Saturday, May 9, 2009

Social Networking

(Warning: the following blog entry contains technical terms that, if read by someone of a particularly immature mindset, could sound like body functions. Proceed at your own risk.)

Recently, I began to participate in something called "social networking." This is when people like myself join websites like MySpace, Facebook, or Twitter in order to reconnect with old friends and family, or connect with new friends who share a common interest.

If you've followed the media in any way lately, you know that Twitter is all the rage. Celebrities are flocking to this mini-blog site, which has become the trendiest of all social networks.

To participate in Twitter, one produces "tweets," a mini-blog entry of 140 characters or less. One can search Twitter to find friends or celebrities, and "follow" them, so when your home page comes up, all of your fellow Twitterers tweets pop up in their pithy, pungent goodness.

The most exciting thing about Twitter is following celebrities. One of the first celebrities I followed was Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame. I stopped following him when he began dropping f-bombs into his tweets like chocolate chips into a cookie mix, but it was fun while it lasted. Currently, I follow comedians I like, actors, fellow bloggers, and even some random people I don't know who follow me.

I have become so adept at tweeting that, when you Google me, the first thing to come up is my Twitter.

The key to being a successful tweeter is to examine the Twitter Trending topics every day. This is a list of the things most tweeted about at any given time. American Idol, Star Trek, Swine Flu, it's all good tweet fodder. Then, you attempt to compose a witty, 140-character post about that topic.

For example: one day, a trending topic was "Google got shut down." My tweet: "Google Got Shut Down" sounds like a country-western story-song, like "Devil Went Down to Georgia." It earned me the following rave review from a Twitterer I didn't know:

"Ha, ha." You can't fake that kind of acclaim.

If you want to be a really successful tweeter, you incorporate several trending topics in one post, so it will come up on several different searches. For example, let's say the trending topics are Lakers, Swine Flu, Star Trek, and Family Guy. My tweet:

"There should be a Family Guy episode where the guys from Star Trek are playing the Lakers until they all get Swine Flu."

Brilliant? No, it's dreck. But, it will get onto a lot of screens, which will make a lot of people decide to follow me, which will mean...

...nothing. It will mean nothing at all. I love the internet.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


I love gadgets. Even as a small child, I loved pushing buttons. I remember being so disappointed that my toy typewriter only had one large button engraved with smaller buttons, so that touching one mashed down the whole thing. Cheap 1970's construction...

I digress. Gadgets make me very happy. This is something I have had some difficulty communicating to Sven, who believes that electronics make me happy. Not so, as he discovered the year he gave me a surround-sound speaker system for Christmas.

Yes, it was as romantic as it looks.

No, I don't love electronics. I love gadgets. Here are my requirements for a great gadget:

1. My gadget must be small enough to be held in the hand and carried in my purse. (My purse is pretty large, so this isn't much of a constraint.)

2. My gadget must have sufficient battery power to function on its own for a day or two.

3. My gadget must do something I never considered necessary until I saw the gadget.

4. The gadget must make one part of my life easier while making another more difficult.

My current favorite gadgets:

My Sony Ericsson phone, with walkman capability, rendered useless by my:
Purple iPod Nano. My iPod Nano has replaced almost every other gadget in my personal media arsenal: obviously, I no longer need my Discman, but I also no longer need my portable DVD player.

These are great gadgets. I don't know how I got along without the ability to receive wrong number calls while driving, or listening to The Ting Tings at a moment's notice.

These gadgets, though, pale in comparison to my new ultimate-item-I'm-coveting-but-will-never-get-until-it-is-obsolete:

The Kindle.

The Kindle is's wireless reader. Past generations of the kindle have been small but were a big enough hit that they could continue to improve upon them and render them obsolete, rewarding those early customers with the opportunity to drop another few hundred dollars on a better wireless reader. This one, the new generation Kindle DX, is the real deal. Look how thin it is!

This bad boy can handle something like 3,500 books, magazines, and/or newspapers. It also has a web browser and links wirelessly to a 3G network, so no need for WiFi or computer interface. You can buy books and download them to the Kindle without any additional hardware. Current bestselling titles average $9.99, older ones are even cheaper. An optional attachment (called the Starbucks Knob) dispenses foamy hot chocolate at the press of a button.

(Okay, I made that last one up. But wouldn't that be cool? And impossible?)

Imagine how wonderful this is for someone like me: I buy a ridiculous amount of books every year. With the Kindle, not only would I save money, I would be saving resources. Buying a Kindle would be my way of saving the earth. I know, it's selfless, but that's just how I'm made.

Sven, insisting on not seeing the forest for the trees, balks at the price of this gadget tailor-made for my lifestyle. I figure, at a paltry $489, it will pay for itself in just a few short decades. But Sven insists that since we're "schoolteachers" who make a relatively low "salary" we should live within our "means" and not spend "ridiculous" amounts of money on things that are "stupid." (You can supply your own air quotes, if you want. It's "fun!")

It's a shame, really. Summer is coming, the ideal time to test out a Kindle. We travel every summer and I'm always "forgetting" essentials like clothing to make room for the books I want to bring with me. Having a Kindle tucked away in my bag would mean I could have literally thousands of books tucked away and ready to access at any time.

So,, if you're reading this blog, I would be willing to accept a complimentary Kindle DX in order to test it and review it on this blog. Literally dozens of people could be influenced by a mere mention here!

Sorry, I meant "dozens." And "literally."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

No Day But Today

I went to see Rent last week. Though I love the music, I'd never seen the show on stage. I have the movie, and love it, so I couldn't wait to see the stage show.

They couldn't have been more different. Really!

When I heard that Rent was coming to Houston and would feature two of the original cast members (and movie cast members), and that those cast members would be Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp, the two most important roles in the show, I couldn't wait.


DEB: Sven, guess what! We're going to see Rent! Adam and Anthony are going to be there-


DEB: What?

SVEN: You go, honey. I'll stay here with the kids. I hate that show.


So, my first task was to find someone to go with me. For me, that is a challenge. I just don't have that many people I can share Rent with. There's too many inappropriate words and themes for my mom or my church friends, and Sven hates it. Who is left?


DEB: Hey, Lindsey, the art teacher at my school! You like Broadway shows, right?

LINDSEY: I love them!

DEB: Well, Rent is coming to Houston! And Adam and Anthony will be there! Do you want to go with me?

LINDSEY: Yes, absolutely!


So my wonderful friend, Lindsey, agreed to come with me. I should say that this year is the first year I've ever had such great friends to work with.

I found tickets quickly for the Thursday night show. Lindsey and I, exhausted after a week of standardized testing, dressed to the 9's, went to town.

My first shock: Rent onstage is hilarious. It's really funny. As I told Sven, until people start dying of AIDS in the second act, you practically never stop laughing. Sven found that statement funny, for some reason.

My second shock: They really toned down the language for the movie. Lots of F-bombs being dropped.

My third shock: Lindsey had never seen Rent. Not the movie, not the show. She didn't know anything about the background, the plot...nothing. Fortunately, she loved it. What a way to see it for the first time!

Lindsey's shock: We saw a drag queen as we made our way to the ladies' room. Lindsey just spent her Spring Break in New York, and never saw a drag queen. Personally, I think she probably saw plenty, but they were just a lot better than the one we saw in Houston. (Stubble!)

Lindsey was such a good sport, she even came with me to the stage door as I tried to get close enough to Adam or Anthony (but mostly Adam) for an autograph. That didn't happen, but I did get some pictures:

This is Adam Pascal, taken by me holding the camera up over people's heads.

This is Anthony Rapp, taken by Lindsey the same way. You can tell she's an artist, though, from the way she caught the upside-down program in the foreground. Nice.

There's Adam again. This was the closest I got. Lindsey and I had school the next day, so I left with my dignity and my $50 dollar Rent book. I did yell, "Your performances inspired me!" from the adjacent parking lot, but no one looked up. It's hard to be a fan.

So there it is. The first show I've seen in years, and it was wonderful. Now Lindsey, Sherri (our wonderful PE teacher) and I are thinking about getting season tickets together next year so our husbands don't have to be bothered.

I shared this idea with Sven, who looked hurt. "It was just that show," he explained. "I don't mind going to other stuff."

Clearly, to this man, "For better or for worse" meant nothing. I'll probably give him another chance, though...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Fly On The Wall

CHAIRMAN: Order, come to order, please. This meeting will now come to order.

TABLE AT LARGE: Mumble, rhubarb, rackin, ahem, achoo.

CHAIRMAN: Thank you. As you know, we're here to discuss this "Swine Flu" everyone's been in such an uproar-

PORK MAN: I OBJECT! Who decided to name this "Swine Flu?"

BEEF MAN: (smirking) The guy who caught it from his pig, probably. (Elbows the POULTRY MAN, and they chortle until a glare from the CHAIRMAN silences them.)

CHAIRMAN: Pork Man, your objection is noted. He has a fair point, people. It's transmitting from human to human, now. I mean, my neighbor caught it from a street performer named Stain, but we're not calling it "Stain Flu."

TABLE AT LARGE: Mumbles agreement.

CHAIRMAN: So, we need to come up with a name for this flu that won't offend anyone. Anyone have a suggestion?

SYCOPHANT 1: Why not name it after something lovable and popular, like The Jonas Brothers?

CHAIRMAN: Jo-Flu! I like it!

MICKEY MOUSE: I OBJECT! The Disney corporation will not tolerate its licensed trademark characters used in this way.

JOBROS: Hey, we're sitting right here.

MICKEY MOUSE: Quiet, you. You can't have the name, and that's that. And Miley Cyrus is right out, too.

CHAIRMAN: All right, that's fine. What other names can we give it?

SYCOPHANT 2: The Barbie Flu?


SYCOPHANT 3: The Iron Chef Flu?

IRON CHEF CHAIRMAN: (bites into yellow pepper) I OBJECT!

CHAIRMAN: How does he dub his own voice when he's sitting right here?



CHAIRMAN: Wait! You may be on to something. We'll give this flu a combination of numbers and letters in an order so random and arbitrary it won't offend anyone. Gentlemen, break out the nine-sided number die and the 26-sided alphabet die.

(Sound of dice rolling.)

CHAIRMAN: My dear colleagues, I'm pleased to announce that, from this point forward, Swine Flu will now be called "H1N1."