrissie Hynde had a new disc out and I've been listening to it over and over on the streaming services. Morrisey has a new disc. Swoon.
I checked in on a few old favorite blogs. I should check Whiskey River and Wood's Lot every day. I always feel rebooted when I do.
I played with the colors and the font. Eh.
My effort is to build up the muscle tone I had when blogging was the firs thing I did every day. It wasn't always great writing but it was reflective. It got me out of my own inner dialogue in some ways.
So I'm in the shallow end of the pool.
And now I'm going to listen to my new favorite song.