Sporadically Yours

By the time this hits the web, my son will have been fasting in preparation for closed reduction surgery on his right arm. That’s when the parts of a broken bone haven’t lined up properly during the first couple weeks of healing, and surgery is required to avoid subjecting a 7-year-old to a 6-9 month healing period. Okay, so that might not be the generic definition, but it’s the one that applies in this case.

Almost everybody reading this is a friend on Facebook and already knows the above, and that brings me to the main thrust of this post.

Posting out here will become more sporadic, as the social aspect of this blog has dwindled to almost nothing. Also, work trips that once provided content have been reduced due to a shift to remote installs. I’ll still post when a thought or a photo hits me just right. Closing it down completely just doesn’t seem right, after all the work that’s gone into it.

I started blogging after first moving to a new state, and discovered other bloggers through the comment area of an online serial novel by the inimitable Cheeseburger Brown. A few of us became online friends and kept our respective comment areas busy. Thanks to RSS feeds, we knew when someone had posted without having to go back to the site every day. Sometimes a post would get 20-plus comments, often from only three or four of us going back and forth, and stat counters showed many more were reading but not commenting.

We weren’t setting any records for unique hits, but we were having fun. In fact, eventually it led to three of us meeting up in person and hitting it off well. We have met annually ever since, once with spouses in tow, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen this year.

Well before those last two annual meetings, the blog posts became increasingly sporadic, and we communicated primarily via e-mail. I had run out of funny stories from my past, and my staying up late to write fiction had to stop. Combine that with Facebook’s meteoric rise in popularity, and where some of us would have developed a thought into a full blog post in the past, we settled for a mere status update on Facebook.

Despite what some of them tell you, most writers love nothing more than a large number of readers, and my blogging friends and I are writers on at least some level, if not attention whores (there’s a difference?). I suspect that the veritable ghost town left by the desertion of the blog readers also left some of us craving the attention we once enjoyed. The large number of people on Facebook satiated that thirst.

However, I still feel that there’s something missing from the days of reading a few pithy entries written by a few people, rather than hundreds of throwaway missives written by 300 to 500 of my closest friends. A certain intimacy has been lost, and because I can check Facebook only at home or from another wi-fi connection, the folks I might care to keep up with get buried under the inane status updates posted all day while I’m at work.

To combat this, I created a Facebook group called True Friends. I culled about 100 friends from my full 300-plus list and put them in that group, and then set everything on my profile visible only to True Friends by default. I also set my Newsfeed to show items only from that group. Although it has helped a little, I’m finding that 100 still is too many.

I have used the Notes feature a few times to cross-post thoughts from the blog, but I suspect most Facebook users see anything more than a few sentences as too long. In fact, I’m surprised you’re still reading this.

In some ways, logging onto Facebook is like showing up to a huge party and flitting about from person to person, giving a shoulders-in, butt-out hug to each before saying a few words and moving along. I’ve always preferred small gatherings with a few friends, and I get the opposite experience on Facebook. I think that’s why I see the decline of our blogging community as a loss.

Trifle of an Eiffel (Pic of the Week)

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My college (and beyond) buddies Barrett and Alvis (L to R) stand under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas. We stopped on a recent road trip. The town added the cowboy hat back when it was battling a Tennessee burg for the tallest Eiffel Tower reproduction in the United States, but then the one in Las Vegas easily overshadowed both. It was my first time to visit the site (and I think theirs, too). (click the pic to enlarge)

Art Walk of the Wispy

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Benjamin uses sidewalk chalk from boxes shared among various children and adults inspired to create their own art on the sidewalk and stairs surrounding the McKinney Performing Arts Center (formerly the Collin County Courthouse). Each second Saturday, artists display their wares — some created on the spot — while locals and visitors wine, dine, and stroll away the day. It is called Art Walk, and extends to about a block beyond the square on all sides. (photos of the art after the jump – click image to enlarge)

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The boy and I left behind his mother, who still was suffering a nasty bout of pleurisy that made it painful to breathe deeply, laugh, cough, or move. That and springtime allergies made it a very poor time for her to get out for some fresh air.

When he wasn’t scraping a colored stick across cement, Benjamin pushed around on his scooter. I took pictures, people-watched, and reminded him to keep his wheels off the art. He smeared tracks across only a few of the works which, admittedly, were meant mostly to advertise the artist and/or a studio’s web site, and would not survive the next rain.

That rain came the very next night, so I’m glad I preserved some of these works.

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Heyzoos in Boots

On a recent trip returning from a funeral in Texarkana, Texas, my friends and I stopped in Paris. My initial reason for taking the scenic route home was to see the town’s own scale model of the Eiffel Tower — with a cowboy hat on top.

But that picture and story are for another day.

Tipped by a friend at the funeral, we walked into the visitor center near the Eiffel Tower to ask someone where to find the grave featuring Jesus wearing cowboy boots. We got much more than just directions.

Down one of the corridors, a heavy wooden door opened and various people filed out of what appeared to be a conference room. It reminded me of the dispersal following a construction bid meeting back when I was a business reporter. Nobody was very excited.

“Hello,” I said to one of a few men wearing matching blue Polo-style shirts emblazoned with a logo over the left pectoral. I was carrying my DSLR camera, so I’m sure to some of them I seemed a bit like a reporter, nosing around a meeting during business hours.

“May I help you?” said the man. He had brown hair and was in his mid-40’s.

“We had heard from someone that there’s a gravesite in town with a Jesus wearing cowboy boots. Do you know what I’m talking about?”

One of the other men, probably about 20 years older than the first, perked up. “Oh, sure, come on in here and take a look at this.”

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Just Pause It

For children today, the word “pause” is such a natural part of language that they use it in things unrelated to devices. One day my 7-year-old son and I pretended to be Transformers while he got ready for bed. Naturally, Optimus Prime couldn’t very well tell Ironhide “I love you” and tuck him into his recharging chamber. “Hey, let’s pause the game for a minute,” my son said. I hugged him and kissed his cheek. “Okay, un-pause now,” he said, and again we were good-guy robots from another planet.

When I was my son’s age, we didn’t have Transformers, and we didn’t use the word “pause” in everyday conversation. Though it hasn’t risen as quickly as “delete,” thanks to technology it has become ubiquitous.

Most households in my childhood experience had a pause button on a cassette player, but I’m willing to bet that it was used only by those of us who actually made recordings. That strange double-vertical-dash symbol meant almost nothing to those outside that somewhat geeky circle. “Man, that deejay started talking before I could hit pause. Now Santana’s ‘I’m Winning’ will always have that guy’s voice on the end.”

When VCR’s became popular, the pause button saw more action across various demographics, and I suspect the word did, too. “Hey, ____, I’ll pause this for you while you go fetch me a ______.”

CD players brought their own pause button, with a unique spin. That is, the disc continued to spin but the laser stopped reading the grooves. It harkened back to the original pause “button” — gently lifting the needle from the record. “Why did you pause that?” “Because all you Fred Flintstone motherf—–” are jumping around making my disc skip. Now cut it out.” (Don’t hate the cursing, that’s an actual quote from a college party in an old house with wood floors on a raised foundation.) Other disc-based technologies carried on that same tradition.

Game consoles, PC games, and handheld gaming devices allowed the player to pause a game, often only after certain checkpoints were reached. “Dude, I totally paused our game, so you can go tell my mom to bring us some more beer to stock the basement ‘fridge.” Or, “Little Johnny, pause that game now or you will not get any food at this buffet.”

Then came the one that really changed it all — the Tivo. With it and the many similar recorders that came after, one could pause “live” television. “Hey, pause that, I think Janet Jackson’s boob just popped out.” “Don’t be preposterous, that was merely — oh, my, well I never!”

We can see, then, how pause — as a function and a word — has become such an integral part of lives touched by technology. Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, I couldn’t have predicted it.

What word will our children’s children use every day that we will rarely hear in our lifetime?