Category Archives: Technology

Are You Techno-Squeamish?

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I have issues when it comes to technology.

Sure, my computer ate my life.

But I’ve other issues, too.

My friend Jill recently brought to my attention that I’ve been sending out SPAMMY email.

She sent me the screen shot.

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Groupon. Hmm. I could use a keratin treatment. Wait. Whaaaaat?

I was like: Whaaaaat? I would never send Jill anything like that.

And then another friend told me she’d been getting SPAM from me about once a month for the last six months. But she’s just been deleting the messages.

Maybe you’ve even gotten SPAM from me!

{Have you? If you have, I am really sorry!}

Anyway, guess what I’m doing on Thursday night?

Besides DVRing the finale of Project Runway?

I’m taking a class called:

Who Wants To Know? Internet Privacy & Security

The instructor, Jay Donovan, will introduce techniques for safer web surfing, keeping your address & phone number offline, reducing the chances of your accounts being hacked, better ways to hide behind a pen name, and more.

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This is Jay. Doesn’t he have the cutest neck?

I’m prepared for Jay to wag his bony cyber-finger at me. I’m prepared to shudder in fear when he tells me how vulnerable I really am.

I mean, I have a bunch of email accounts and a blog. And like most bloggers, I have several ways to be reached online. I’ve got my Twitter and my Instagram and my two Facebook pages. I’m on Pinterest and LinkedIn and Behance. I could go on.

The point is, you see how wired I am, yes?

But I’m committed to learning about how to be safely social on the Internet while keeping my personal information private.

Jay has been helping me with a lot of stuff for a while now, and I really trust him. A geek since before geeks were cool, he’s done it all: from remotely debugging the Internet connection for a US aircraft carrier deployed to *somewhere classified* to being responsible for the servers and networks for one of the largest Internet sites in the world. He’s trained as a Certified Ethical Hacker (yes, really!) and always uses his geeky powers for good. When he’s not neck deep in wires and computer parts, you’ll find him hanging out on Twitter as @jaytechdad. 

For just $40, you can be part of the class and the conversation taking place this Thursday, April 25th from 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm, EST.

Click HERE for more information and to register!

Please consider joining me in class this Thursday.

Just don’t tap your cyber-pencil or snap your cyber gum.

Cuz that’s like cyber-fingernails on an invisible chalkboard.

Or something.

Seriously, come hang with me and a bunch of other geeky kids.

I’ll save you a seat. Like totally.

tweet us @rasjacobson & @jaytechdad

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How Facebook Reconnected Me To My Ex-BoyFriend’s Wonky Groove

Gratitude to Loretta Stephenson @WANA Commons for the use of this image

Not long ago, I received a private message on Facebook from a stranger who turned out to be one of my ex-boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends.

This woman expressed concern that her ex – a man I used to live with – might be unstable, perhaps dangerous, and she hoped I could provide her with some background to help her understand what had happened in my now twenty years dead relationship.

I remembered the good things first.

How he brought me flowers and played with my curls. How we’d hiked and biked, ridden horses and picked wildflowers. How he gave me heart-shaped rocks.

How he made me feel.

After someone else had left me broken.

We played house in a rat-infested shack.

We went to university, learned our professions well.

But one day, he accused me of eating all his peaches.

And the next day, he stopped listening to my poetry.

He went out late and came home later, smelling of beer.

I learned he slept with another woman.

When I decided to leave, he came home as I was gathering up my last box of things and shoved me against a wall.

With his hands pressed against my shoulders, he shouted too close to my face. “You promised you’d never leave!”

Then he slid to the floor.

I kept moving.

Because I knew it was a trap.

He’d always used my words against me, twisted things around to make me feel like I was in the wrong. I was tired of being the bad one.

He followed me outside to my car. It was summer, and he stood on the hot driveway wearing shorts and wool socks as he leaned against my open window.

“I can’t believe you’re leaving me.” His long eyelashes were wet. “You’re just like everyone else.”

I remembered I’d left my purple and green tapestry inside, but I decided he could have it.

Because I wasn’t going back.

Alone in my new apartment, I mourned the death of our love. I remembered how he begged me to stop taking my birth control pills. We’ll make beautiful babies together, he had whispered in my ear as we laid together on our futon in the dark.

Somehow I knew his words were wishes, not promises. They were just words without rings or commitment attached.

Somehow I knew to get out.

In the Facebook message from the ex-girlfriend, I learned there is a collection of women who have been wined and dined, then made to feel small, cheated on, and dumped by this same man.

If this is true, it means that for decades, he has brought one woman after another into his home. That he has fathered children, but abandoned their mothers.

I was sad.

Because I’d always said if he couldn’t find happiness with me, I’d hoped he could find it with someone else.

And I was sincere when I said that.

But it sounds like he is still tortured by the devils that were chasing him when we first met, that he has become the person he said he would never be.

I also learned I have a bit of a reputation.

Apparently, I’m “The Smart One Who Got Away.”

And that is partly true.

I did get away.

But I hate hearing that this man is broken, a scratched up record with the needle stuck in the same rut, and that this wonky groove is still the rhythm of his life.

And I hate hearing that he is smearing women against the sky.

Have you ever received second-hand news about a lost love? What did you learn? What did you say? Feel?

tweet me @rasjacobson

When a Walk in the Park is Not a Walk in the Park

“A girl from school wrote that she was going to kill herself on Facebook.”

Up until then, the leaves under our feet made swishy, dry sounds. But I stopped moving.

I needed to sit down, but he didn’t want to so I had to keep walking.

“She said goodbye and everything. I didn’t find out about it until after it happened.”

I held my breath as we passed the trees that had turned gold.

Tinker Park. Henrietta, New York. Fall 2012

“Is she okay?” I asked, praying hard for this girl who was suddenly with us like the wind in the trees.

“Her friends contacted her mother or something. She’s in the hospital.”

“Do you know her?” I shoved my hands in my pockets.

“Not really. I found out from a friend.”

We stopped at the water’s edge and found each other’s eyes.

“I want you to promise me something.”

My son looked at me. He knew what I was going to say. But I said it anyway.

“If someone threatens to hurt themselves or someone else on Facebook or in a text or in real life, you have to promise me that you will take it seriously.”

“I will.”

“No matter where I am. You have to contact me. I’ll help you do whatever we need to do.”

My son tilted his chin. “Sometimes you can’t answer your phone.”

He had me there. Because when I am teaching, I can’t take calls. Or answer texts.

The wind blew cool air though my sweater.

“You know what I mean. You can leave me a message. I can check messages. If there is an emergency, I can always make time.”

My son nodded.

The sun was going down as we turned down the mossy path.

As my feet moved, I thought about the girl’s mother. How terrified she had to be.

I thought of a car accident that occurred just a few miles down the road: how a young driver had been speeding through a residential neighborhood and smashed into a bus. They could have all been killed, but they weren’t.

I thought of my son who has been quiet lately. How we don’t connect the way we used to. How I don’t know what he does for most of his day. How he is going on a trip to New York City on a school field-trip in a few weeks.

I won’t be there.

And what if he needs me?

“Mom,” Tech called. He’d stopped to inspect something on the ground. “Come check out this bug carcass.”

I looked at my son. I thought he was going to say thank you. Or run over and hug me. Or tell me how glad he was that we had talked. I thought a lot of things. But he didn’t do or say any of the things he used to do and say so readily.

“Let me take a picture of you,” he said, holding out his hand for the camera.

So I posed for him.

“You okay?” he asked, a line creased his forehead.

I told him that I was fine, but it was a lie.

Because 8th graders shouldn’t be thinking about killing themselves.

They shouldn’t be thinking about dying.

Back at the car, we noticed our shadows.

“My shadow is taller than yours,” my son smiled. “I’m catching up to you.”

I looked at the red and the yellow and the green around me. I looked at my son in his maroon hoodie which will soon be too small for him. A gust blew some leaves off the trees. They soared over our heads and then fell on the grass, quivering.

I know time is passing, but is it so wrong to want things to stay like this for a little while longer?

I’m not ready for winter.

When is the last time you slowed down, unplugged and took a walk with someone you care about? Do me a favor, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Or write that person a letter. Do something to show someone you care about them today. What is one beautiful thing you can do to show someone they are important to you? Or (conversely), what do you wish someone would do or say to you today. Let me be that person.

tweet me @rasjacobson

Lessons From Ants: Rebuilding After The Storm

photo from Jason Bolonski via flickr.com

Have you ever watched ants after a storm? They don’t stand around. There are the egg-movers and the sand-shifters. Maybe there are a few complainishy-ants who stomp their six legs or shrug their thoraxes, but I suspect ants just accept things. Their instinct tells them to get to rebuildin’.

It’s what they do.

By now, most of my regular readers know my last computer died in August.

If you are new here, you need to know I was stupid and didn’t have a single thing backed up.

But let’s go back to the ants, shall we?

Unlike ants that tend to construct what appears to be essentially the same structure after each storm, I realized (after a lot of crying) in being forced to start over from scratch, I was given an opportunity.

My blog was unaffected by the great crash.

Don’t get me wrong, I lost a boatload of unfinished blog posts that I had not yet uploaded to WordPress.

But as I waited for the new computer to arrive, I realized I could just keep going along as I have been.

Or I could use the opportunity to shake things up here, too.

Things Have Changed

Some of the information on my blog is not up-to-date. First of all, I’m not currently teaching. And while it hurts my head and my heart to call myself a “former teacher,” I have to get over that and face reality. Right now, I don’t have a classroom. Or students.

And helping my niece with her college essay last weekend doesn’t count.

(Or does it?)

When I started my blog, my initial concept was to create a place where education and parenting collide. I wanted to tell stories about great teachers and teachers who bit the big one. I wanted to share my favorite stories from the classroom from decades ago and explain what I was seeing in the classroom now.

I wanted people to know that on any given day anyone can be a teacher, and the guy with three PhDs can be the biggest doofus in the room.

And that worked. For a while.

But then I found I had other stories to tell.

Stories that were not education related.

And if they didn’t fit at Teachers & Twits, I felt compelled to post them elsewhere.

Like I could be funny at Ironic Mom’s or Jamie’s Rabbits. Or I could talk about the grittier aspects of my personal life at The Monster in My Closet or I Survived The Mean Girls. Or I could be naughty and expose my inner chipmunk at Go Jules Go.

And while guest posting has led to wonderful cyber-friendships, I want my blog to be the place where I feel like I can write about anything.

Last year, best-selling author and social media expert, Kristen Lamb, told me I needed to rename my blog. She even gave me the tagline! It went with the book I was writing and it would have allowed me a lot of freedom to write about anything and everything.

But I was scared.

I wasn’t ready.

The crash has provided me with time to think.

What do I want? How can I be better? What do I want my blog to look like? What are my writing goals?

I looked carefully at my blog and my content.

What Did I Learn?

  1. I’m terrible about following up on posts that could use follow-up.
  • For example, after I wrote Helplessly Hoping David Crosby Notices Me, something magical happened at the concert! Did I ever write about it? No! Why? I don’t know. I mean, I do. I was planning Tech’s bar mitzvah and time got away from me. And then it felt like it was too far away. But still, I think I should follow up.
  • Oh, and remember I’m Sorry The United States Postal Service Wrecked Your Christmas? I wrote that when the package I sent to my niece and nephew never made to them. Yeah, there was follow up there, too. And I should write about that. But maybe I should wait to tell you until it’s closer to Christmas. See? That’s what I do. I have to just write the piece and not worry about the timing of the post.

2. I need to get better at following up and linking up to people who inspire some of my posts.

  • Recently, MJ Monaghan wrote a piece about internet problems and shoes. And Mark Kaplowitz wrote about really expensive high top sneakers. And I just wrote about my new boots that are effing killing me. Well, I need to remember to link up to those people! But I forget. How do people remember to do that? I need a strategy. Meanwhile, feel free to check out these pieces now. Great writers., the both of them.

3. I need a hook. Something that people know is my thing. Something that I can write about all the time and that I can love enough to commit to writing about regularly. I have ideas, but I’m open to suggestions.

4. I can’t realistically post 3 times a week.

  • I am a very slow typist. It takes me a ridiculously long time to craft a post.
  • I am a busy mother and wife.
  • Over the last few years, real-life friendships have suffered because of the hours I spend sitting at the keyboard. I am a hard worker, but I need to nurture real-life friendships, too. And exercise.

5. I am fortunate.

  • I was able to afford a new computer.
  • My husband realizes how important my writing is to me.
  • My son is a miracle. He set everything up – including my new external hard drive — and I’m pretty sure he could earn a solid living right now by offering twits like me technical support.
  • So many people helped me during this difficult time. Kelly at Dances With Chaos offered to have her husband take a look-see at my hard-drive before I sent it to Temple, Texas where it is currently being checked for signs of life. Kathy Owen checked in with me regularly via Twitter and telephone to make sure I was okay. Amber West introduced me to Google Docs and has captivated me with a new project! Gene Lempp responded in great detail to a comment I’d left on his blog, offering feedback that has my mind churning. In a good way.
  • And El Farris of Running From Hell With El managed to dig up a copy of my fiction manuscript from before the crash and was gracious enough to send it to me. So I have a place to start with when I’m ready to start working on that again.

Nobody freak out, I’m keeping my URL.

No links will be broken.

I’m still rasjacobson.com.

But.

I’m also renée a. schuls-jacobson.

Welcome to my blog.

Come sit over here. I have cupcakes. 😉

Some other changes are a-comin’.

And I’m excited.

But nervous.

Like a wee ant, I am starting from the ground up.

So the task feels big and scary.

And I want to get it right.

I watched a lot of Laverne & Shirley growing up, and there were plenty of episodes where one or the other of them would end up crying over something that seemed monumental at the time, but that was actually not that big of things given the larger scheme of things. And one of them would end up singing to her friend, to remind her that she could do whatever it was that seemed insurmountable on that day.

I guess I’m Shirley singing to Laverne.

Or that ant singing to myself.

Or something.

I hope you’ll stick around and hold my cyber hand as I slowly roll things out.

I’ve already made a few, do you see them?

I’ll be making changes slowly over the next few years weeks.

I’ve got high hopes that the decisions I’m making are good ones. Maybe.

When’s the last time you squished an ant? Cuz they are pretty freakin’ smart. 😉

Tweet this twit @rasjacobson

To the Pretty Girl Texting in the Car Next to Me

photo from poka0059 via flickr.com

Dear Pretty Girl:

I saw you today as I sat idling at a red light. You were in the blue Prius, and your blonde hair was pulled back in a high ponytail. You had long, thin arms and high cheekbones. As we waited, I noticed your smile. You threw your head back in an open-mouthed laugh. Your teeth were straight and white. You didn’t see me, but I saw you. You picked up your phone to send someone a text.

I kind of freaked out a little. Because as much as I like to think of myself as a rule breaker, well… when it comes to breaking rules that could impact other people’s safety, I guess I’m not so cool with that.

I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you didn’t about New York State’s “Distracted Driver Law” that says folks are not supposed to text while driving. In fact, if you are even caught holding a cell phone in your hand while driving, you are subject to a $150 fine and 2 points on your license. But it wasn’t the practical stuff that bugged me.

See, I imagined my 13-year-old son sharing the road with you in a few years.

I pictured him, seated right where you were — in the driver’s seat — sending texts. Watching you, I got scared.

Like most parents, I want to believe: My kid would never do that.

But they do.

I mean, you were.

And you are someone’s daughter, Pretty Girl.

As red changed to green, I hoped you’d toss your phone aside, but your hot pink cell phone was pressed against the steering wheel as you rolled forward into the world.

So now I watch for pretty girls in blue cars.

I remembered a Public Service Announcement commissioned by AT&T that I had seen a while back that highlighted the dangers of texting while driving. I thought I would share it.

Because the kids are back in school.

And many of them are new drivers.

And the short film makes a pretty big impact about the risks of texting while driving.

Please watch this video and talk about the behavior as a family. Because we all know, it isn’t just kids who text and drive.

Adults do it, too.

I know it’s hard to ignore the thing that bings and pings and buzzes, especially when it is on the seat right next to you.

But we all have to try a little harder.

Have you ever sent a text while driving? Why can’t some people resist the urge to respond to a text message? Do you think texting is an addiction?

Update: I just learned my friend Stacey at transplantednorth wrote on this same topic a few days ago! If you are so inclined, check it out HERE!

tweet this twit @rasjacobson

Rebooting Myself After The Great Computer Crash: You Gotta Back That Thang Up

photo from mandyxclear @ flickr.com

It’s not like there weren’t signs.

There were.

I just wanted Mac to make it to my son’s bar mitzvah.

I promised Mac would be able to rest the very next day. So despite his advanced age, I pushed my computer to stay with me until June 23, 2012.

But then I heard Mountain Lion was coming out.

So I waited.

And all through July, I continued to pressure Mac to perform.

Even though I knew he was crashing.

Because he kept crashing.

Whenever Mac went down, I’d curse, get a snack and a drink, give him a few minutes to cool down, then I’d press the power button. And Mac would hum to let me know he wasn’t too furious, and he’d take me back to the lovely blue screen.

Until one day, he didn’t.

On Friday, August 24th, I held an 8 gig flash drive in my hand. I’d planned to back up all my files so I could transfer everything to the new computer, the one I was going out to buy – right after I had transferred all my files.

I was greeted by a white screen.

Reacting to Trouble

If you see this, you should probably start crying. Maybe.

After attempting to reboot several times, I put my face close to Mac’s LCD, and when I listened, I heard Mac making quiet beeping noises – like the countdown to some kind of nuclear detonation. After a moment, the icon of a dark gray file folder appeared in the center of the white screen. Centered inside the folder was an ominous flashing question mark.

Four hours later, I dragged the entire mess to a well-respected computer data retrieval professional. Several of us stood in a queue, holding our boxes and cables, the pieces-parts of our sundry devices. Looking grief-stricken, we spoke in hushed tones about the symptoms of our beloved electronics and dared to guess their prognoses.

When it was Mac’s turn to be seen, Lou performed all kinds of procedures.

Nothing worked.

Lou asked if he could hold onto my computer for 24 hours. He wanted to try one more test.

Of course, I agreed.

Anything to resurrect Mac long enough to extract his memories, my memories.

*weep*

As I waited to hear from Lou, I considered what I had potentially lost:

  • 20 years of English curricula
  • Irreplaceable letters of recommendation
  • The contact information for everyone I know
  • My calendar information
  • 34,000 songs uploaded from CDs (not purchased from iTunes)
  • Decades of photographs & videos

But by far the worst thing was the realization that I had lost my writing.

  • Over 400 poems
  • Twenty short stories
  • A full-length non-fiction memoir
  • And my current 400-page fiction manuscript, which was on the 2nd draft of revisions.

But you had backed things up, right?

All I can do is hang my head in shame.

No.

No, I didn’t.

And how stupid was that?

If you do not have at least one external hard drive, do yourself a favor and get one. Set it to back-up daily or, at least, weekly.

Several people tell me they keep one flash drive outside their homes, with friends or in a safe deposit box. That way, in the case of fire or flood, they feel secure knowing they still have a copy of their most beloved photographs and other hard to replace documents.

You mean you didn’t have Dropbox/iCloud?

Image representing Dropbox as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Both Dropbox and iCloud provide “invisible storage.” You  put your faith that someone else’s server is going to do a good job for you. Dropbox is a cool tool, but it is not meant to store thousands of photographs. When you sign up, the folks at Dropbox provide you with 2 GB of storage, but you have to remember to put your stuff in there. It isn’t automatic. Clearly, I’ve demonstrated that I’m not good about reliably saving my computer files, so if the whole backing-things-up doesn’t occur automatically, it might not happen at all for me.

As far as iCloud goes, even the folks at Apple will tell you iCloud is meant for saving text. iCloud isn’t great when it comes to large files like photographs or very large text files. So yes, iCloud is better than nothing – but an external hard drive is still better.

Signs That Your Computer is Dying

As I said earlier, there were indications that my beloved Mac was in trouble. And I ignored every single sign. Here are some of the most basic symptoms that will tell you that you need to back your stuff up and fast:

1.Lag. Remember when your computer was young and zippy? Me, too. I knew Mac had become slow and irritable over the years, but I never thought he’d just konk out on me. Lag is one of the very first signs that you need to have your computer looked at. Sometimes there are just a lot of duplicate files that need to be deleted. Sometimes there is dust inside your computer that needs to be cleaned out. If your computer is noticeably slower than it once was, bring it to a technician.

2. Noises. If your old girl is knocking around, making banging sounds or clicking sounds; or if you hear chirping noises — almost like birds — these are not good things. Also if it sounds like there is a small car inside your computer constantly revving up and then cooling down, you will want to back that thang up. Immediately. And then bring your computer to a technician.

You know? This.

3. The Spinning Wheel of Doom. Apple users are familiar with the circular icon that looks like you’ve just won at Trivial Pursuit. And it shows up once in a while. But as your computer gets older and fills with more stuff, you may start to see it more often and for longer durations. In my case, the freakin’ wheel was spinning for much longer than normal. I just accepted it. Meanwhile, I learned this is your computer’s way of screaming at you: “Doctor! Somebody get me a doctor! I have a serious problem!” Learn your computer’s language and listen to what it is trying to tell you.

4. Frequent crashing. If you are in the middle doing something and the application unexpectedly quits, this is not a good thing. Be sure to know how old your computer is. Apple warranties its computers for three years. Three years. There is a reason for that. The folks at Apple know how long these suckers their desktops are going to last. Mac’s warranty ended in March 2012. It died 5 months later. I was on borrowed time. FYI: Laptops can have a shorter life, depending on the way they are handled.

Moving Through The Stages of Loss

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is well-recognized for her book On Death and Dying which explains the 5 stages of grief. Since I had been living in denial about Mac’s situation for so long, I quickly moved to anger. I was furious at myself for not buying a new computer, especially once Mountain Lion was released. I mean, seriously, what precisely was I waiting for? I screamed at my son for playing so much Minecraft because I was sure that was what had put the final nail in Mac’s coffin. Then I got mad at myself again for yelling at my son. But not before I accused my husband of being unhelpful because he didn’t insist that I get a new computer, especially when he knew I needed a new one.

I’d put the last of my hopes into Lou, who sent me this email 24 hours after I’d left Mac in his office.

Your drive has a fatal hardware failure. Most likely the bearings that the spindle rides on have seized, preventing the motor from turning the spindle. Recovery of the data from this drive is a tier 2 level of recovery which requires a clean room and a level of expertise I don’t have in-house.

However, I have an out-of-house recovery group that can do this work.  Let me know what you would like to do.

I’m not going to lie. For a week, I was in a funk. A person who is generally sparkly, I felt pretty sparked-out.

Like my formerly functioning computer, I shut down.

I didn’t realize how dependent I’d become on my Mac. Everything I needed was in one place. I didn’t know how I was going to rebuild. I could only see loss.

In reality, getting mad or feeling sad wasn’t going to bring Mac back.

Right when I was feeling my most lowly-low, I read Kristen Lamb’s piece Maturity – The Difference Between the Amateur and the Professional where she reminds writers that writing is hard work. Inadvertently, she reminded me that I had a choice in this situation. I could be a pee-pee head and keep crying about all that I had lost. I could quit. Or I could start creating again. I could view the death of my computer as an ending or a beginning.

I went and ordered a new iMac. (It should be here next week.)

To get me excited, my son designed a cool new header for my blog. (It’s not up yet.) And I’m working on some other updates to my blog, too.

So What About The Clean Room Thing? Are You Doing It?

I contacted that forensics data retrieval lab in Temple, Texas. If I agree, they will bury my computer in the ground and, just like in Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery, they will resurrect it. But they can’t guarantee that Mac won’t come back all weird and creepy and try to kill me.

Just kidding.

They aren’t going to bury Mac. The deal at ACS Data Recovery is this: I send them my hard drive, and if they can’t retrieve 100% of the information, the cost to me is $0. But if they can, the cost is 1.64 bajillion dollars.

I feel like I have to give it a whirl, to know that I tried everything.

Obviously, this post is about the death of my computer. And while I temporarily lost it, I think I’ve regained some perspective. I mean, we have food and shelter. I’m grateful that everyone in my life is healthy and as the Jewish High Holidays approach over the next few weeks, I will be thinking and writing about more than just my recent computer woes.

But this seemed like an opportunity to share something with everyone.

The hard drive nestled in the cardboard box on my kitchen table represents twenty years of my life. And, as a friend pointed out: “It isn’t the computer that has the value, it’s the stuff on our computers that is worth everything.”

If you take nothing else from this post, take this: If you have valuable things on your computer, things you cherish, please please please spend $125 and get yourself an external hard drive.

And don’t say you’ll do it tomorrow.

Do it today.

Now.

Because tomorrow could be your computer’s big crash.

What is one thing you’d be devastated to learn was gone if your computer died? Do you have an external hard drive? Can you recommend a good one? How often do you back-up? What method(s) do you use? Assuming you could get your computer files back, how much would you be willing to spend? 

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

When Hashtags Take You to Dark Places

The Twitterverse is usually a wonderful place.

Except when it’s not.

The other day I was looking for conversations about #teachers, and this post caught my eye:

I couldn’t help but reply:

I was trying to be funny.

Fayth didn’t think it was funny.

She read me the riot act.

She told me to stay out of her business.

Instead, I went and read her profile.

So I learned that Fayth is Faith.

And that she currently weighs 91 pounds.

But.

Her goal weight is 75 pounds.

Let me give you some perspective.

My son, Tech Support, is in 7th grade.

He is 5’3″ and weighs in at a whopping 88 pounds.

(He is like a walking skeleton. For reals. The kid is all elbows and knees.)

Anyway, I got worried.

The more I poked around, the more I could see that Fayth was struggling: with school and self-image. She admitted to cutting herself.

Something else was troubling Fayth, too. But she wouldn’t share, even when we shifted to direct messaging.

Fayth shares some disturbing images on her Twitter page. Pictures of her hipbones. Her ribs. Blood in a styrofoam cup. The food she eats (puffed wheat and diet cranberry juice). Directions about the fast she was on.

I tried to tell her that her photos and her words caught my attention.

That she scared me.

We private messaged for a little while.

She shared so little.

She is used to withholding.

I did lots of typing.

For a few days, Fayth disappeared from Twitter altogether.

But the other day, I saw this post:

So now I know this high school student weighs less than my son.

And today, I saw this:

I let her know I’m still here.

If she needs someone to rant to, there’s a stranger who cares.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do with this information.

I wish I knew where Fayth/Faith lived because I would drive over to her house and sit on the floor with her. I would be quiet and let her cry. Or not cry. She could be mad if she needed to be mad. But I would do my best to get her to whisper whatever her big scary thing is. Even if it meant telling her my biggest, scariest thing. Someone needs to pay attention to this smart girl who is doing dangerous things. To this young woman who is too tiny to wear a size 00. To the pretty young woman in the  baggy clothing. To the beautiful young woman who just got her hair straightened and spends all her time counting calories.

Because she isn’t going to be here for long if someone doesn’t help her find her broken places so she can repair herself.

And it is possible to fix yourself if you’ve got the right tools in the tool belt.

It is.

Do we have any responsibilities to each other on social media? Or do we just shrug our cyber shoulders?

Haters Gonna Hate: Twenty Months Later

The other day I got this piece of fan mail:

Click here if you want to see the print better. You can hear the tone better, too.

It was written in response to a post that I wrote almost 2 years ago.

I don’t get a lot of hate mail, but it’s kind of exciting.

It means that I have said something powerful and controversial.

Or that I’m really famous.

You can check out that old post here.

Funny thing is, I feel the same way I did when I originally posted.

The only difference is that my son is now 12 and 1/2.

Oh, and he doesn’t like to be called Monkey anymore.

Now the question is should I respond to this person? And if so, what should I say?

How do you handle haters?

A Chat with my 7th Grade Android

Recently, Tech Support has become much more private. About everything. Where my 12-year old son used to willingly spill all the beans at once, now he doles them out in microscopic handfuls. And even then, I get a little morsel only after extensive prodding and threats of punishment. Picture a skinny 7th grader with freckles and a pre-recorded robot voice. Because basically, that’s what I’ve got goin’ on these days.

This is how most our after-school conversations sound:

Me: How was school? Tell me something cool that happened today.

TS: I do not like to talk about my academic life.

Me: Well, your father and I think it is important that we know what you do during the day.

TS: Cheese.

Me: Tech Support, it’s not like I’m asking you to reveal our nation’s secrets. If you don’t tell me something about your day, there will be a consequence.

a pixelart from an iPod touch

Image via Wikipedia

TS: Will this consequence involve my iPod Touch?

Me: It might.

TS: I had a very good day.

Me: That’s a little vague. Can you be more specific?

TS: I do not like to talk about my personal life.

Me: Can you tell me who sat with you during lunch?

TS: I do not remember.

Me: How is that possible?

TS: *shrugs*

Me: Okay, what about that girl from last year. Do you still see her?

TS: I do not like to talk about my social life.

Me: If you don’t give me something, there will be a consequence.

TS: Will this consequence involve my iPod Touch?

Me: It might.

TS: She still likes me. I know because she still emails me once in a while and talks to me in the hall. But she doesn’t like like me.

Me: How are you doing in your classes?

TS: I don’t like to talk about my grades.

Me: Are you kidding?

TS: If I don’t answer you, will I lose my iPod Touch?

Me: You are heading in that direction.

TS: Then I am doing very well. Very well, indeed. I have A pluses in all my classes. I have found a way to stop the United States dependency on foreign oil. I did this in science with my lab partner. I have written many long essays in English. My gym teacher loves me.

Me: Are you messing with me?

TS: Indeed.

Me: Dude, you are exhausting.

TS: *smiling* Will that be all?

Me: May I ask one more question?

TS: If I do not answer, will I lose my iPod Touch?

Me: That joke is wearing thin.

TS: Fine. *glaring* What?

Me: How is the Bar-Mitzvah preparation going?

TS: Very well. When I get up to read from the Torah, I plan to bust out into a rap. Or sing like Operaman. It will be excellent. Everyone will love it. They will think I am awesome and tell me I should be a rock-star when I grow up.

Me: If you do that . . .

TS: . . . will it involve my iPod Touch?

Me: No. *not smiling* It will involve this . . .

And then I jump on him. I tackle my snarky little son who suddenly knows all the answers to everything. He is longer than I remember. And stronger. We are laughing as our fingers intertwine.

Tech Support and I notice at the same moment that our hands are the same size.

TS: That’s weird. When did that happen?

I think about his question. I remember his tiny fingers wrapped over the edge of his blanket, how he used to clumsily grab magic markers and paintbrushes. I think about the way he used to build with LEGOs and K’Nex and how he still loves to make magnetic creations with those super tiny Bucky Balls. I consider how gracefully he holds his sabre before each bout.

My son interrupts my thoughts.

TS: I think I know when it happened.

I tilt my head, lean in, and give all my attention to him.

TS: Probably while I was on my iPod Touch.

*weep*

What physical and/or emotional changes do you remember people commenting on as you grew up? Or what did/do you notice changing about your child/ren? How did your parents punish you? Do you ever take away your kid’s iPod Touch?

Can you imagine if my kid does a Hebrew version of this on his Bar Mitzvah? Oy!

Sex, Avoidance & Facebook: A Twist on Gratitude

Ever since he was just a little guy, Tech Support has chosen to ask me the tough questions when we are alone in the car. There must be something about being in the back seat and not having to make eye-contact or something that allows for this discourse to take place.

Not too long ago, Tech Support (now age 12) asserted that he plans to wait to have sex until he marries.

And then he added, “You know, just like you and dad.”

I almost crashed the car.

Tech Support knows that his father and I lived together in New Orleans.

For four years.

He has seen the pictures.

So I wondered: Was I supposed to say something at that moment? And if so, what?

I asked some folks on Facebook.

The Facebook peeps were super helpful.

What would you have said?

What creepy uncomfortable questions have your kids asked you lately? How did you avoid answering? What did you say? Or what weird questions do you remember asking your parents?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

For those of you with children, be grateful you have people to ask you these questions.

And for those of you who don’t, be grateful that you can drive around without being interrogated.

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