The most connected Thanksgiving

Am I the only one to gather turkey roasting secrets from Twitter? Or gleaning ideas for side dishes and methods of creating delectable Thanksgiving meal with a little help from my friends — Facebook friends, that is. And what about Instagram and Pinterest? All those mouth-watering photos and ideas for place settings and table decorations are hard to resist.

With the help of social media, this Thanksgiving, and probably every future holiday from here on out just got a little bit easier, and harder.

While we are increasingly attached to our devices from the moment we wake up to the minute our eyes close for the night, it is possible that while we gather more information than ever thought possible in remarkably little time, are we missing something from the equation?

Thanksgiving has its purpose in its name. Our day of thanks, of expressing gratitude, of remembering what we hold dear.

To some of us it could very well be that our gadgets—our phones and tablets and laptops—are what we are most thankful for, but if we were to take all that away…all the tweets, the status updates, the viral videos and memes du jour, what would we have left?

Ponder this thought. And then be thankful to have the time and space to think about it. Take a moment to breathe in, to exhale slowly and to pay attention.

Look out a nearby window and carefully observe all that is out there.  Hum a short tune. Feel the vibrations of your throat. Be thankful to be alive.

And now you can pick up your phone again, snap that photo of the squirrel chasing a rabbit up the tree outside your window. Share it to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. But remember to take those moments and give thanks to the simplicity of the here and now.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Social Media 1.0

A few days ago, I had a profound experience in social media. My phone, dead from a swollen battery, sat in the hands of aVerizon Guy geeky Verizon Wireless tech guru who actually looked like the bespectacled dude from the company’s ads. I was cut off from my mobile versions of Twitter, Facebook, Words with Friends, RSS feeds, and even WordPress, not to mention the old-fashioned texting and phone functions of my smart phone. Needless to say, I was a little out of sorts.

The geek commented on my phone number, noting the area code and asking where it was from. San Francisco, I replied. And, like most Midwesterners do, he asked me why I was living in Ohio. Sometimes I dream about this conversation I have it so often, but after explaining to him my circumstances of being exiled from California for several years as my husband pursues his medical training, we started talking about how beautiful my home state is, how he has family living in Santa Cruz, and how much he’d like to move back there. We set up rapport. We laughed, joked about the cost of living differences between the two states, and then it was time for him to give me a diagnosis on my befallen battery.

I needed a new one, and there weren’t any in stock in the region. Not surprising, as this phone is notorious for having a poor battery. “I can order one for you,” he said. I agreed, and he offered me shipping options. This turned into even a more zig-zaggy conversation that meandered through the merits of choosing the USPS instead of UPS or FedEx.

Turns out, this guy loves to find old magazines and comic books that have ads in the back for the reader to cut out and mail in for a free offer. He gathers sometimes decades-old ads, mails them in and waits for a response.

He started telling me all about the many ads he’s cut out from the ’70s and ’80s and how most of them go unanswered. Some come back, Return to Sender, some come back with little notes saying the offer is no longer valid. He sends cash in these envelopes, and he usually gets the cash back, too.

What a fun, wild idea. I thought, and I was so happy to have had this conversation with a random person at the Verizon store that it made me think about all the chit-chat I do on social media—Twitter, Facebook and the like—that is so much less interesting and personal as what I encountered in a face-to-face handful of minutes with this guy.

While social media has its benefits of increasing someone’s network, finding other like-minded people, keeping friends and family members in one neat box where they can easily share photos and snippets from their lives and vice-versa, nothing beats real one-on-one face time with another person—social media 1.0.

Human contact will always be the number-one booster of social capital. It’s what sticks with you, what creates our humanity. And we will never be able to get that through any screen.

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Twitter in real life sounds dumb

What would happen if instead of sending out 140 characters in a tweet you stood in a park and declared your short message to the world around you?

Well, as I just witnessed on CollegeHumor Sketches on Hulu.com, when someone walking down a sidewalk shouts out “My eyelashes are legit today. ROAR” tweeted by “Jersey Shore’s” Snooki, it sounds a bit more ridiculous out load than it would being read in a Twitter stream. (Though the tweet is ridiculous in itself.)

My husband recently noted that Twitter is the epitome of vanity. How is it that someone can be so full of herself that she must declare to the world how important it is that her armpits smell like “Sponge Bob fever” (@SolangeKnowles).

If I were to set up a soapbox on the corner of my street and shout out my latest tweets:

“Great! RT @AP: BREAKING: Ohio governor announces he’ll sign executive order cracking down on dangerous exotic pets.”

“& how many Iraqis? RT @washingtonpost: 4,478 members of the U.S. military died in #Iraq since the war began in 2003″

“RT @CommonDreams: Obama: Reject the #TarSands Pipeline http://ow.ly/74P59#NoKXL”

“Obama announces withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by January http://yhoo.it/mX0UVY#hooray! #itsabouttime”

Try saying those out loud. Strange, isn’t it?

Of course, I’m not a celebrity, so I would never tweet like @KourtneyKardashan:

“Do ants have dicks?”

And maybe that’s what people who follow celebrities want to know. Maybe this is just another human quirk that I have yet to understand.

“I hate leprachauns. LOL” (@Shaq)

“I can’t believe my grandma is making me take out the garbage. I’m rich! F$&#k this! I’m going home. I don’t need this shit” @50cent

But, @50cent has 5 million followers. I have 862. ‘Nuff said.

Farewell, Steve…you had me at Apple IIe

A cropped version of :Image:SteveJobsMacbookAi...

Image via Wikipedia

Right now the virtual world is blowing up with news of Steve Job’s death at 56. Twitter is abuzz, Facebook statuses are updating to share the news and sentiments.

I am here wondering why I feel so sad.

I didn’t know Steve Jobs. But I feel like I have lost someone special in my life.

The first computer I ever touched was an Apple IIe. It was part of a bank of computers in a special room in elementary school where we could spend a few moments playing educational games. The graphics were sparse, the soundtrack just beeps and buzzes. But those experiences touched me.

As an adult working in newsrooms and communications departments, Macs became synonymous with creativity and efficiency. The familiar boot-up sound meant it was time to start the day.

Soon, I’d flip open my MacBook, click on iTunes, and browse the Internet on Safari. Apple had become ingrained into my workspace and into my life.

My iPod–though now it is five years old–gets me through bouts of cleaning the house and accompanies me on long runs through my neighborhood and trails. I can’t work in the kitchen without listening to my music on “shuffle.” I can’t imagine being able to function without it.

No, I did not know Steve Jobs. But he knew me. He knew us all, what we ultimately wanted–smart technology with a sleek design. We wanted innovation. We wanted to be wowed.

He was not a leader in the sense of Martin Luther King, Jr. or John F. Kennedy. When they died, people remember where they were and what they stopped doing when they heard the news. There was national mourning.

I am seeing that unfold tonight. People recognize Jobs’ contributions to our lives and his ingenuity and leadership. He touched us deeper than probably any of us knew until this moment, when all at once we feel a collective sadness and gratuity for all he did.

So, thank you Steve Jobs. You had me at Apple IIe.

More on Steve Jobs:

Piece of cake

Posted by A.

It’s funny how you can sit next to someone at work 40 hours a week and still know so little about them. Blue rose cakeIn the two years I worked at the Home News copy desk with Craig, we became close friends. But I had no idea I was sitting next to a regular Betty Crocker.

While I knew Craig had decorated cakes in the past — a talent he learned from his mother — it honestly never occured to me how amazingly elaborate these cakes were until my last day at the newspaper in October 2006, when he made me this haunted house cake:

Haunted House Cake

It’s like something out of Ace of Cakes! Here are some more examples of his amazing talent. You can also read his recipes and cooking tips on his blog Ketchup and Butter Sandwiches:

Crown cake

Craig’s comment: “This is ultimately a very basic chocolate cake, decorated with ribbons and ribbons of fondant. In the center is a chocolate orange. I really wish I could remember where I saw the pattern for it.”

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Rose cake

Craig’s comment: “This cake is on the cover of Rose Levy Berenbaum’s ‘Cake Bible.’ The leaves are very time-consuming, but a lot of fun. Melted chocolate is painted on rose leaves. After peeling away the leaves, their imprint is left behind.”

Dancing to ‘Thriller’

This is an admission to my brief obsession with the King of Pop, R.I.P. But, I counter that with: Wasn’t every eight-year-old girl in 1984 obsessed with Michael Jackson?

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I was taking tap and ballet lessons. I loved dancing. I imagined I would one day lead any famous ballet troupe as the prima ballerina. My first special outfit was a pink tutu. I especially loved dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Not just the song—the entire album.

One song after another I would jump and twirl and shake it (as any 8-year-old would do) until I induced sweat. I pretended I was in Flashdance. Only the song was not Man Eater, it was P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing). Actually, P.Y.T. wasn’t nearly as fun to dance to as Beat It and Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’. But we could spend all day debating the merits of Thriller songs.

I thank MJ for all those afternoons (and mornings) his music inspired me to keep on movin’. While I am a far cry from the prima ballerina I imagined myself to become so many years ago, I know that those youthful dreams would not have been nearly so tantalizing if not for a little dose of Thriller.