What ever happened to “what ever happened to?”?

After I finally caved and joined Facebook, I spent about two months in a state of perpetual excitement, as every day seemed to bring a new friend request from some long-lost soulmate. It was wonderful, and I was thrilled with each and every new reconnection. The experience made me question my hitherto-held stance on my high school reunion, i.e., there’s no way I am deliberately going to subject myself to dinner and dancing with those people. Anyone that meant anything to me, I reasoned, was still part of my life, and all I would get from a reunion was confirmation that everyone else was as horrible as I remembered.
Facebook changed my mind, and I am very glad I’ve been reminded of all the really great people I went to high school with, and of all the wonderful workmates I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years.
I recently created a separate Facebook “persona” for interaction with students, and for some reason I started reflecting on the impact of Facebook, and its various social networking counterparts, on human relationships. I’m not talking about the dire predictions of the technophobes, who seem to believe that one cannot be an active member of society and own a cellphone/computer/MP3 player; I’m actually talking about the phenomenon I experienced as a new Facebooker.
Some of my students, less than two decades old, already have more than 500 ‘friends’, and unless the Aztecs were right, all of these people will presumably still be in constant communication, at least electronically, for the next seven decades (give or take).
What happens in 2030? Will high school alumni groups bother with reunions? Will alumni groups even continue to exist, or will Stu Dent simply “like” first his high school, then college, then university, then job #1, ad infinitum?
This line of questioning then led me to wonder whether or not anyone will ever again slide into obscurity. Once upon a time, it was the exclusive bailiwick of cheap paper tabloids to expose in salacious detail what “happened” to the once-famous or infamous – a name or face you hadn’t though of in years suddenly splashed across lurid newsprint at the grocery store checkout, “tragically” lost in a haze of alcohol/drugs/sex/performance art. Remember the child actors from “Different Strokes”? How sad…
Well, first of all, thanks to Twitter and Facebook and Myspace, no star need ever fade again. You can make one movie or guest star in one episode – or, heaven forbid, get your own “reality” show – and immediately have thousands of people who are apparently willing to spend the rest of their lives reading about your life in 140 characters or fewer. If your tweets are good enough, you might never need to do anything else again – you’ll still be famous.
If that’s not enough, thanks to the Internet, you can have your own web site, and use it to prolong what might otherwise have been a much shorter career. When I started thinking about this blog post, I happened to be listening to hits from the 80s, and thought to myself, “I wonder whatever happened to Howard Jones, anyway?” You know what happened to Mr. Jones? Nothing. He is still touring and recording, albeit with significantly less embarassing hair. Thomas Dolby? Not permanently blinded by science, as it turns out, but rather, once again, still touring and recording, and, it seems, entertaining TED audiences to boot.
Don’t get me wrong – I certainly do not begrudge Messrs. Jones and Dolby their continued success. I am merely observing that the level of that success is directly related to their presence on the Internet. Before the advent of the Internet, and triple-w marketing, artists like these would have either moved on to other careers, or, perhaps, in the style of Jimmy Buffet, cashed in on their moderate success and started a chain of seedy bars (“Thomas Dolby’s Science Lab”?).
Finally, thanks to the miracle of Google, not to mention all the sites actually devoted to tracking the famous and the notorious, you need never again lay awake at night wondering whatever happened to Jan from the Brady Bunch.
Regular readers will know that I am enamoured of the Internet and the possibilities it offers. I truly believe the technological revolution is a good thing, and I, like many of my peers, can’t remember how we functioned before we had e-mail and cellphones. But sometimes I wonder if we’re losing some things, too, like the mystery of tabloid celebrity or the joy of reconnecting with someone we’d forgotten we loved…
…and don’t even get me started on textspeak. 😛


So there was, in fact, an unbelievably simple way to do what I was trying to do – Feedburner has an option called BuzzBoost in the Publicize tab that does pretty much exactly what I set out to do, namely, have an updated list of recent entries from The Communal Kitchen.
The results are right over there

I’ve lost my geek mojo

I’m trying to be a good girl and post more regularly to The Communal Kitchen, and I want to incorporate the RSS feed from that blog into this blog’s sidebar.
Translation: I want new entry titles from my recipe site to appear as links in a permanent section in the sidebar of the page you’re currently reading.
I’ve found a few variations on this theme, but no code that actually does what I want it to, and I can’t figure out how to tweak the codes I have found to make them do my bidding.
I have set up a feedburner feed, http://feeds.feedburner.com/TheCommunalKitchen#
Maybe it’s my keywords, but most of the stuff I’ve turned up in researching this is either how to set up a feed for your site (which I’ve done) or how to read other feeds in various readers.
I’m convinced that what I am trying to do is easy, and that I’m probably just overlooking a really simple solution – help!
If you have a nice, simple solution (or even a messy complicated one, really), please let me know!

Your daily dose of perspective

In the process of moving our home office, we’ve come across a 1988 price list for a computer company where Dr. T worked once upon a time, which reveals a couple of things:
1 ~ this is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about when I complain that the man never throws anything out. I mean really, 1988??
2 ~ computer technology (in case you hadn’t noticed) has skyrocketed in terms of capability and plummeted in terms of price. We are all pretty much aware of this, but the 1988 price list offers some concrete examples:
HP laser printer: $6,750
Hayes 1200 baud external modem: $649
IBM PS/2 (featuring 2 Mb RAM, 115 Mb hard drive – and that’s Mb, not Gb; and there’s no monitor): $14,000 (add $350 for a 12″ black & white monitor, and at least $850 for colour)
Compaq portable 386 (featuring 1 Mb RAM and 40 Mb hard drive): $10,595
Right now, I am creating this entry on my sexy new laptop, which features 2 Gb RAM, 160 Gb hard drive, 17″ anti-glare screen, integrated webcam, wireless, etc., etc., for which I paid about a thousand dollars – one-tenth what I would have had to shell out for that portable Compaq. And my SNL is ‘espresso’ brown – it’s like a huge slab of cyberchocolate.
Just the way I like ’em: sexy, powerful, chocolatey, and, as it turns out, cheap.

Interresant, non?

It’s a good thing I am not paranoid.
This morning, I opened my browser and scrolled down my page for the weather forecast. Interestingly, the forecast was in French.
Which it was not yesterday.
If I were paranoid, I might have taken this linguistic switch as evidence of some kind of insidious Big Brother (or, perhaps more appropriately, Grand frere) plot to take over my web site, one element at a time.
Thankfully, I am not paranoid.
I clicked on the weather button, and sure enough, the French weather network site opened. From there, I went to the English site, and found the English code for the button, and added it to my template.
If I were paranoid, I might have been a little perturbed that there was (a) no indication that changes had been made to the code, and (b) an automatic redirection to the French site with the old code (which I added about a month ago, when the WN changed their old, old code, again, without notice or explanation, resulting in everyone’s favourite tiny red X in my sidebar, rather than the weather).
But I’m not paranoid.

Bear with me

Still getting used to the new Moveable Type set-up… my primary goal here is to eliminate the thousands of comment spammers who leave their mark all over my stuff. Eventually, I’ll be able to turn my attention to actual design.
In the meantime, if you do comment and find that it takes ages for your comment to appear, you’ll be happy to know that (a) I’ll publish you ASAP, (b) we’re working on it, and (c) if all goes according to plan, you’ll be able to comment and publish simultaneously, as soon as we get one of those image-recognition thingies installed.

Maybe I dreamed it

So on Thursday, I bought a new printer at Future Shop:
Me: I’m looking for an Epson multi-function that I saw on your web site.
FS Guy: You want to know the price?
Me: No, I know the price, I want the machine. It’s marked down from $99 to $59.
FS Guy: [points to $250 machine] Is this it?
Me: Um, no. $59.
FS Guy: I guess we don’t have that one.
Me: Yes, you do. I checked online, and you have it at this location. That’s why I’m here.
FS Guy: [turning around and practically tripping on actual model] Is this it?
Me: Yes! Thanks.
FS Guy: [as I pick up my own box, and as box underneath falls on my foot] … [walks away]
The weirdest part? He didn’t try to sell me an extended warranty. Not even a little bit. Which was a little disappointing, because I had my whole tirade ready.

That’s better.

Sorry for the inconsistency. I think this look will last for a while. The pink and green was ok, and very spring-like, but it wasn’t really me. This I can live with.

Spring cleaning

It’s spring! Time for a new look.
This year, I decided I would use my own images – please let me know how the colours and layout work. I do all of my blogging on my laptop, which means that my display colours are completely unreliable. What I see is not representative – so feedback is welcome!
In case you’re reading this in the archives, and the look has since changed, this is the look I’m talking about.