Welcome to The Squeaky Pen

...where life is slow, and ripe with rural treasures

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Nephew and the Argyle

I became giddy getting dressed this morning. I found a pair of matching socks.

About five years ago I gave up on wearing socks that match. In my new nonchalant life, I do go so far as to select foot coverings that are at least in the same shade range: black or dark gray; deep blues; the browns; the reds; similar print patterns; and white, of course, for golf. Some days, though, overcome with fashion apathy, I close my eyes and pull two socks out of the drawer, which is when I end up with a pink sock and a black sock. I've never been accused of being in vogue in the clothes department and this unmatching sock trend of mine isn't helping my reputation any. You get to a certain age, however, when you just don't care anymore.

I decided to forgo wearing legitimate sock pairs because the process of keeping track wore me out. I think it was the great Erma Bombeck who wrote about being an intelligent woman feeding socks two by two into the washer and how, when the load left the dryer, five socks, or seven socks, or some other odd number of socks would emerge. Jerry Seinfeld also used the mysterious sock dilemma of humans in his standup, something about socks realizing, in the dry cycle, that this was their opportunity to escape. I'm certainly not qualified to explain how socks get separated and disappear anymore than Erma or Jerry. All I know is that for years I had laundry baskets (yes, plural) full of nothing but odd socks. Every few months I'd take an afternoon at the dining room table and lay all the socks in organized lines, always finding many mates, and always having at the conclusion of this domestic adventure six dozen lone tubes in rainbow colors. I would tie the strays together and throw them back into the baskets, and put the baskets back into a closet, hoping somehow on laundry day next the wandering mates would reappear (ref: "Stuff" on this blog, 4-22-11).

So I gave up. It's freeing, really, to abandon footwear worries. Occasionally someone will point out the mismatched look, and now, as a secure female in her fifties, I shrug and say "Oh who cares." It isn't like I'm wearing ragged underthings that are discovered in an unanticipated emergency room visit. They're socks, for god sake. To quote the young (or those who've run out of intelligent commentary), whatever.

As a final observation: I have a sneaking suspicion where some of my socks have gone. One day I was visiting with my nephew and he crossed one ankle over his knee (this is the nephew, by the way, who lived with me for several years). There peeking out from the hem of his jeans was a familiar sight, a lovely dark blue argyle. I couldn't see his other ankle, but I knew there was no match there as the sock's significant other was resting quietly in a clothes basket upstairs, tied together with other cast-offs, patiently awaiting the return of its twin, now residing on the hairy hoof of my beloved and thieving family member. 

Maybe that was the day I gave up on matching socks, the Day Of The Nephew And The Argyle. I knew then this was a battle I could not win. Even so, there was a moment of secret pride that the boy got a bit of his personality from me: clearly, he's also decided wearing matching socks is a waste of time.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012

And The Password Is...UPDATE

Somebody up there doesn't like me. Went to pay my cell phone bill today. My normal bill of $125 was $919. Four additional numbers were added to my cell phone account in November, in Illinois, at an Apple store. By spammers or hackers or some other idiot who spends time screwing up our lives. After 1.5 hours on hold, with customer service, and with the fraud department of AT&T, the problem was resolved (or at least so they say). And of course, I had to change all my passwords. And passcodes. And usernames. And so on.

All this virtual communication is going to be the end of us.

Friday, January 27, 2012

And The Password Is...

When I was ten I spent much of my time outside. Smelling flowers, climbing the hill across the pond, building large nests out of mowed grass. Life was good.

Now I spend my days fighting spammers, who just lately have hacked into my contact list and have been busy sending god knows what to everybody I know: viruses or porno or invitations to collect millions of dollars from Nigerian princes. I've spent the week changing passwords. Unlike in my youth, when I spent time watching butterflies spinning through the foliage, now I fiddle around with passwords. 

I have passwords for everything. Email. Voicemail. Blackberry. Investment accounts. Bank accounts. Google. Blog. Twitter. Facebook. American Express. Visa. MasterCard. Amazon. Paypal. Ebay. Etsy. Sometimes I can't get into my own business because I can't remember the password, and if I should call a toll-free number and speak to Billy Bob with an Indian accent I am offered no assistance. I have a Rolodex full of passwords. If I forget my passwords I have to reset them. I spend hours doing nothing but trying to remember passwords, or looking up passwords, or resetting passwords. My entire world is now taken up with passwords. My parents never had passwords. They had boats and cars and jobs and relatives and long drives through the country and Sunday dinners. I have passwords.

So today my password is BURNEDOUT. I need to take a couple of days off and recalibrate myself. I'm thinking of going to the casino this weekend, although now that you can't put money in the slot machines anymore, now that you have to have a special card with a special computerized situation that somehow identifies you and adds money to your special computerized account card, they'll probably ask me for my password. I hope not. I'm thinking if they do my head might blow off.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Costa Concordia: A Titanic Miscalculation

In another life long ago, I was the editor of a boating magazine on Long Island. I wouldn't go so far as to call myself "a sailor," but I came to the job with a bit of boating experience: my dad owned a small motorboat, I'd done some rowing and canoeing in my youth, and I took a short sailing class just before being named the magazine's editor. If I had to assign myself a number (1 being landlubber and 10 being sea captain), I'd be about a 4. I've sailed on the Long Island Sound on friends' boats, serving primarily as "rail meat" on tame adventures where the shoreline was never out of sight. I like being on the water, and while I'm a proficient swimmer I have a healthy respect for boating's inherent dangers. As for the ocean...well, that's another story. My respect is less like healthy and more like terror-filled.

All this to say I've never been on a cruise. I've been close to cruise ships, which for those of you who haven't look more like buildings than boats. They are massive, holding from 2,000 to 5,000 people and featuring restaurants, swimming pools, casinos, nightclubs, bars, spas, fitness centers, movie and live theaters, shops, and all manner of amenities. Not to be confused with ocean liners of old, modern cruise ships have designated routes that rarely take them across an ocean. They are by some descriptions "balcony-laden floating condominiums."

The Friday the 13th sinking of Costa Concordia did not, like its tragic sister Titanic one hundred years ago, result in the deaths of more than 1,500 people. As of this writing, 15 people are confirmed dead and 17 are still missing of the 4,200 aboard. That the number of dead and missing is small does not, however, diminish the tragedy, particularly in light of the ever-blooming story of a daredevil captain who claims to have "tripped into a lifeboat" when explaining his premature departure from the ship. Stories about why the ship was so close to Giglio are varied. Some say Captain Francesco Schettino decided to take the ship for a spin in rocky waters to show off for the locals. In fact, gossip around the island suggests captains compete to see who can get closest to shore. The closer they get, the more thrilling. Then we have Schettino's story, which is that his bosses at the cruise line told him to do it "for publicity." There's also some nonsense about "noisy passengers" distracting the captain, which is so ridiculous as to be dismissed out of hand.

The whys -- other than for reasons of prosecution -- are less important to me than the results. Take the couple from Minnesota, Barbara and Gerald Heil, who according to their children bypassed luxuries all their lives in order to send four kids to private schools from elementary to college. When they retired, they decided to treat themselves and, with great excitement, boarded the Costa Concordia for a 16-day cruise. The Heils are still missing. And then there's Sandor Feher, a Hungarian violinist working on the ship as a musician. In the chaos of the sinking, Mr. Feher helped children don life jackets, then returned to his cabin to retrieve his violin. He was never seen again.

I don't know what will become of the ship captain, nor of the Carnival Cruise Line spin doctors who I'm sure at this moment are in a brand-saving scramble. What I do hope, however, is that Captain Schettino and his superiors will be tortured in their dreams by the cries of frightened and dying passengers who trusted them. I hope they are shamed by the potential damage that 500,000 gallons of spilled fuel might cause to marine life and surrounding waters, and by the colossal ship now abandoned like a broken toy off the coast of Italy. More, though, I hope they are haunted from now until forever by the memory of frugal and caring parents finally taking the trip of their lives, and by the song of a beloved violin, its music silenced for all time by, at the very least, grotesque incompetence, and at worst, by arrogance and thrill-seeking and a contemptible lust for publicity.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Not-So-Great Debates: Republicans Square Off (Again)

Republican debate night. It's starting to feel like the debates are on more often than The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I'm having trouble figuring out which -- the debates or the housewives -- is the kooky reality show.

Some highlights: Only four guys left. Rick Perry exited today, throwing his endorsement to Newt Gingrich. Speaking of Newt, he flipped out at CNN's John King right off the bat when asked about the ex-wife interview on ABC regarding his alleged request for an open marriage (he had a six-year affair with current wife Calista while married to ex-wife Marianne), galled that CNN would start out a presidential debate by asking a question about "trash like that" and exclaiming that the media makes it difficult for "decent" people to run for office. So I guess it's the media's fault Newt couldn't keep his pants zipped when he was married.  Oh well, he's asked for God's forgiveness so I guess we're good. 

Ron Paul was on message. Get the government out of the way so the country can do its thing, let's stop with the undeclared wars, we can't be policeman of the world, constitution, constitution, constitution. Lots of jobs talk by all, how to get the economy going, too many regulations, must crack down on China, let's become energy independent from the Middle East, and of course Romney's Bain troubles. Same old story: Romney helped create 120,000 jobs with four companies through Bain. "There's nothing wrong with profit," Mitt said, profit that he says went to charities and pension funds. "It's capitalism and freedom that make America strong," said Mitt, adding he plans to "ram that down" the President's throat. Picking up the drumbeat, Santorum called America "Barack Obama's squalor." Rick says "sign up with us (us being the GOP) and we'll put you back to work." Lots of humble pie from the Pennsylvania contender. "My grandfather was an immigrant. Dad came here when he was seven. I grew up in an apartment and watched the veterans come home. God is great. Yada yada yada."

Let's see, what else: 

Obamacare is evil evil evil. (Why is that again? Not sure. They never quite say but I guess if you say something is evil long enough everybody will believe you.) Healthcare should act like a market, says Mitt, not government domination. "Obama's wrong, we're right, thats why we're going to win." One of them said the American people are frightened by "bureaucratic medicine" (you mean like bureaucratic auto insurance, whereby if I don't have insurance on my car I get a ticket?). Newt mocked that kids remain on parents' insurance until age 26. I found this interesting as I had a conversation with a friend recently who said how good it was that his daughter is still on his insurance...she graduated college, is looking toward grad school, and will probably be a fine educated American citizen who didn't need to worry about paying for insurance while she furthered her education. Ah, who wants fine educated Americans? Not Newt! "Elect us and we'll get jobs going so you're kids can move out."

Some other soundbites: 

"Gradiosity has never been a problem for Newt Gingrich."
Accused Newt and Mitt of "playing footsies with the left" re healthcare

"Long before Rick came to congress I was busy being a rebel."
"I helped balance the budget for four years." (Newt is fond of taking credit for the four-year balanced budget during Bill Clinton's administration. I wonder how much credit for "American squalor" current speaker John Boehner is taking?)

"We need to send someone to Washington who hasn't lived in Washington...someone who's been a leader in the private sector, who's been on the streets...someone outside of Washington should go to Washington."
"Democrats want to go after people who are successful. I've been very successful, and I know the Democrats will go after me for being successful. I didn't inherit money from my parents, what I have I earned the American way."

"People worry about money going overseas. If we send dollars over there, they don't put those dollars in a shoebox. Those dollars come back."
"Let's take the overseas resources defending foreign borders and put them here to defend our own."

When asked when they would release their tax returns:

Newt: An hour ago.
Ron: Haven't thought it through, but I'd be embarrassed to put my financial statement against their (the other candidates') income. It may come to that but I have no intention of doing it.
Mitt: When my taxes are complete this year in April.
Rick: I do my own taxes and they're on my computer and I'm not home and there's nobody home. When I get home I'll go get my taxes.


Gingrich: I favor freedom. If a company finds its been genuinely infringed upon, they should do something. Government involvement is exactly the wrong thing to do.
Romney: I think Newt got it just about right. The law is far too intrusive and expansive, it would have a potentially depressive impact on the Internet. I'm standing for freedom.
Paul: I was the first Republican with a host of Democrats to oppose this law. This bill is not going to pass but watch out for the next one. 
Santorum: The bill goes too far, but something should be done to protect intellectual property of people. I'm talking about entitites off-shore. Government should a have role to protect intellectual property. I'm not for people abusing the law and that's what's happening now. The idea that anything goes on the Internet, where did that come from? Property rights should be respected.

Nothing new on immigration: Newt wants to control the border, deport the bad guys faster, and not kick out grandparents who go to church and who have been here for 25 years. Mitt wants to build a fence and get some ID cards. Rick believes in immigration but not illegal immigration, and Ron says nobody believes in illegal immigration for heaven sake.

And of course, they're all pro-life (this expression has always irked me, as though those opposed are pro-death. Maybe the terms should be changed to pro-choice and pro-choiceless). Newt and Mitt argued for awhile (and again) about whether Romney is pro-life, and Santorum chimed in, beating on Mitt for a few minutes. Mitt insists he'll be a pro-life president and will always "protect the rights of the unborn." They tried to skip Ron Paul on this issue to the outrage of some audience members. Ron got his points in, is also pro-life, adding that culture changed in the 1960s, and the law followed. The problem, he says, is "the morality of people."

There were lots of "pick me"s at the end, espousing that Barack Obama is the Great and Corrupt Socialist Food Stamp Guy, that he's dangerous, that armageddon is a-comin' unless a Republican gets into office. We're still a great country, they said, The Hope of the Earth, The Shining City on the Hill, and so on, as long as we boot the current guy for one of them. And one of the candidate's wives spent $16,000 on a pocketbook...

...oh wait a minute. That happened on the Real Housewives. Sorry. TV is confusing these days.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

When They Start Arriving Two By Two, I Start Work On The Boat

So I'm sitting here tonight reading a book and, out of the corner of my eye, I see something flash by the window on the street. Something big. At first my mind tells me "Kid on a bicycle." I look up and see a second something go by. Also fast, also big. My mind then gets hold of itself and says to me "It's 10 o'clock at night, there's snow on the ground, and it's 9 degrees outside. Kid on a bike? I don't think so." I get up and look out the window, and under the streetlight I see a third something run by, only this time it isn't a something. It's a deer. A big one. I then look down the street and there they are, the three of them, galloping down the middle of my street. Finally they sail over snowy lawns, cut in front of the church, and are gone.

It's true that I don't live in a big city, but I do live in town. There are sidewalks and stop signs and steaming cups of coffee at the convenience store around the corner. That is to say, I don't live in the boondocks. And yes, I have in my lifetime seen a deer in town, although the number of times I have I can count on one hand.

I bring this up not because seeing a deer in the middle of the village is so shocking (although I've never seen three at once before), but because just lately there's been quite a bit of talk about wildlife around here. As you may have read on this blog, there was a bald eagle in my back yard last week, and since that incident several people have reported that the bald eagle population in this area is growing. In summer and fall, it's not uncommon to hear coyote packs yipping in the woods behind our golf course, and a few weeks back a friend of mine reported seeing a wolf at the treeline of her property, not a coyote or a dog, a wolf. Finally, over the weekend, I heard tales of more than one person seeing mountain lions in the hills that surround our valley. Mountain lions.

I'm not inclined to conduct extensive research on the wolf/lion stories since I'm not a hunter, nor am I an animal activist or conservationist. Curious, though, I checked a few online message boards and found many anecdotal reports on wolf and mountain lion sightings in New York State, and many in my own county. Also on these message boards are the nay-sayers, insisting that the lion a person says she saw was probably a bobcat, and the wolf another person says he saw was probably a coyote. I can't speak for the lion and wolf sightings, but I can certainly speak to the rest. I've seen coyotes at the edge of town, I've seen an eagle skimming the trees from my own porch, and now I'm watching deer loping up the street outside my window.

All this wildlife is kind of exciting. At the same time, there's something a bit unnerving about it. Do the increased sightings mean animals and birds are migrating this way? That conservationists have been doing a good job? That some mysticism is at work? Or did I just live in New York City too long, where the only animal that scampered by my front window was the mailman?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January Observations

Wednesday: Rumor has it there was an eagle in the neighborhood this morning. In fact, not only was said eagle in the 'hood, but he was perched, I'm told, in my big maple out back. I'm sending Harry outside with great consternation, imagining my dog, and then myself holding tight to Harry's rear legs, dangling cartoon-style over the back yard fence from the hunting talons of a magnificent though homicidal bird. Granted, the eagle would have to be Schwarzenegger-strong to carry me off, but my imagination tends to run wild. Then again, the mayor informed me tonight that the eagle was most likely searching for food, leading to a gut-wrenching possibility that my tiny pet was indeed on the menu. I am further traumatized by a southern friend sharing this: "I've probably already told you about the local chihuahua being hawk-snatched, sailing across the sky, headed for the eager craws of naked baby birds." I am in high freak. Sensing this, Harry patrols the windows.

The Christmas tree came down today. I dreaded this task, not because of the work involved but because the thing was so lovely. A small part of me (very small) wishes there were snowbanks outside that I might stuff the tree deep and attach bird feeders (then again, do I really want to attract more fowl to the premises?). Alas, my shining tribute to the holidays will lay broken and dribbling needles curbside until the men who do such things come along to cart it away to the Christmas tree burial ground.

Speaking of snow, the weather is strangely mild. I stepped onto my porch barefoot today, scanning for dog-eating raptors and puzzling over bright skies, so atypical this time of year in central New York. My disbelief that such tender temps can continue long was confirmed by a smirking newsman, who reports chilly precipitation is on the way.

Mitt Romney, he with the look of a cheerful Dracula, won New Hampshire. John Huntsman, the only Republican candidate lacking foxy expressions, came in third. I don't get it. I want to like Ron Paul but he unnerves me, Rick Perry is a Dubya-clone dolt, Santorum is pro-fracking ("Here you go, Senator, light this tap water on fire and drink up..."); and then there's Newt...a smart man, experienced, but another who makes my nerves jangle. The best news about the Republican race is that nit-wit Bachmann is finally gone.

I'm not sure I can take another eight and a half months of this. Maybe I'll just go outside and watch for eagles, the soaring American symbol that seems unaware of duplicitous politicians blowing January sunshine up our skirts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Never Thought I'd Have A Hair...There

To all the nubile young girls who have not yet gone through menopause: this column is for you.

I've always had decent hair. Growing up it was long and, I think, fairly luxurious. In the red family, although now thanks to Miss Clairol it's most certainly red. I skipped through my teens, my college years, my twenties and thirties and forties flinging my hair around. My concerns then were never more than what's the right shampoo and conditioner? Did I get a good cut? Is it shiny? And so on.

Then the fifties arrived along with menopause. Although the hair on my head is distinctly thinner, it's held up well. Not great, but not awful. I have maybe two or three good hair days a month. The rest of the time it's...well, it's there, not falling out by the handful, not frizzed to the outer reaches, and, as long as I visit the hairdresser on a frequent basis, not gray.

This column isn't about the hair on my head, though. This is about the hair everyplace else. With the decrease of estrogen has come calmer moods, wisdom, and, in horrifying places, hair. I have hair on my chin. There is now hair on my big toe, and today I found a hair on my neck that was an inch long. Added to my beauty equipment in the last few years is the hair removal kit because tweezers can no longer handle the job. In my hair removal kit is wax that you heat up in the microwave, smear on in the necessary places, and tear off, the ideal being that the unwanted hair comes with it and you don't end up with blazing red marks from the scalding wax. Furthermore, the hair I used to have on my eyebrows has moved. Yes, young girls, that's right. You will come to regret all that plucking you're doing to your eyebrows. Sooner or later, the eyebrow hair vanishes, relocating, I'm sorry to tell you, to your upper lip. 

Then there's leg hair. This is good news, actually, in that along with the aging process, at least for me, has come a realization that I don't need to shave my legs as much as I used to. This does not count the bikini wax, which I have never experienced. The very idea of a bikini wax is terrifying to me. Then again, since I've never worn a bikini this is a problem that falls far back on my list of things to worry about.

Now we come to a sensitive area, an area I shall call "the petunia" (this phrase comes from my cousin the nurse, who once cared for an elderly woman who referred to her private place as her "petunia"). It's come to my attention that women 30 and under (my friend Gloria tells me it's 40 and under) now shave their petunia. Shave it bald. I feel a bit prehistoric in that my knowledge of this custom has come to me late in life. I'm not sure what this shaving of the petunia is all about, but I have to ask wwhhhhyyyyy? Why would anyone other than porn stars or women about to give birth shave the petunia?? Women ...adult women anyway... are supposed to have hair in certain places. The petunia in my book would be one such place. Forgetting for a minute about the itching and the oddity of resembling an adolescent girl, there's putting a razor someplace that it simply does not belong. And if the reason has something to do with sex, well the truth is I just don't want to know about it. The ladies of The View even mentioned this cultural phenomenon one day recently and, I'm happy to report, agreed with me (well, at least Whoopi and Joy did; Sherri and Elizabeth, both under 40, kept still). I realize this topic is a bit off-color, but I feel a need to bring it up because, quite frankly, I'm aghast. 

All this to say, I never knew growing up that hair would become such an issue later on. I considered that my head hair might fall out, but it never dawned on me that I would be thinking about hair everyplace else and that I would be panic-stricken if either my tweezers or my eyebrow pencil vanished for more than an afternoon. 

So sit up and take notice, young girls. All this shaving and waxing and plucking you're doing now is only the beginning. When your final drop of estrogen flaps its hand goodbye you'll be entering the hair twilight zone. Hang on, ladies. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Friday, January 6, 2012

"There is no friend as loyal as a book"

Ernest Hemingway

I'm fortunate enough to have a library at home, and as I write this I'm admiring my books. They're really quite beautiful, the spines in lovely colors accented by fonts that mirror content: stark and bold for mystery and thriller; playful for comic and light; serious for the classics. I have an entire wall of Stephen King, a wall at which I marvel on quiet nights that any one person could have so many words in his head. Under the book jackets are bindings with soft leather and colorful threads. When I hold a book close I can smell the ink, a throwback I imagine to my days as a newspaper reporter when I would walk into my office and breathe in the back room scents, when I could hear the presses running and know that soon folded paper with my name on it would be tossed on doorsteps. There is nothing quite like seeing one's own name in print.

I don't yet own a Kindle, but appreciate its novelty, its lightness of weight, its ability to call forth with a few keystrokes all manner of literature. In the last two years I've purchased four as Christmas gifts, and yes: I get it. The Kindle (or Nook or whatever) is a "cool thing." This onslaught of technology is wonderful, although not unlike the advent of the car, which put the horse folks out of business, it has its downside. Progress talkers say such advancement is important, and that indeed, some businesses that once were thriving should become obsolete. Being fazed out is part of the deal. I get that that, too. We must march on, though I do wonder how many jobs the Internet and its spawn have winked out. Everybody likes to blame the President -- whether of the blue or red variety -- for job loss. Here in my library, surrounded by hefty work by King and Grisham and Dickens and Shakespeare, I wonder if the web is more responsible for unemployment than Mr. Obama, or Mr. Bush, or whomever might be next.

Some terrible news has emerged this week in my little corner of the world. The First Edition, a bookstore in Norwich, New York that's been in business since the early 1980s, is closing in the next month. I could not be more disappointed. A bookstore closing its doors, thanks to Kindle and Nook and Amazon and the rest, is a tragedy for me. I wish I had a million dollars I didn't need (well, I wish I had a million dollars period). I'd give the money to The First Edition and say "Go forth. We need you." Sadly, this will not happen. The First Edition will close, the only bookstore (or so I've heard) in my county.

When I lived in Arkansas there was a bookstore in our smallish town. Its proprietor created in her store not just a place to shop, but a home away from home. There was often chili bubbling on top of the wood stove out back, and rockers for sitting, and toys for playing. Authors were frequent visitors -- and still are in fact, as the Arkansas bookstore, for the moment, continues on. Still today the public is invited in for signings and conversation. The store is a place where readers and writers gather to meet, talk, drink coffee, eat chili, and share a love of books. Some of my fondest memories of my time in Arkansas were spent in that bookstore because it wasn't just somewhere to buy books. It was a place of learning and people and grand times. A bookstore is a place of wonder where stories -- and those who write them -- come to life.

They say we never know what we have until it's gone, and I'm as guilty as the rest. I'm lazy and order books online because I can type in John Irving, while I'm in my bathrobe, and have a book the next day. I have not, I'm sorry to say, frequented The First Edition much. Now it's too late. Sooner or later the bookstore as we know it will go the way of the horse-drawn carriage, the live meeting, the movie theater. Instead we sit at home in our slippers and wait for Netflix to arrive, for the Amazon package, for the webcast. We order stories on a skinny computerized tablet and are immediately gratified. I appreciate the Internet, I do. If it were not for the Internet you would not be reading this now. Still, what are we losing in this tap-tapping in a home office, in this solitude? I find it odd that while we're all more connected than ever through computers and social networks, we've never in our history been more disconnected. I don't know who's reading this now. I may know what country you're from, but I'll never know your name. The Internet, somehow, makes me feel lonely. Not just alone, but lonely. And the Kindle with its pixels on a tiny screen is stealing away our closeness as humans, our one-on-one with bookstores and authors and beautiful books with their smells and threads and jackets. In the end I'm just a gal in a horse-drawn carriage, I guess, watching Chevys and Fords flash by.

As I sit here looking at my books, objects that seem to be turning obsolete along with the stores that sell them, a thought drifts in: a hundred years from now when I'm gone, after my old-fashioned carriage has carted me and my nostalgic ideas off to the great beyond, will people not yet born stand in my empty library and wonder what all these shelves were for?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Color Me Twitter

Here we are in the new year, and in this spirit of "newness" I've decided to join Twitter. So I'm twittering now. Er ... I mean, tweeting.

I told a friend the other day that, when it comes to technology, I feel like an elephant slogging through quicksand while hummingbirds whiz by overhead. This assessment isn't exactly accurate since I AM on Facebook and Linkedin, and now Twitter; and since I do in fact work on a computer every day and am never far from my Blackberry. Still, my brain hasn't caught up, especially when it comes to Twitter.

For months now I've been scowling around, trying to understand the point of Twitter. I have a bead on the other two social networks with which I'm affiliated -- Linkedin and Facebook -- the former a business networking site and the latter a way to tell every friend you've ever had what you're doing and thinking and feeling every minute of the day ... with pictures. But Twitter has had me puzzled, it being the one with the length limit. That is, a tweet can only be 140 characters long including spaces and punctuation, meaning if you feel like tweeting the Gettysburg address you'd only get this far with one tweet: Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the propositio

Even with this unappealing character restriction, the idea that I hadn't signed up for Twitter was gnawing at me. I sensed I was missing something, millions of people out there yucking it up with mini-conversations of which I was not a part. So over the weekend I created an account, tweeted something about my blog, and went to bed.

In the morning I was overjoyed to see I'd attracted 32 followers overnight! In clicking on my followers link I discovered that 31 of the followers were men and women with sexy-looking photos and email address profiles so vile I won't repeat them here. With my 140-character tweet I'd managed to pull in a couple of dozen porno people. Marvelous.

On Sunday I got busy. I blocked the porno folks and started following all sorts of people: celebrities, literary agents, publishers, newscasters, authors, politicians, and a few friends and business associates. Now when I sign onto Twitter I read tweets like these:

"Love getting gift cards for books!" ... and
"Are Minka Kelly and Derek Jeter back together? ... and
"Have zero heat since December 28th" ... and
"I never get along well with touch-screen products" ... and
"Happy birthday Erin!"

You can also include links to pictures and videos and articles, just like on Facebook and Myspace and Linkedin and the rest. The only difference, really, other than some made-up rules by Naziesque software programmers about the method of befriending or how many characters you're allowed to use, is the social network's name. 

I am no longer a large, trundling plant-eating mammal with a prehensile trunk being taunted by fast-winged fowl. I, too, am a hummingbird now, zipping along with understanding. Twitter, while sort of entertaining and maybe occasionally educational since I'm following news outlets, is basically this: same sh#t, different day. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Look, Still Squeaking

No, you're not in the wrong place. This is still The Squeaky Pen, which will continue to squeak away every Tuesday and Friday of 2012. Just thought it was time for a different look...the candles were starting to bum me out.

Check back on Tuesday, January 3, for a brand new post. 

About Me

Newspaper columnist; blogger; author of Delta Dead; author of 101 Tip$ From My Depression-Era Parents; author of Australian Fly; editor: ...And I Breathed (author, Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation), "A History of the Lawrence S. Donaldson Residence"; "The Port Washington Yacht Club: A Centennial Perspective"; "The Northeastern Society of Periodontists: The First Fifty Years"; editor: NESP Bulletin; editor: PWYC Mainsail; past editorial director: The International Journal of Fertility & Women's Medicine; past editor of: Long Island Power & Sail, Respiratory Review; Medical Travelers' Advisory; School Nurse News; Clear Images; Periodontal Clinical Investigations; Community Nurse Forum