Tag 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.

IMG_1597

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.

jayimage-179x300

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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Can You Give Good Head(er)?

As you can see, I pushed the button and have a new & improved theme.

Squeee!

Thank you, Coraline.

Meanwhile, you probably notice that very boring prominent picture of dewy grass under my name.

Clearly, that has absolutely nothing to do with my tagline.

This is because I am technologically challenged when it comes to creating things like headers, and it will take me infinity years a while to create one.

Meanwhile, Tech created an awesome header for me.

In under 30 minutes.

You’ll notice, he emphasized the fact that I am a mother, a writer and, of course, my hotness.

According to my son, now I can write about all the things that I think are hot.

Like the sun and my boots and summer.

*ahem*

And while that may be be true, I’m still not convinced the header he made is doing it.

Let’s be clear. I am grateful my son made a header for me. It astounds me that my 13-year-old was able to figure out how to create a header in the first place, let alone one that flashes.

In under 30 minutes.

And while I totally appreciate that he believes that his momma is hot (that’s called the power of repetition folks), it doesn’t exactly go with my new hoo-ha.

Or maybe it’s that it looks like he is advertising my hoo-ha.

It’s kind of porny.

I mean, seriously.

It’s pretty flashy.

{As in: Nay Nay, your header is giving me a seizure.}

Not really what I was going for.

And then it occurred to me.

There are a lot of really creative people out there who are not technologically impaired the way I am. Why not ask my friends and readers, my peeps on Facebook, and my tweeps on Twitter to see if they want to take a stab at it?

I mean there are actual graphic artists out there who might be interested in whipping something up in exchange for some street cred.

Here we go.

The Rules.

Design a new header for my blog incorporating something that you think represents the concept of my blog — Because Life Doesn’t Fit in A File Folder. So if you are new here, you might want to read a couple of posts.

Here are some things to know about me:

  • I have sparkly reading glasses.
  • I like words. Especially double-entendres.
  • I am a mom.
  • I am a teacher.
  • I hate clutter.
  • I am hot. (It’s a delusion, but go with me on this.)
  • I love Canada Dry Ginger Ale. (“It’s not too sweet.”)

Specs.

Your design needs to fit on into a Coraline header: 990 x 180.

And I’d like you to integrate my avatar into the header in some way.

Please put this in the header somewhere.

Submit your images via email in .JPG or .PNG files. When you submit, please be sure to identify yourself and let me know if you are attached to a particular blog or Facebook page, so I can link up to your fabulousness. (If you would prefer your submission to be anonymous, just let me know.)

Multiple submissions allowed.

The Deadline.

Thursday, November 1, 2012, 12 MIDNIGHT EST.

The Grand Prize.

Prominent linky-love on my blog on a tab called Header Credit. That’s right, every time someone clicks to see who made that header, they will know, you did.

And a $25 gift card to any place of your choice. As long as I can get the gift card at my local grocery store. But seriously, they have everything. (And just in time for the holidays!)

Why Don’t I Just Hire Someone?

Some folks might say I’m crazy to put something like this into the hands of the people. Well, it’s an election year. And I have faith in the people.

Faith that people will want the best header to represent my blog. Faith that no one will do anything too wonky so as to damage my new & improved platform. Faith that people will do near anything for some linky-love and a $25 gift card.

As this is an election year, I believe it is only fair to listen to the people…

But seriously. This is my header, people. I can’t slap anything up there!

Entries will be shown during the month of November and a I will announce the big winner on Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 22, 2012, 6 am EST) because I will be filled with so much gratitude.

Spread the word. Tell your friends who are graphic artists or professional artists know how to do something awesome with Adobe and Photoshop and Picnik and Gimp and all those other cool programs about which I know absolutely nothing.

I have no idea what kind of magic folks might come up with.

But I have faith in some of you.

I’m already peeing a little from excitement. Sorry, that happens sometimes. That probably shouldn’t be in my header. Maybe.

Do you have what it takes to make a header? Or are you all about the words? What kinds of words/images would you like to see included on my header? Is all that flashing giving you a migraine yet?

tweet me @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

Hey! Why Is It So Quiet in Here?

I have my best listening ears on!

I have been gaining subscribers for a year now. I have this cool, little dashboard that tells me how many people have viewed my blog, which pages they have checked out, what words they searched to find me, and a whole lot of cool information. My lice post is still the number one most frequently viewed post and, if you Google search “drag needle splinter twit,” you will find this.

Here’s what I don’t understand. Every day, more people are visiting my site. Which is totally excellent. And I am grateful to everyone who comes to check me out. And I’d like to take this opportunity to say to the folks searching for “psicologia: esconderse bajo la cama”: I’m sorry I couldn’t be more helpful.

But here is what I’m pondering:

Why do so few people who read blogs actually leave comments? I mean I have my regulars, the folks upon whom I can rely on to say something. They are the people with whom I have come to know and have developed cyber-relationships. Through these online exchanges, I have met so many smart/interesting/funny people. Some cyber-friendships have progressed to emails; some to phone calls. Heck, I’m playing concurrent games of “Words with Friends” with Jessica Buttram and Ironic Mom.

So imagine my surprise when a friend that I actually know in real life — yeah, I’m calling you out, Aaron — admitted that he has been reading my blog since my blog was born, that he has been there since its infancy, and added that he has really been enjoying watching li’l boggie mature. Now this of course made me all shivery and happy inside, and I immediately gave him a hug Actually, I may have hugged him first and then squealed when he made the comment, but you get the idea.

Of course, I love the idea that people are reading my content.

But later (after the hugging and squealing), I wondered, Why doesn’t Aaron ever comment? What’s up with that? And if Aaron isn’t commenting, why aren’t other people commenting? I decided to create a poll to try to find out. Seriously, I’d love to hear from you lurkers who read but don’t necessarily comment. Please know I don’t have any way to identify about you except the answers you leave here because all the info is collected at Poll Daddy and reported back to me anonymously. You know, unless you put your name in the comment or something.

I love writing and I am working my butt off trying to bring you interesting stuff. Am I missing something? I can never predict which posts people are going to go bonkers over and which ones will be duds. (I mean head lice? Really? Over 200 hits every day?)

Author Kristen Lamb (a woman to whom I refer to as “The Queen”) often writes about how important it is for writers to try to connect with one another in her blog and in her books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . I know not all of my readers are bloggers, but whether you are or not, I would love it if you would leave me a comment. For me, blogging is — of course — about writing, but it is also about creating a dialogue. After I have written something the delicious part is hearing what people have to say about it. The comments are like a fabulous dessert you get to eat — after slaving away for hours making a difficult meal.

If you are writing a blog, you are hoping that someone is maybe (*hopefully*) reading your words. Admit it. It’s true.

And if you are checking out other people’s stuff, you don’t have to feel pressured to write a crazy long comment. Even a short little “Thanks for this!” or “Hilarious!” can really make someone’s day. So don’t be shy. Just say, “Hi!”

Truly, I am interested as to why people choose to be quiet when they could be part of the dialogue. So please, enlighten me. At the risk of sounding like the National Inquirer, inquiring minds really do want to know. Has anyone else given any thought to this phenomenon?

What drives people to comment?  And what makes lurkers stay in the shadows?


Tweet This Twit @RASJacobson

A Twit Learns To Tweet

Free twitter badge

Image via Wikipedia

Way back on Monday, April 25, 2011 at precisely 8:07 AM, I emailed Clay Morgan from EduClaytion.com. He and I had established an “easy, breezy, beautiful” rapport; we’d talked on the phone a few times, and for a while, we were on the same cyber-page. But suddenly, Clay had a Twitter icon on his page. And I didn’t.

What the deuce? I thought. So I tapped out a quick note.

Dude, I seriously need to understand Twitter. I either need a 15 year-old girl. Or you. Can you call me?

Clay responded like a firefighter would to a burning building. He emailed me and assured me Twitter was “pretty intuitive” and that I could probably figure it out. He said he had faith in me.

Whaaaat? Twitter? Intuitive? To whom?

Clearly, he did not read this article.

We set up a time to talk.

Then I lost his phone number.

Still, I had every intention of making Twitter priority #1 on my list of Things To Do. (You know, after I got back from Florida. And all the grocery shopping was done. And I had unpacked and put the suitcases away and done all the laundry and scrubbed the baseboards and taken out the garbage and fed the animals.

(Note: We have no pets. Not even a goldfish. Not even an ant.)

I was a little bit horrified that I had so easily morphed into one of the typical student-types: the kid who pretends the deadline hasn’t come and gone, but never goes to talk to the teacher about it.

But Professor Morgan was onto me.

Clearly I was delaying. We set up a time to conference around noon.

After my massage.

(What? I have a long-standing back injury, people.)

On the day of our exciting teleconference, we started with the simple stuff.

Clay explained that, for a writer, the purpose of Twitter is to help network with other writers, to acquire followers, and to spread one’s writing around to other interested readers. He said Twitter can be a place to gather with my fellow writers, where I can find people to hold me accountable to achieve my writing goals, and where I can find people willing to critique my work.

That all sounded good.

He explained it also meant supporting and promoting the people whose writing I adore.

I heard “cheerleader.” I was a cheerleader in high school. I may have lost my splits, but I can still cheer. And if tweeting and re-tweeting my favorite writers’ stuff was going to help them, I could drink that Kool-Aid.

So Clay taught me the basics. About the Timeline. And how to check my Direct Message Box — to see if anyone has sent me a private message.

“How do I know that?”

Clay patiently explained.

He also told me I should always check Mentions to see if anyone has tweeted any of my posts and, if they have, that I should be absolutely certain to send that person a short thank-you.

“It’s Twit-tiquette,” Clay explained.

He taught me about how to set up a list of my most favorite bloggers. And while we were on the phone, I understood everything perfectly.

Clay was extremely patient and gracious. And then, like any good therapist smart person with outstanding time management skills, after one hour, he announced our session was up.

Whaaaat?

“I haven’t mastered this yet!” I whined.

He assured me that I’d figure it out if I played around with it a bit.

I thanked Clay for “eduClayting” me, and I messed around on Twitter for a while.

I tried to send messages to the people I knew best.

Eventually, I got a response from Clay himself.

Whaaaaat? I was sending messages to myself? Awk.Ward.

I tried to figure out that mess. And I set out again.

This time I heard back from Leanne Shirtliffe aka: Ironic Mom.

After a few weeks, I saw I got my first retweet! And then I got a RT from Mark Kaplowitz, someone whose writing I really like:

And then that started to happen more and more.

Eventually, I figured out the secret language of hashtags: the weird letters that come after the numbers’ symbol (#). Like #MyWana. Or #IYKWIM. For a while, I felt like I sitting alone at a table in the middle school cafeteria, and everyone knew everyone else and everyone knew what they were doing – everyone except me. But then I learned that you can Google these letters after the number symbol and find out the inside joke. And boom, I was instantly sitting at the cool kids’ table because I was speaking the same language.

And guess what, writer tweeps are a lot nicer than the mean girls in middle school.

The big moment came when author Kristen Lamb sent me a tweet. I would post it, but it’s kind of like looking into the sun. Too much truth. Your pupils might burn, and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for that.

These days, I have myself on a strict Twitter diet. I check in three times a week,  spend 15 minutes responding to people, sending thank-yous, and trying to connect with one new person. I literally set a timer. It is really easy for Twitter to become a time suck.

Alas, now that all this time has passed, I don’t remember how to add people to that list Clay helped me to create. Also, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with that list. I think it was supposed to save me time somehow. I’m not really sure. So that’s not great.

I told Clay that I was going to write a blog about how much he helped me.

I estimated that I would have that post written by late August.

So I’m a little ahead of schedule.

But I really need to work on my fall curriculum. And my book.

You remember, my book?

The thing that started all of this…

Yeah.

It’s calling me.

Gotta run.

Do you use Twitter? If so, who taught you? And what do you get out of it? Any funny stories about stuff that has happened to you while you were learning to tweet? What are your Twitter woes?

Tweet This Twit @RASJacobson

What The Huh?

This one comes to me from a College-Instructor-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, for reasons that shall become obvious. It is hilarious and awful all at the same time.

To: My Professor
Subject: Droped

Dear Professor:

I appologiz for not being in class the last and past week. But there is alot of stress put on me by other classes i can’t find myself a way to get to school on time for ur class. I know the matirial and everything is starting to let up. So i ask u to plez let me bake into the class. i promis to show up for the rest of the classes 😦

Sincerely,
Goin’ Nowhere Fast

Nice, huh.

In this horrendous wonderful day and age, where we can reach out and touch someone via text or email, college educators receive hellish quality correspondence like this all of the time.

All. Of. The. Time.

The lucky recipient of this email told me that this piece of correspondence – which arrived via email – was the first time he’d had contact with the student, and it came after his student had missed 12 out of 19 classes, two unit tests, and one quiz. 

So think about it? How would you respond to an email like this?

Is this what we have come to with all of our short-cuts and abbreviations? Do teachers at the college level have to respond to emails and texts filled with errors like this?

Do you feel sorry for the kid? I mean, he just wants “bake into the class.”

Or would you just say nothing? Because the student has already been withdrawn and, clearly, he is already fried.

I sometimes wonder if parents know that their kids are communicating with their college professors like this.  Seems we have to teach our children about how – sometimes – it is necessary to use different language to communicate to different audiences. About when it is appropriate to abbreviate and when it is necessary to use a more formal tone, proper grammar, and a spell checker. About when to use and refrain from using emoticons. According to Tim Elmore, today’s “screenagers” don’t get it. Or they get something else than us “old folks.”

Crosby, Stills and Nash sang: “Teach your children well.” Are we confusing our kids with all this “texting”? Or do teachers just need to loosen up and accept that the times  (and the language) are a-changing?

How The Struggle To Survive Spring Break Was A Lot Like The Jews’ Exodus From Egypt

The artist's rendering of Charlton Heston as M...

Image via Wikipedia

This year, Spring Break fell on the same week as Passover – the Jewish holiday which commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt. (Think Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.) This year there seemed to be so many similarities between Monkey’s heinous April “staycation” in Western, New York and the oft-repeated, seemingly never-ending Passover story that I simply could not ignore it.

During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, People Got Creative: When Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, made a law that every male, infant Israelite be killed, Moses’ mother got busy. She wove a little  basket, put her son into it, and floated him down the river, hoping he would be found among the reeds.

The first few days of April vacation were fine, but by Sunday evening, Monkey and I were done with our Game-a-Thon. We had played dozens of games, but after thirty-two arguments about his iPod Touch usage, Hubby and I decided to confiscate Monkey’s Touch for the remainder of the week. From that moment forward, we had conversations so similar in content, I was ready to stick Monkey in a basket and float him down the River Nile. They went something like this:

Monkey: Can I go on the computer?
Me: No.
Monkey: Can I Skype someone?
Me: No.
Monkey: Can I use my iPod Touch?
Me: No.
Monkey: Can I watch TV?
Me: No.
Monkey: Were you born this mean?
Me: No, I minored in mean in college.

In an effort to keep Monkey away from screens, on Monday, I took him to the library. We brought home Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane. I figured he would read while I rolled matzah balls for the chicken soup. After 40 minutes, Monkey set down his book and wandered over to me.

Monkey: Colin’s really good at Super Smash Brothers Brawl.
Me: Cool. Wanna help me cut some carrots for the soup?
Monkey: If I cut carrots, can I get my iPod Touch back?

During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, People Were Tested: On Monday night, we had the first seder. There were only nine of us this year. We got to the part about how God spoke to Moses in the form of a burning bush.

Monkey: If someone came down from a mountain today saying he had talked to a burning bush, that person would be considered insane.
Me: There has always been a fine line between mystical experience and mental illness.
Monkey: There’s this cool computer game called Portal. Can I get it?
Me: Not in the middle of the Seder.
Monkey: Well, can I show it to you on the computer after the Seder?

Two cups of wine later, Moses and his brother, Aaron, go to Pharaoh to explain to him that the Lord has commanded that he let the Israelites go. Pharaoh becomes furious, sends the dynamic duo away, and proceeds to treat the Israelites worse than before. At this point, Monkey announced to everyone: “Mom’s kind of like the Pharaoh. She won’t let me have my iPod Touch.”

Nice.

During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, There Were Bizarre Events: In the Passover story, after the Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go, God inflicted ten horrible plagues on the Egyptian people, most of which involved weird supernatural weather. I mean, The Lord turned the water into blood; He made skillions of frogs hop all over the place; He brought on boils and swarms of locusts and – gasp – lice. He even caused the Egyptian’s animals to get sick and die.

Well, weird shizz happened here over the vacation, too. First of all, it was mid-April. Normally, by mid-April it is usually kind of warm. And by warm I mean, it is not ridiculously cold. But it was cold. Ridiculously cold. Over Spring Break, it snowed twice, hailed once, and – not for nothing – but it actually rained so hard that people’s basements flooded. The creek in our backyard (which never overflows) overflowed and nearly took out one of our trees, dragging a bunch of soil and mulch into our neighbors’ yard.

During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, There Was a lot of Hurrying: When the Pharaoh finally decided to let the slaves go, the Jews did not wait around. They grabbed what they could carry and got out of Dodge, guided by a cloud (provided courtesy of The Lord). When the Israelites reached the Red Sea, they saw that Pharaoh was pursuing them with a large army. The Jews were afraid, but God commanded Moses to raise his rod and the waters parted so the Jews could reach the other side in safety.

When the Israelites saw that they were safe, they sang a song of praise to God.

Monkey: Wanna hear a song that will get stuck in your head?

During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, People Complained: After the Jews escaped and had traveled for some time, they started complaining to Moses because he brought them to a land where they did not have enough to eat. (I imagine it was a little like Survivor without the camera crew. They probably formed alliances and wore buffs made out dust and rocks.) But God was good and sent the Jews quails and manna. And when the people were thirsty, God commanded Moses to touch a rock with his rod and water poured out of the rock, so the people would stop their bitching.

In our house, after several days of matzah consumption, everyone began to complain of gastrointestinal unrest. Such moaning, you would not believe.

Monkey: Do we have any raisins?
Me: I think we are out.
Monkey (moaning): Prunes?
Me: We can put them on the grocery list.
Monkey: How about my iPod Touch? Can we put that on the list?

During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, People Got Frustrated: Just as the Jews wandered the desert – in the heat, without showers, without a GPS to guide them – Monkey wandered the neighborhood looking for something to do and someone to do it with. It ain’t easy being Jewish during Spring Break. Especially when Spring Break falls the same week as Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Monkey was frustrated to learn that most of his friends had gone to visit relatives or jetted down to warmer climes. I got to hear about it.

Monkey (pleading): Can I please use my iPod Touch?

Please note, Monkey never once said that he was “bored.” He made this mistake once when he was in 3rd grade and he quickly learned that – if a person announces he is bored – well, there is always a toilet that needs a good scrubbing.

Anyway, the Jews wandered for forty years in the desert. Having sand in your underpants for four decades is enough to make anyone cranky.

During Spring Break, I tried to take care of Monkey’s needs just as God (via Moses) took care of the needs of His people. One day a friend called, and we discussed taking a road trip with our sons. (Read: My friend was going insane with the “staycation” crap, too.) On that day, we packed up our three boys and took them to the Corning Museum of Glass where they proceeded to act like the proverbial bulls in a china shop. During a short glass blowing demonstration, our children so pestered the artist, he actually dropped the delicate, glass elephant he had been crafting for fifteen minutes, and the little pachyderm broke into three pieces. Most people left the demo at that point.

Not us.

Monkey: Schnarf!
Monkey’s Friend : Can we wander around now?
Monkey’s Friend’s Brother: Can I have that elephant’s legs?

After being constant companions for nine days, Monkey and I maxed out on each other. We glared at each other from across rooms. K’Nex creations began to look like viable weapons.

During Both The Exodus and Spring Break, There Were Miraculous Moments: Spring break wasn’t all bad. There was one particularly endearing moment when Monkey and I were wrestling – something we like to do during commercials (especially during long vacations from school). Anyway, he’s getting stronger now that he is almost 12 years old. It wasn’t as easy to take him down as usual. But I got him. I managed a completely ridiculous totally smooth backward roll, and I pinned him to the floor. We laughed hysterically until our show came back on the air, and we returned to our couch-sitting silence. As my son adjusted his hair (good hair is very important at almost age 12), Monkey said, “Mom, you are a really good wrestler.”

It was a tender moment.

Kind of.

Both The Exodus and Spring Break Ended. And then suddenly, magically, it happened. Just as God said: The Israelites arrived at the Promised Land.

And Monday morning, the middle school in my backyard lit up like… well… like a school. And I thought to myself: Huzzah! The Promised Land. And as Monkey set off, I watched him until he disappeared around the corner of the brick building, then I took his iPod Touch from out of the cupboard, plugged it in, and thought to myself: Amen.

Lessons From Search Bombing

Image blatantly stolen from Ironicmom.com

Some folks are timely with their posts. They write about Christmas on Christmas. Me, not so much.

It has taken me until spring vacation to write about the shenanigans that occurred on April Fool’s Day, when Ironic Mom (Leanne Shirtliffe) and EduClaytion (Clay Morgan) got together and created a hilarious way for bloggers to have a little fun. They call it “Search Bombing” and it involves using Google to type in little things we bloggers know about each other and then intentionally searching for them in an attempt to have them show up on the intended bloggers’ “Most Frequently Searched Terms” lists. And since most bloggers are obsessed with moderately interested about their statistics, it is a fun little way to add a little personalized zing to each other’s pathetic lives spent chained in front of our computer screens.

If you want to know more about Search Bombing, check out this link here. The video kind of explains it all.

The following are terms that I’m pretty sure by which I was intentionally search bombed:

• Lessons in making out with a teacher
• Teachers lessons to dance get me body
• Pictures of hot teacher in Halloween costume
• Giving a cross for a bat mitzvah
• Calgary Calgarah
• The Conclusion for 2011 – kindle and nook almost in a tie
• Pictures of hot girls in graduation hats in space
• I was bullied by my zombie camp counselors
• Teacher fucks puffy coat in elevator
• Did William Golding have any siblings?

Now, people simply have to understand that the post that gets the most views every day is my piece on head lice. Okay, fine. I have an irrational fear about getting head lice. And even thinking about head lice totally freaks me out. That friggin’ post averages 147 hits a day, thus serving as a constant reminder of my neurosis. So I’m not sure I was actually search bombed, but the following are terms that showed up, and they seemed waaaay too detailed and each only registered only one search – which put them on my uber-suspicious list. These searches might have been intentional or not; either way, they are hilarious.

• My kid has head lice. Do I have to do something?
• I was around someone with lice. I use gel and two different hairsprays everyday. Am I ok?
• How do I know it is head lice or just dandruff?
• Has anyone ever tried to blow torch head lice?

So what is the point of today’s blog? I don’t know except to say thank you to Clay and Leanne and Chase and Carl and Jessica and Wendy and Larry and Kathy and Worst Professor Ever… and everyone else who regularly visits my blog enough to know that I loved overnight camp and that I have a thing about people in puffy coats on elevators, that I like to dress kinda slutty for Halloween and that I have a thing for Lord of the Flies.  Thank you for making my first year in the bloggersphere so memorable, for introducing me to your friends, and for letting me sit at the cool kids’ table at lunch.

I’m With Andy Rooney

Andy Rooney

Image by billypalooza via Flickr

Remember when I wrote about e-Books? How I asked everyone which e-book I should get? How you told me what to get? (The Kindle) And how I ignored you? How I tried the Nook, and I hated it?

Well, check out this link that shows Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes. It’s just over a minute.

Turns out, I have something in common with the ole codger.

Who knew?

So what do you think? Could Rooney be reading my blog?

As you get older, what are you starting to get cranky and rigid about?

To Kindle or Nook? That Was The Question.

Benjamin Franklin.

Image via Wikipedia

So you remember how I blogged about how I couldn’t decide which e-device to go with.

Well, I decided.

I went against the trend.

Nearly everyone said to go with the Kindle, except for the few diehards who said to stay with books.

(These were the same people who, when polled, said they preferred using an abacus to a calculator.)

But I went out on my own and conducted my own research and came to the conclusion that this was the right decision for me:

I decided to go with the Nook.

And I tried it. I really did.

But after a week, I returned it.

(*insert gasps*)

I know, you are all horrified.

The reality is I’m a Book Girl.

Although it is possible to make notes on the device, I found it incredibly arduous. Plus, there was no way to make smiley faces or stars! 😉 I didn’t like that I couldn’t refer to the back of the book. (You know, to remind me what the hell I was heading with my reading because, frankly, I need to be reminded). I didn’t like not being able to physically see how far along I was in my reading. I missed using a real bookmark – especially when the “save your page” feature didn’t really seem to work reliably. Despite all the reports from friends telling me that they are reading “so much more” with e-Readers, I found I was falling asleep almost immediately after starting to read! I guess I need to take notes when I read, or it’s lights out. Who knew? Even after just one week, I missed the idea of not going to the library. Benjamin Franklin was so friggin’ brilliant when he came up with that invention. When I finished my first book and I wasn’t dying to download another, I suddenly realized I do not want (or need) to own every book I read.

So I’m back on library books because I truly believe borrowing books is the most earth-friendly decision a person can make. And if I love the book enough after reading it, then I’ll buy it.

As for my decades of accumulated book clutter (as seen on the floor in the photo above), those are going to the library for the annual book sale. (I just haven’t said goodbye to them properly yet.)

And when I drop them off, I’m going to pick up a bunch of other books to borrow.

For free.

And then I’ll going home to listen to my transistor radio… and play with my abacus.

So… um… what have you been reading that you have loved?