Category Archives: Current Events

Lenten Challenge: After Nine Days

I’m currently on Day Nine of my Lenten Challenge. Nine days without using Facebook or Twitter. I wanted to share a little bit about how that’s been going.

First, Twitter. This one has been easier to give up. Not many of my close friends use Twitter, and most of the ones that do also duplicate their posts on Facebook. So I’m not missing a lot of valuable content. Sure, I’m missing out on a lot of conversations I might have missed otherwise, but most of them don’t really concern me, and are nothing that I really need to spend my time thinking about. The thing I’ve missed most about Twitter is the ability to easily contact some of the brands that I use every day, for example Roku and Comcast. These days, Twitter is one of the best ways to get support for products and services. I’ve also missed Twitter’s ability to bring people over to read my blog entries. Although we do offer an RSS feed of our blog entries, many people have abandoned RSS newsreaders these days in favor of gathering their news from Twitter. If I’m not posting updates on Twitter, then many people probably don’t know that I’m blogging. Yes, I do know that many of my friends from Build Guild have daily conversations on Twitter, and although I’m probably missing out on some of that, I’ll be looking forward to seeing them even more at next month’s event.

Second, Facebook. This one has been harder. More of my close friends and family are on Facebook. Rebecca and I and our friends and family rely more on Facebook to share family news and information. So I’m definitely missing the ability to stay up to date on what’s going on in everyone’s lives. To be fair, I did keep two Facebook features active – I’m a member of the Ericsson’s baby updates group, and I elected to continue receiving updates from that group since I really did want to know when their baby was born and what his name was (welcome, Levi!). I also get messages sent to a Facebook group for the young married couples group I’m involved with at Dane Street. I’ll also look over Rebecca’s shoulder if she wants to show me something specific on Facebook. But other than that, I haven’t visited the Facebook site on my own.

So far, I think the biggest benefit this challenge has had has been the reduction of distraction in my daily life. I already have enough to handle, with my responsibilities at work and at home. I already have social groups to interact with in a face-to-face setting at work, at home, and at church. Throw into the mix scanning updates from hundreds of people dozens of times per day, and I’d be getting far more input than I can really handle. Sure, I might get an endorphin boost from scanning all of that news, and it may create a feeling of excitement, but after that, it’s a bit of a letdown. I feel mentally quieter, and I feel that I’m able to give more attention to my immediate responsibilities: my work during the day, and my family on the evenings and weekends. I’m still searching for more ways to enhance the time that I have taken back from Twitter and Facebook, although I think the biggest realization has been that there is plenty for me to do already, if I’d just stop and take notice of it.

Rebecca has pointed out to me that giving something up entirely, especially something that isn’t required for survival, is much, much easier than doing it in moderation. It’s easy for me to simply say that I’m giving up Facebook and Twitter entirely. It makes decisions much simpler. Do I check Facebook or Twitter now? No. How about later? No. However, I do think that it’s a good starting point to clear the decks and make a fresh start after the Lenten challenge. At that point, the new challenge will be how to reintegrate these media into my life in a meaningful and balanced way. I hope to be more intentional about how I use them, and I’ll definitely have to exercise more self-control and discretion.

I also think that I’ll probably end up unfollowing some people on Twitter and unfriending some people on Facebook. Not because I dislike these people, but because I simply feel the need to focus more on the people who are really more a part of my daily life. I am a bit worried about doing this, however, because it seems that people have really started to believe that followership on Twitter or friendship on Facebook are as weighty and important as real-life friendships. I think this point is still up for debate, and the way people use social media is constantly evolving. But for my own personal usage, I’d rather start to see Facebook and Twitter more as extensions of real-life, face-to-face friendships, something that is added on to what I’ve already experienced and cultivated. I realize that for people who have been raised on Facebook, there may be less of a distinction there – you probably don’t have many friends who you met in real life first, and didn’t friend on Facebook until after you got to know them. You probably friended them on Facebook as soon as you met them, and it’s been one and the same ever since. And in the past two years or so, there are quite a few people who I’ve met in real life for the first time, only to add them to Facebook shortly after. Perhaps I’ll try to delay the friending process until I’ve had some more time to get to know them. Who knows, I may even end up adding some new people to my network – people who I’ve known for a while but haven’t connected with online.

I still have 36 more days to go in this challenge. Quite a long time, to be sure. Perhaps my feelings will change during that time. Maybe I’ll have more revelations, or try some new things. Maybe I’ll change my opinions or backtrack on some of the grandiose statements I made above. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of this Lenten season brings.

I’d love to hear from my readers. Are you fasting from anything for Lent? Do you have any thoughts on my challenge? Do you miss me on Facebook and Twitter? 🙂

How appropriate.

I was poking around the staff library at work when I found this little gem of a book: aaa|The American Frugal Housewife|048640840X|aaa by Lydia Maria Child and published in 1844. It is full of helpful hints on how to tell if walnuts are ready for pickling and how housewives should be sure to employ their children in making their own clothes, etc.

With all the talk about the price of gas the past few days, I thought that this passage was particularly timely. While there may not be anything individuals can do about the rising prices, they can change their practices to save, none-the-less. Child tells us not to be ashamed of our frugality, but to embrace it.

>We never shall be prosperous till we make pride and vanity yeild to the dictates of honesty and prudence! We never shall be free from embarrassment until we cease to be ashamed of industry and economy. Let woman do their share towards reformation- Let their fathers and husbands see them happy without finery; and if their husbands and fathers have (as is often the case) a foolish pride in seeing them decorated, let them gently and gradually check this feeling, by showing thatthey have better and surer means of commanding respect- Let them prove, by the exertion of ingenuity adn economy, that neatness, good taste, and gentility, are attainable without great expense.

Thanks, Lydia!

Something Exciting? I don’t think so.

You may (or may not) be keeping up with the merger of the two major department stores Macy’s and Filene’s. As it stands here in New England most of the Filene’s stores will close…and a couple Macy’s as well. The assumption is that all of the Filene’s will be replaced with Macy’s.

This makes me pretty sad. I do 85% of my clothes shopping at Filene’s. They have super sales almost all the time and I can actually find clothes that FIT, I feel good in and are not too expensive. Macy’s just doesn’t do that for me. I find their stores (well, the few I’ve been in) to be messy, unorganized, and full of clothes that are either too expensive, too young or too old for me. I can’t think of the last thing that I purchased there…it may have been a frying pan. (just try wearing that to work!)

Bloglines alerted me to another post in the Boston area written by someone with similar views as mine. Check it out here|http://www.bigdumptruck.com/2005_07_01_oldblog2.php#112260117103279878 and leave me a comment if you have something to add!

I think I’ll be headed to Filene’s today, coupon in hand, to try to savor my last few moments there. Alas!

Thesaurus, anyone?

One of the benefits of working out at the gym in the morning is that I get to catch the news on five different channels…all at the same time! It is interesting to compare the headlines and the order in which they air many of the same stories.

Today, of course, one of the main stories was the Conclave at the Vatican. Having never witnessed the process of determining a new Pope, I find these stories to be very interesing. I do, however, have some issues with the headlines that the stations have been airing with their stories.

This morning both CNN and Boston Channel 7 were both using the headline “Picking the Pope.” This just seems irreverent to me. Couldn’t these news station find a better alternative to ‘picking’? Off the top of my head I’ve got a few: selecting, choosing, determining…

Or better yet, why not use those “title” headlines that are so popular, like “Decision 05” or “Conclave 266”. I think maybe the writers should keep a thesaurus handy.

Remember… you can pick the Pope, you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick the Pope’s nose!

Cold enough for you?

Not for Corey. There we are, standing on the beach preparing to take the plunge, and Corey says, “I wish it was colder. Like, 5 degrees below 0 or something.” I have to admit I share that sentiment.

Some weeks ago my brother and I decided to join the L street Brownies in their New Years Day swim|http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2005/01/01/holiday_polar_swim_offers_chance_to_honor_loved_ones_from_afar/ in Boston Harbor. At the time we assumed that January 1st would be bitterly cold and we looked forward to braving the waters with the bold and the brave.

It was not to be as the temperature rose into the fifites today. The warm weather drew out the crowds and we were joined by 700 other hearty swimmers. We even ran into neighbors from the Island! Steven and Steve McKenna came out to ring in the New Year with a brisk swim!

Today I was able to check off an item on my “life’s to do” list. That does not mean, however that I won’t want to do it again next year!

See pics from the day Here|http://gallery.prwdot.org/polar_bear_swim_2005

Update: Additional news coverage in the Boston Herald|http://news.bostonherald.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=61405.

Trashy People

This morning at breakfast, I poured the last of our milk into our cereal bowls. As I was cleaning out the milk bottle and preparing to put it into our recycling bin, I remarked to Becky, “Can you believe that some people just throw these things in the trash?” She replied, “Yeah, like everyone else in our building!” It’s true! We’re the only people in the building who put out a recycling bin every other week. Everyone else just puts out tons of trash. I just can’t believe that people still throw perfectly good recyclable items into the trash. Perhaps they don’t realize that there are a lot|http://www.beverlyma.gov/Public_Documents/BeverlyMA_Recycling/rules of things you can put in there? Don’t come crying to me when you start paying for your tons of trash after the city passes its hauling charges on to you|http://www2.townonline.com/beverly/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=147495.

New England’s Character

These days, people are trying to let statistics do the talking.

Before the election, this op-ed in the Boston Globe claimed that Massachusetts and the Northeast were leading the nation in family values, in this case because of Massachusetts’ lowest-in-the-nation divorce rate. This is thanks to the predominantly Catholic population and the higher-than-average level of education.

Then we have a newsbrief in the Globe that says New England is the wealthiest region in the United States, but ranks the lowest in terms of rate of charitable giving. Yep, we’re a bunch of filthy-rich scrooges. Would other states continue to give at the same rate if they were making as much money as New Englanders?

Finally, there is the infamous list of states ranked by average IQ, with the Presidential candidate they voted for. It “showed” overwhelmingly that the states with the highest IQs tended to vote for Kerry. That chart was based on data from this page which now notes that some people have debunked the chart, and that a journal that originally published the chart issued a retraction. This page claims to debunk the original chart by using more balanced data. The results are all so subject to error it’s not even funny. I blame both sides for trying to gauge the intelligence of a state’s voters by the results of standardized tests that not every voting-age citizen has taken.

Four More Years

Since John Kerry has conceded the election, we now know we’ll be getting four more years of George W. Bush as the United States’ President. At best, it probably won’t be much worse than the past four years. At worst, it could be bad, especially if he makes even more bad decisions than he has in the past four years. At the same time, I don’t think electing Kerry would have been better; we would simply have been exchanging one president with his problems, who only about half of the voters wanted, for another president with his own set of problems, who was also only wanted by about half of the voters. I wasn’t excited about Bush or Gore in the 2000 election, and I wasn’t excited about Bush or Kerry in the 2004 election. I sincerely hope that the 2008 election will bring some more interesting (and more worthy) challengers.

In the meantime, I offer a bit of levity: Mena Trott posted today about Canada 2.0. It’s funny. Laugh. Please?

With love from “New America”…

The Results Are In

Well, for Beverly at least:

ppp|Beverly Voting Results|ppp

(Data courtesy of CNN)

Beverly’s population was 39,862 as of the 2000 Census. There was a 4.36 increase in population between 1990 and 2000, so I’ll project the same from 2000 to 2010 (I’ve seen a lot of people moving to Beverly and a lot of new housing). So in the last four years, a 1.6% increase would give us 40,500 citizens. As of the 2000 census, 78.49% of the population was of legal voting age, and I’ll assume the same for this year. So that’s roughly 31,788 who should be able to vote. Out of those, I don’t know how many are registered, but let’s be generous and assume that all of them are. So there were a total of 19,480 votes cast for President, which means that about 61.3% of those who were able to vote turned out. Not the greatest, but not terrible either.

Those of you who are statisticians are probably cringing. I apologize.