Friday, January 25, 2013

Tech-nically speaking

Lately I have come to the realization that I have a complete love/hate relationship with technology. To clarify, I use the word technology as a blanket referring to my computer, my phone and all of the various apps, sites, and social media available therein. And I use the word complete because I accept the relationship, warts and all.

Depending on the day, I have a widely varying attitude towards these gifts/curses of the modern era. Both my interest and my dedication come in waves. I can go days without checking Facebook or answering emails. And then there are the days where my phone seems glued to my hand as I switch furiously between various social media, washing my brain in a mix of necessary and unnecessary information. Of course if you were to ask for an example of this necessary information of which I speak, I would have to admit there is not so much. Although I do occasionally get an email with a new address or something like that. See, necessary!

I also have a huge double standard when it comes to this part-time addiction. Basically, if you want to check your phone, do it while I am also checking my phone. Otherwise it's rude. I hate when the person I am attempting to engage with is busy reading emails, playing games, checking Facebook, etc. But when I am doing it, I am oblivious to it's rudeness, which makes it OK.

I only just opened a Twitter account, so now in addition to a quick perusing of what my Facebook friends are doing, I can also check in with the various celebs and handful of friends I follow on Twitter. This is not a good use of my time. I know it. But down time like the handful of minutes I spend on the toilet or in an elevator need not be without any entertainment these days. My problem comes when I am using these things too much in "not down time."

Me (or someone like me) enjoying some down time

The addiction to technology came to a head for me only recently. About a year and a half ago, with the blush of new motherhood still visible on my face, I found myself with a lot of that down time I referred to earlier. It was also known as the time while my daughter was feeding. It happened often. I was alone. Reading an actual book was sometimes too difficult. So there I sat, just me and my phone... oh, and the kid of course. But she was busy. I needed something to occupy my time beyond Facebook and email. And that's when I discovered Bakery Story. 

I didn't know what Bakery Story was at the time, but I knew all about it's type. I had for many years gotten various requests via Facebook for contributions to people's farms and restaurants, often ending in a "ville," but I didn't know too much about it. I didn't have any interest myself. Until, of course, I found myself with a solid half hour to kill approximately every three hours. 

I will also throw in this fact about me: I have never paid for an app. I have owned an iPhone for approximately five years and I have never paid money for an app. Seriously. Never.
-"not even the ones that are 99 cents?"
-no, not even those
-"what about _______, or any of the other really cool apps that people use all the time?"
-nope, none of them. Although I did get a free trial version of Face Swap that I enjoy on occasion. I mean, what's not to love, you can literally "swap" the faces in any of your photos. It's like the movie Face Off but with my friends and family. I can take his face, off. It's amazing. And free. 

So, there I was with time to waste and a free app called Bakery Story staring me down from the list of free apps in the app store. The way I understood it, I would get to open my own bakery. Sounds interesting enough. Install.

Hello friend... or so I thought.

I pick up the story approximately one year later when I regained consciousness. Thinking back, there were definitely multiple incidents during that year of my husband berating me for such egregious time wasting. Oh, sure, but reading live commentary on the football game you're actually watching live seems like a super use of your time. (Deflection is a gift of mine.) In addition, there were several embarrassing moments when someone asked me what I was playing and I uncomfortably had to tell them what I was doing. Busted.

Basically, I own a fake bakery in my phone that people I have never met visit and complement my decor by sending me gifts of brownies and chocolate milk shakes and that my white chocolate cupcakes would be ready in five minutes, which leaves me enough time to switch my tables for more seasonally appropriate ones while replacing the wallpaper, after I install a sno-cone maker to make rainbow sno-cones, thereby increasing my daily output of treats and making my bakery the best damn bakery in this whole cyber bakery community world thing. Each time I explained it I inched towards the truth. I had a problem that no ooey gooey chocolate raspberry fudge would fix. Bakery Story had to go.

And so it was, approximately a year after downloading it, I checked in on my bakery for the last time. In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't actually erase the app from my phone. It's still there, the icon taunting me as I play Words with Friends. But I know I can't go down that road anymore. Even when my phone tells me someone else has sent me a new gift, I know I can't go see what it is... that is one slippery frosted slope. 

So while I am aware that my tendencies are towards mind-numbing addiction, when it comes to technology, I'll have to stick to the middle of the road. I have to continue to hate myself for using it too much and missing precious moments playing with my daughter. And I have continue to have a smug superiority reserved for those setting world records or curing diseases in those moments when I am able to not use it for a few hours. I love technology and I hate myself for it. If only there was a way for me to unburden myself of all these thoughts while telling everyone I know...
Score one more for technology.

Monday, January 21, 2013

"That girl"

With 35 years comes a bit of self awareness.

I believe that had I ever been a contestant on The Bachelor, I would have been one of the ones that gets too drunk on the first night. I might not have made a complete a$$ of myself. He might have even kept me around for some laughs. But I just know enough about myself at this point to know that's what would have happened.

It's not that I have a problem. In all honesty, I drink about as much now in a month as I used to take down on an average Tuesday night (yeah 2-for-1 ladies night! Woo woo!!) G-d knows my drunken antics have not alienated me from my friends. If anything, my friendships were arguably much closer when we were all regularly humiliating ourselves together under the influence of alcohol. Well, if not closer, we certainly had more to chat about on a regular basis. But now we get to reminisce about those hazy nights and laugh at the folly of youth.

Mobile phones and email only became common as we were leaving college, thank goodness. We didn't take that many pictures. When we did, we were at the mercy of the 35mm film gods. Sometimes pictures were double exposed. We rarely, if ever, had everyone smiling at once. And typically, if an embarrassing moment was being recorded, we missed most of it, preserving merely a "snapshot" of an otherwise ridiculous event. In addition, if we did have embarrassing photos, there was no method of mass distribution to ensure we were humiliated both in the moment and forever after. But these days the embarrassing photos are not only easier to take, they are a piece of cake to distribute. We used to get doubles printed of our photos for an extra $.99, so at most there was one extra copy of an embarrassing picture floating around. No chance of viral GIFs or becoming an overnight You Tube sensation.

Unlike the contestants on The Bachelor, and frankly most of the youth of today, we didn't have to actually re-live our antics. But all that has changed. Gone are the days of hazy, hard to remember nights. Everything is being recorded and posted and commented on and publicly released, and I am scared to one day learn of the true repercussions.

My concern these days is not necessarily how much these young kids (to be clear, I am 35, not 85) are messing with their futures, but the fact that they are oblivious to it. This is proven, by the way. My dear friend in Human Resources has pointed this out time and time again since My Space and Facebook started. Kids don't realize that just like you can Google a new dating prospect, employers can Google you. They can find you on Facebook or wherever else you're showing off how "cool" you are, and you must consider your online content from the eyes of a future employer.

All that doesn't have much to do with me. Clearly I have no problem exposing myself online... hence this blog. But I am self employed. I work with my mother and sister, and if they could handle me showing up for family functions still drunk or head in the toilet hungover from the ages of 21-26, they can handle anything. My causes for concern are my friends, cousins, friend's children and of course my little darling who will never do any of the stuff we all did... yeah right.

How are we meant to get the point across that the dangers of underage or binge drinking these days are not just in the actual moments of inebriation, but in the preservation and publication of the imbecilic scenarios we can then get ourselves into? It is a different world now, and the instant fame that can often be achieved is as powerful a drug as the actual drugs they may or may not be doing.

When I meet my daughter's future significant others, will part of the screening process be looking them up online? Is it safe to assume Andy Warhol was right and they will all have about 15 minutes of something for me to find? Can I only hope that they were the "Charlie bit my finger" kid and not some "Jackass" wannabe?

My real hope is that somehow we find a better balance between people's need for fame and their desire to humiliate themselves. My personal humiliating past had no desire for fame. And my desire for fame was never bold enough to humiliate myself. But had they ever met up... who knows. Well, actually, I know. I'd have been the girl that got too drunk the first night of The Bachelor.

The author has been known to utilize parking cones for alternative purposes while intoxicated

Friday, January 11, 2013

I'm going underground

In honor (horror) of all the tourists that have made the past month or so of life in New York City more annoying, I dedicate this post. Seriously... this is stuff I had to document cause even I couldn't believe it.

Picture it: Times Square subway station, stairs leading up from the 7 train, rush hour: Woman standing on stairs, leaning over railing to where her sandwich is sitting on the ledge, peacefully eating her sandwich, despite everyone having to squish around her. Thankfully my fellow New Yorkers were out that day... she got more than her fair share of grunts, groans, shoves and "seriously?"'s and just kept eating. Now that's either one hungry lady or one damn fine sandwich.

Times Square subway walkway, Friday evening rush hour: Man blocking the walkway handing out pamphlets. Man is wearing a "Jesus saves from hell" shirt. Hey guy, you know what's really hell? Someone delaying your long journey home before the weekend. So, is this guy telling me that Jesus saves from him? Why doesn't he just save Jesus the trouble and stay out of our way. I'm sure Jesus has other things to do and would appreciate the help. He's really just making more work for the poor guy/savior. Seems unnecessary, and frankly, a little callous. He died for your sins and here you are, putting him to work. I just don't get it. Maybe the pamphlet explained it all, but needless to say, I did not stop to take one.

While we're on the subject of the subway...

Hey, person wanting to board the subway, hows about you let me off first. I will make room for you. Not only common courtesy, but simple physics. The absence of the mass of my person creates more room for you. If you push on before I get off, I now have to navigate around your bulk to get out.

Hey, person getting off the train, I'm getting off too! I'm facing the door. I'm moving as quickly as the cluster of people in front of me will allow. You see my body inching behind the scores of others also trying to exit the train. In what world does it make sense to try and push past me? We're all doing the same thing, heading in the same direction. You are not only slowing me down, but the other people behind us as well.

Hey, tourist or savvy American who has learned the wonderful escalator rules of foreign countries, good job walking down the left and standing on the right! Of course, if you find yourself in front of me walking down the left side, please do not slow down at the bottom when you realize it is not your train sitting at the platform. It's my train! Please keep moving or I will move you.

A few thoughts on our transit hubs:

Grand Central Station: Most people see it as a chaotic, confused mess of people all heading in different directions. But at peak times, when the regular commuters are going where they need to be going, gliding gracefully through the crowd, it can be a beautiful mess. During the holidays when they do that laser light show on the ceiling which instantly transforms all the tourists into potted plants and makes the regular commuters want to kill themselves, then it's just a mess.

Port Authority: There's a certain seediness to the Port Authority that Rudy Guiliani was not able to clean up. They basically polished up Eighth Avenue and left Ninth Avenue for the "regulars." It's a nice throwback for the younger generation to get a taste of what some of the unsavory areas of New York used to be like. Kind of like a museum, but more crowded and smells like pee.

Penn Station: Most people see it as hell on earth, and it is. It is a direct representation of the pains in the a$$ it serves; Long Island and New Jersey... Yes, I went there. I will surely be hearing about this from all my LI/NJ friends later! If you don't know the magnificent architecture that was destroyed to make way for this subterranean cesspool:
Not cool.

So rejoice New Yorkers! We have our streets and trains back from the cold, misguided grip of the tourists. Unless you live or work anywhere near Midtown east or west, Chelsea, West Village, Union Square, Ground Zero, Soho, parts of Tribeca... no, you know what, I think these tourists are here to stay. Better find a way to get used to them. I started a blog to help with my anger. But you should probably do something else, blogging is a bit common, don't you think?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

First things first

"Avoid disappointment and future regret"
-male voiceover in the commercial for the 2013 $50 Gold Buffalo Tribute Proof
So basically, you can buy this coin or just try to be a decent person

I'm not really one for resolutions... Certainly not ones set on the first day of the year with the ultimate goal of making you feel sh!tty throughout the year, or as far into the year as you get with it. But I am all for resolving at regular intervals to do things to improve your life.  (See my post 'to Melv' for my real resolutions.)

Most people would look at the over indulgent food frenzy I have been on for the past few weeks and resolve to eat better. I sat down this morning to a finely crafted, homemade egg, thick cut bacon, and cheese sandwich on fresh rosemary bread and resolved to keep eating well!

Seeing as I've been so busy eating lately, my physical activity has slowed to a bit of a crawl... Well, not a crawl so much as a face down nap. A resolution-er may resolve to get moving now. But I know I can't sustain any regularly scheduled physical activity, so I had a dance party with myself, jumping around the living room for five straight minutes earlier today. I mean, I'm sure I'll opt to take the stairs a few times and I may even find my way to a gym, but I see no need to set specific goals that I know I will not maintain. Anxiety and guilt do not burn calories... if they did, older Jewish women would never complain about how they look.

We send out New Years cards every year. It's a lovely way to start the year fresh by wishing your close friends and family a very happy new year. It's also the last socially acceptable card to send if you can't possibly get your sh!t together in time for a Chanukah card, (that one's too all over the place... December 8 last year!!) or even in time for a more all encompassing Happy Holidays for the middle of December. No, we are New Years card people for a reason. Now, those folks who love a resolution may recommend that I actually attempt to get my sh!t together. Organize my life. Prepare. I would argue that in knowing I'm not going to get it done til the new year, I am showing a healthy amount of self awareness and therefore need slightly less preparation since I know the routine of getting it all done in a pinch. I'm not one for over-organizing and hyper planning. I get stuff done when it needs to be done, and once in a while I remember a birthday on time. For me to resolve to do a better job of that would require an overhaul of my daily activities and infringe on who I really am as a person. Lazy.

I am a tidyer (tidier?): one who tidies. I have my motivation for why I keep things as neat as I do (definitely not as neat as some, but neater than others). I realized the other day why I keep my kitchen counters clean. It's so I can always eat whatever food I spill onto it and not worry that some of the food was old, mixed in with the new. That makes me kind of gross, but it's an excuse for keeping clean, so not really that gross. I also clean for the cleaning lady. I don't know why I do it. Perhaps so she doesn't know exactly how gross I'm willing to let things get in the two weeks between her visits. But I typically have a frantic scramble around the house the night before she gets there, and I don't plan on changing that. Sorry resolution-aries!

So, to begin the new year, I am for the most part going to keep doing what I'm doing. The good stuff, anyway. And not dwell on the bad stuff too much. Stay focused when I need to be and enjoy myself always. Cause in the immortal words of coach T: Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.
Happy New Year!