I Will Unfriend You

It is no secret that I’m fighting technology.  Yes, I am a gamer, and I can pretty much figure things out for friends and family when they need to troubleshoot something on a device of theirs.  However, the latter is primarily because I have to adapt to this technological hey-day era in which we live.  The former, well, that’s another long story. We’ll skip that one today.

However, one of the main reasons I’m swimming upstream when it comes to technology is due to social media. Okay, not exactly social media per se, but the people on it. There are some social media no nos that users commit on a daily basis that drive me absolutely bonkers. What follows is a list of the top five crimes people commit that make me want to gouge an eye out with a rusty spoon.

1. Wishing your friend Happy Birthday on your own page.

Who’s day is it again? Yours, or your friend’s? Nothing screams “look at me, look at me, I’m amazingly fantastic” more than tagging your friend on your own page so that everyone comes to your page. Not only is this rude, but if this person is your “real life” friend, and you sincerely want to wish him or her a good day, we have this little invention called a phone.

2. Updating your status every five minutes.

Every. Five. Minutes. Yes, people do this. Twitter? Okay, I signed up for that, I expect a billion tweets a day. But Facebook? Really? Not only is it rude to inundate your “friends’” homepages on a constant basis, but quite frankly, I don’t care what shoe color you decided on; you just typed five minutes ago via status update that you couldn’t choose between brown or black…and took a picture so I could be there and live the moment with you…

3. Typing a chapter status about EVERYTHING you have done/done so far for your day.

These people are almost as bad as #2. Sweet Starbucks coffee…I’m sure you find your life fascinating, but I don’t need to know, nor do I really care, that you washed your laundry, then dried it, folded it, decided to eat a pretzel, then saw a chocolate chip cookie and ate it, too, filled up your gas tank, cooked dinner (insert dinner food here), got a shower – made sure it wasn’t too hot, etc, etc. You got it. What gets me is that although I, like many others, can’t stand these people, THEY GET “LIKES” ON THESE UPDATES ALL THE TIME! I’m at a loss here.

4. Bragging about stupid things you do/complaining about work, etc.

Wow. This is becoming more commonplace by the day. On public profiles. These, I don’t get. On my down time, I really don’t discuss work, so why would I want to put it on my own space? Unless something very unusual or funny happened, I don’t want to talk about my job outside of it anyway. Furthermore, especially with open profiles, you guys do understand that your co workers, boss, boss’ boss, and EVERYONE can see “how smashed I got on (insert week night here),” and follow it up with a picture that they will no doubt regret as they remove it once they have been fired, and “oh my gosh, my boss is such a (insert unflattering phrase here, followed by a rant),” right? Well, if not, you do now, so there is no excuse for your ignorance.

5. Checking in to places.

I’ll extend some leeway here. If it’s some place really cool or something you’re proud of, awesome. But, if you check in to the emergency room, that says one thing: Look at me! Ask me questions, pity me! The bigger question here is do you need to be in the emergency room if you are “checking in” on your social media? Point made.

BONUS

6.Friend Requesting the world.

How the heck does my 15 year old family member have 1000+ “friends???” If you can’t name every single “friend” on your space, and tell me how you know him/her, maybe it’s time to stop. Social media is great for keeping in touch with friends and family, but why would one add Creepy Creeperson from Creepytown on your friend list to, you know, creep on you?

These aren’t nearly all the annoying things people do that make me hate technology.  I’ll need plenty more installations for that. These are just some top grievances I have from various people who I’ve had to get rid of on my list – yep, even family. Everyone makes mistakes, but if you do these regularly, you may need to get in “social media rehab.”

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It Started With a List…

I was originally planning on discussing family traditions, with all the holiday get-togethers that were happening.  I was so eager to write about them after I attended the festivities and ate copious amounts of food, which inevitably happens to me every year, and without fail, I end up remorseful, feeling like a total glutton.

Then, two things happened.  The first was horrible, and hit me like a train.  I became very ill over the Christmas holiday, wound up at hospital, and was unable to eat much else than 7-Up and a handful of saltine crackers.  Needless to say, I really wasn’t up to writing about the delicious smells coming from kitchens, which are all heavily apart of the holiday traditions in my life.

The next events that occurred were the marriage engagements of family and friends.  Most of the family and friends in my life are married, engaged, or in serious relationships.  I’m the lone wolf.  Single.

I am at the age where an abundance of my post consists of bridal shower invitations, save the dates, and wedding invitations.  I’ve always taken the motto that I’m so preoccupied  with my work and hobbies that I don’t need someone else to answer to.  When I travel, I don’t have to fight with another person about where we want to go.  If I want to go out with my girlfriends, I don’t have to check with anyone else.  Same with gaming weekends with my guy friends.  Just order pizza and drinks.

Then, the engagements of some good friends – yes, plural – and a cousin happened.  Oh, and let’s not forget, I just had a birthday.  And next month is Valentine’s Day.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy for my loved ones.  All of this just got me thinking…so I started with a list.  This list contains some qualities that I would like in a partner:Image

If you can’t read my chicken scratch, I don’t blame you.  The list is as follows:

  1.  Must love dogs (especially mine :))
  2.  Harry Potter is the best series ever written, no questions asked!
  3.  J.K. Rowling is the best author
  4.  I am a writer.  Please understand this.  We have unique personalities.
  5.  I am very quiet.  Please don’t think this means I’m not interested in what you have to say.
  6.  I love football.  Do not get this confused with American football.  We play, watch, and speak of real football in this house.
  7.  I play video games.  It would be great if you tried them, too.
  8.  I love Missy Higgins. If you need questions answered, please refer to my friends.  They will gladly fill you in.

So after making this list, I began thinking even more.  I then discovered Pinterest.  Big mistake.  I had grand plans of having a very simple yet intimate beach wedding with my colours of teal and brown, and was dead set on wearing a simple dress involving those colours…until I saw these photos:

Image

Image

How cute are those suits?  I think I could totally rock either of those.  Then I got to thinking that I really want a dress, but never look good in them.  Cue the emotional roller coaster that was my evening.

Pinterest wasn’t enough to fuel my addiction.  So, I found my way to YouTube and saw this:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mVLtwaR1xs

 

How preciously geeky is this?!  Quirky, but totally me.  I find this amazing.  My geekiness exploded when I saw this.  And the colours are so pretty.  And the couple is adorable.

Then I thought about how I am another year older, and still haven’t met my special someone.  It probably doesn’t help that I get wrapped up in my work often, and when I go out, am incredibly shy. 

Not having a significant other and being a year older then caused a snowball effect.  I started feeling very clucky.  I’m now worried that the big family I want isn’t going to happen.  I’m worried that the names I have picked out for my future children (yes, I have a list of names, I’m a girl, don’t judge) will never be uttered in my home.

I feel this way every now and then.  Then, my hobbies or traveling come along, and I think hey, I’m a twenty-something!  My generation is waiting.  We are living our lives, pursuing our goals, and then having our families.  Why am I in such a rush?

But, that’s not to say I won’t ask my crush out for coffee the next time I “just happen” to walk in to the store they work at…if I can find the courage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trophies

Travis Dawson was a good man.  He was honest, truthful, and mannerly.  He considered his marriage to his wife, Juliette, the greatest accomplishment of his life.  He had loved her more than anything in the world.  If there was something she wanted, he got it for her.  She never wanted of anything when she was with him.  Although he wasn’t materialistic, he was a man of means, and money was never an issue for the wealthy lawyer.  Her deepest desires became realities.  Because of this deep affection and endearing love for her, it pained him immensely when they were no longer.

He played with the ring in his fingers.  Gently and delicately flipping it from one fingertip to the next.  Strumming the fingers of his other hand on his desk, he thought about what he was going to do later that day.  He had plans to go hunting, something he had a passion for, and a hobby Juliette had always found repulsive.  Thinking further about his plans, he placed the ring back in its home, a small wooden box made of oak.  It had a tiny gold latch on it, but no lock.  There was no need for that.  The box had no lining, yet there was no mistaking that this small, ornate chest was well – crafted, something the owner would use to hold small sentiments.

He pushed his chair away from the desk, walked around the monolith to the far wall of his study.  As he turned the key to open his gun safe, he raised his eyes to admire some of his trophies.  There were the heads of some African and Asian beasts.  If he had it his way, they would decorate the entire house, but at the time he earned them, Juliette made him keep them in the study.  Since her absence, he just never got around to moving them.  Turning his eyes to the safe, he was trying to decide what firearm to use later in the day.  He had quite a handsome collection, something any fellow hunting enthusiast would envy.

*****

            Meanwhile, not too far away, Erica Vanev was coming out of a sleep.  The last thing she remembered was taking a drink of her tea, then everything went blurry.  She heard a strange sound coming from somewhere above her.  It was something she rarely heard in the city.  But, she knew exactly what it was.  The caw caw caw –ing was unmistakable.

The bigger question was why she was hearing this?  She turned over, hearing a crunch as her body weight shifted.  She rubbed her eyes out of habit before opening them.  It took a second of pure shock to realize that something was wrong.  She pushed herself up so that she was now sitting.  She wished with all her might that she was in some horrible dream.  But she soon came to the terrible realization that this was all too real.

She looked around, taking everything in.  It looked as though she was in some sort of tropical forest.  She stumbled to her feet, ready to see where she was and how to get out of there.  Not quite sure of her balance, she clumsily meandered along, steadying herself from tree trunk to branch, thankful there was lush vegetation – if there was anything to be thankful for.

As she was surveying the land, she thought she heard the breaking of waves.  She saw in front of her a clearing, and debated whether or not to cross it.  Aside from the water, it just seemed too silent. She contemplated this decision for a few moments.  With her mind made up, she grabbed a large stick and fashioned it to help her walk.  Taking a deep breath, she stood at the tree line.

*****

            It had been a week since Nathan Pickett had had anything to eat.  He enjoyed camping and the outdoors, but only when he was fully prepared.  Not quite ready to wake, but not being able to sleep any longer due to the sunshine, he crawled out from his lean to.  Standing up to stretch, he looked down and noticed how dirty and torn his clothes were.  Not how he liked to keep himself at all.

He took his usual walk around the lake in the morning, stopping to wash up and drink as he thought about the traps he had set, hoping to catch some sort of sustenance.  Looking to the sky, he noticed it was a clear, beautiful day, with hardly a cloud in the sky.  Normally, he would be in a very cheerful mood on such a stunning day.  Not today, though.  Today was different.

He decided to go check his traps this morning.  Hopefully he was able to catch something more than a field mouse.  Whenever he set or checked on them, he did so methodically, in a very scrupulous fashion.  He went in order, working his way from one side of the island to the other.

*****

            Travis chuckled as he picked up each gun from its shelf.  Each one had its own story, had weathered time and seen numerous hunts.  When he had chosen which rifle to use, he walked over to a window, staring out at the horizon.  It was a magnificent view.  The trees of the forest below stretched out for a while, then the horizon was a never ending ocean that spanned to the sunrise and the sunset.

As he was staring out the window of his picturesque view, his thoughts were clouded to memories of his failed marriage.  He remembered it vividly.  The suspicions, the fights, and finally, the revelation of what he knew to be true, but that which she denied.

He knew the way she looked at Allen.  A look that  lasted too long, a hug that was more than just a greeting of friends who had been separated for a time.  What was so ironic was that Allen had been in his hunting club.  That was the kicker for Travis – he had introduced them!

That day that he found the truth stuck out in his mind.  He followed them, careful to not be detected, just like a hunt.  He compared them to African Wild Boar.  So easy to track, especially to a skilled hunter such as himself.  He followed them to the hotel, overheard their room number, and waited.  He had made up his mind that he wouldn’t take care of them there.  No, that was too risky.  What he would do is wait.

He waited until just the right moment, he thought.  Then, he rapped on the door.  “We don’t want any, we’re busy,” Allen yelled in his arrogant tone.  Then there was stifled laughter.  “It’s an emergency, very urgent, sir,” Travis pleaded.  Then the door opened a crack.  Travis had wasted no time, but caught Allen off guard, and pushed the door open, knocking Allen back.  Travis ran into the bedroom to see his wife scrambling to cover herself.

When he played it through his head, Travis had pictured himself screaming, and attacking Allen until an inch of his life.  However, what he found himself saying in a very calm manner was “Nothing I haven’t seen before, Jules.”  Then, he nodded over to Allen, who was now in the bedroom, a few steps behind Travis, and said “him either.”

*****

            Erica found her strength and began crossing the clearing, keeping an eye out for anything that could be a danger.  Which, since she had no idea where she was, could be anything.  Hobbling as fast she could, she made it to the far tree line.  The crashing of the waves seemed closer.

About half a mile inside the tree line, she found a lake.  She couldn’t help but run to it for want of a drink.  In retrospect, this could have been disastrous.  She could have been attacked.  Sipping the water from her hands, she thought of her last pleasant memory.  It had been about two days ago.  She had gone out on a date with a very attractive man.  He had treated her the way she wished her husband did.  Looking at her ring – a platinum band with a two carat rock on it – she felt no pang of guilt.  Her justification was that her marriage was falling apart.

Her reverie was soon interrupted as she heard a clap of thunder.  The clear skies she saw earlier were being bombarded by grey clouds and the threat of rain.  She rose to her feet.  By now, she didn’t need a walking stick.  She was steady enough.  She wasn’t really an outdoor girl, so she decided to walk around the lake to get a sense of her surroundings.

Before long, she came across a small structure not far off from the edge of the lake.  Noticing the bright blue sky being quickly overrun by grey thunderheads, she decided to take refuge in the little shelter.

*****

            Nathan sloshed through the muck beneath him, wiping the rain from his brow as he checked the traps.  Nothing, not a single thing.  Not so much as a rabbit.  He would have to try his hand at spearing a fish.  The last time he tried, it didn’t go so well.  He actually ended up in the water himself.

On his way back to his lean to, he was about ready to cry.  To burst into tears not only from hunger, but for where he was.  Only, he noticed something strange when he drew closer to his makeshift home.  It looked like there was someone in it.  Someone beautiful.  “It must be a hallucination,” he thought.  “This can’t be real.”

Just to make sure, he tried to make it behind a tree to observe her.  He didn’t want to take any chances of him being caught.  Too slow.  She spotted him.  The fair – complected, blonde woman began walking towards him.  Her lithe frame made him think of someone he knew, or now, used to know.

They had been out for drinks.  It must have been about three weeks ago now.  He had just secured a big vendor for his firm.  She had helped with the researching, so it was only right to celebrate with her.  He and his wife couldn’t seem to stop fighting.  She was angry that all he did was work, it was like he was having an affair with it. He would show her.  If she accused him of having an affair, then he would have one.

“Hello?” Erica tried to get Nathan’s attention.  He shook his head, coming out of his daydream.  “Hey.” was all Nathan could think to say.  “Are you alright?  You look like you’ve been through…I don’t know…a lot,” Erica asked him.  “Yeah, you could say that.  I’m Nathan, by the way.”  “I’m Erica.”  “How long have you been here?  I haven’t seen you before,” he asked.

“I’m not sure.  I just woke up a while ago in some random field.  Where is “here,” anyway?”  “You’re new, then,” Nathan confirmed.  “What do you mean “new,” and where the hell are we?”  Erica was getting agitated.  She just wanted to go home.  “What’s the last thing you remember?”  Nathan pressed.  “What does that matter?  You still haven’t answered my questions.  What do you mean I’m new, and where are we?!”  Now she was really getting upset.

Nathan ignored her questions.  “What’s the last thing you remember?  It’s important.”  “I don’t see why that matters, but whatever.  “Drinking some tea before bed.  Now will you answer my questions?”  Erica said.  “Just like everyone else,” Nathan barely whispered loud enough to hear.  Erica caught it, though.  “What do you mean “others?””  “You honestly have no clue, do you?”  “No.  But what is going on?  Tell me!”  Erica demanded.

*****

            They had worked things out, eventually.  At least, that’s what Juliette and Allen thought.  Travis had planned a grand hunting trip.  A safari, really, in Africa.  He invited Allen and Juliette.  Even though hunting disgusted her, he persuaded her that seeing animals would be a very exciting adventure.  She had concurred with him.  Even though she could go anywhere she wanted in the world whenever she wanted, it would be a fun getaway.

On their fourth day, they decided not to go hunting, but just observe the beasts.  Travis took his gun “just as a precaution,” and no one thought it absurd.  It was just the three of them and a guide on their personal outing.  An hour or so went by, then the guide stopped the vehicle in a “safe zone,” close to a forest line.  The decided to get out to stretch their legs.  “You go ahead, I’ll catch up,” Travis told the two.  Not thinking on it, Allen and Juliette went on.  By the time they were just out of sight, Travis bent over, as if to tie his boot laces.  Instead, he slowly grabbed his rifle, then in an instant, struck the guide with the butt of the gun, knocking him unconscious.

Jumping down from the vehicle, he went out to catch his prey.  The disgust and hatred in his heart strengthened as he kept replaying that awful night in his mind.  He found his hunt not far inside the tree line.  They just stood there, like a pair of awkward teenagers about to kiss, but too nervous to go through with it.  They were making this entirely too easy.  He watched from a distance, hiding behind a tree.

Slowly, he crept from behind his hiding spot, aiming at the taller of the two.  “Holy-!” Allen yelled, and Juliette jumped back, startled.  “What?  What happened?” she asked.  “Dammit,” Travis thought to himself.  He missed.  He was close, though.  The bullet nearly tagged his ear.  He decided to get up and get a closer shot.  This time, though, he wasn’t concerned about camouflage.

“Oh, hey Travis.  I didn’t see you there,” Allen said as he walked up on them.  Allen gave a nervous smile.  Travis raised his gun to Allen.  Juliette, looking from Allen to her husband, said, panicked “Travis, what are you doing?”  Travis didn’t answer.  He only walked closer, painting the gun to Allen, then Juliette, and back to Allen again.  “Run.”  He commanded, seriously.  They didn’t listen, buy stood still, dumbfounded.  “Trav-“ Juliette began.  But Travis wasn’t joking.  He shot at the ground, inches from their feet.  “I said run!”  He yelled.

*****

            Nathan didn’t quite know where to begin.  “Where are we?” Erica pleaded yet again.  “Come on,” Nathan instructed her.  “Tell me now, Nathan!” she demanded.  “If you want to know, then follow me.”  By this time, the freak storm had passed, and they skies were clear once again, returning to the rich blue they had been.  He grabbed her arm and marched off eastward.  She could hear the sounds of the sea grow louder.  They passed his traps, Nathan eyeing them quickly on the offchance he’d caught something.  No such luck, though.

They tramped thought the jungle brush for what Erica though was ages.  She wasn’t cut out for this, being outdoors with rain, bugs, the heat, and God knows what could be lurking out there.  She followed her guide in silence.  She had to admit, he had a silent intensity about him, and she found it slightly attractive.  She examined him from behind.  He had longer brown hair, just enough to graze his eyebrows as it swept across his forehead.  His eyes.  She thought about them, as they were the first thing she noticed about him.  Well, aside from his scrupulously kept body.  She surmised that he must have been a rock climber, or maybe a football player.  But his eyes, they were the most vibrant green she had ever seen.

Just when Erica was going to ask him if they were there yet – even though she had no idea where they were going – Nathan said “Alright.  Here we are.”  They were on a beach.  It was the most majestic scene she had ever laid eyes on.  Sand as white as snow, and sea so blue and crystal clear you could see through it to the very bottom.

Erica went to jump in, but before she could, Nathan grabbed her.  “Why did you do that?” she asked.  “How dense can you get, Erica?  Do you not see these?!”  He pointed to great, tall pillars, standing along the shoreline as far as they eye could see in either direction, spaced equidistant from one another.  “No, I can’t see the giant statues standing around.  I’m totally blind,” she replied sarcastically.

“Don’t.  Ever.  Try to pass through these,” he warned.  “Why?  What are they?” she inquired.  “Erica, I hate to tell you, but I have to.”  What?”  “We’re prisoners.”  What, wh-,” she interrupted.  “We’re on an island, Erica.  These poles?  They’re our guards.  You see those things on the side of them?”  He pointed to the large half spheres on both sides of each pillar towards the top.  Erica nodded in affirmation.  “Those – things – whatever they are, send some sort of screeching noise so violent, that anything that passes through it goes into some sort of fit.”  “Fit?  What do you mean, and how do you know this?” she asked, disgusted.

As he tried to explain, she could tell Nathan was uncomfortable telling the story.  “About two weeks ago, someone else was on this island with me.  We were on the west side, trying to spear some fish in the ocean.  He went out first, trying to go farther out, ran past the poles, and started seizing, shaking uncontrollably.  Then he bled from his ears, mouth, eyes, and nose.  Then he vomited.  And that was it.  He was gone.”  Erica shook her head.  She didn’t want to believe it.  “Then a week later, it happened again.  To a woman.  She was running away.”  “From what?” Erica asked him, scared now.

*****

            It had been two years since Travis had taken care of Juliette and Allen.  Since then, he had made it a point to rid as many pieces of scum like them from the world as possible.  They need to be scared, to not know what is happening.  Just as he had felt when his wife was being unfaithful.  He walked back to his trophy box on his desk.  He took out the familiar one that Juliette had worn.  A platinum band, princess cut with 2.5 carats worth of diamonds on it.  It was just the boost of energy he needed for his hunt.  “Today is the day.  I’m going to track him down.  He’s been on my island for too long.  Today, he is mine.”

He figured he had better get a move on.  After all, he had to track his prize hunt today, and he knew he wouldn’t be an easy catch.  At first, Nathan was fun to try to hunt, but since it had taken so long, the thrill had lost its luster.  It was more than a game now.  It was serious.  Then there was the new catch, Erica.  She had been particularly hard to capture.  She was such a busy woman.  However, hunting her on his island would be easy, he knew for sure.

Most people would have spared no expense and place cameras around the island.  Not Travis.  He was a real sportsman, a purist.  He would use his skills and knowledge that he had gained over the years and really go hunting.  He even gave them a head start, and advantage, by letting them wake up, get acquainted with the land, and feel at home there.  He was a generous man, a gentleman.

It was time.  He placed his trophy ring back in its box, closed the lid, and flipped the latch tight.  Grabbing his rifle, he headed out of his study.  He was sure to pack extra ammunition and food supplies on his way out.  He walked down the stairs that were cut out in the earth at the property line where his neatly manicured grounds descended into the hodgepodge of jungle foliage.  When he reached the line of ultrasonic barricades, he knelt down on one knee to the number pad.  He dialed the eight number sequence that gave him thirty seconds to cross the line, and with confidence, walked past they into the dense forest.

Hours went by, and finally he picked up a trail.  The two were together.  This made things all too easy.  He smiled maliciously.  He really would be killing two birds with one stone.  He viciously scoffed at the amusement at the pun he had just made.

*****

            “How long has it been since you woke up?” Nathan asked Erica.  She could see he was thinking things through in a fight or flight sort of way.  “Umm…I woke up, and pretty much came over to your spot,” she said.  “That gives us, well, not much time.  Come on!”  “Where are we going?” she asked, running after him.  “I don’t know, anywhere!  Let’s go!”

Just then, a gunshot sounded.  It was close to them.  Then another, followed by another.  Erica felt something pull at her shirt.  She looked down to see two holes in it.  The bullet must have grazed it.  Distracted by her shirt, she tripped over a tree root.  “Nathan!” she screamed out.  Nathan turned, ran back, and reached out his arm.  “Come on, c’mon, c’mon!!”  That left just enough time for Travis to catch up.

He got down on one knee, steadying his arm and rifle on his other (knee).  He thought it was a sure shot, but narrowly missed, grazing Nathan’s upper arm.  He yelped in pain, grabbing his shoulder with his opposite hand.   He dropped down to his knees.  Erica scurried to his side, digging at the dirt to get to her feet, her jeans now all torn and muddy, and her shoes slipping off of her feet.  Travis stepped toward them slowly, his gun pointed at Nathan.

They both put their hands out, raising their palms toward Travis.  Nathan began sobbing.  “Please.  God.  No!” he was able to utter.  Crying as well, all Erica was able to get out was “Don’t.  Please.”  Travis just looked at them.  Two shots were fired.  Travis reached for both of their left hands, collecting his trophies.  He placed them carefully in his pocket.

*****

            Back in his study, Travis was playing with his new trophies, spinning them on his desk, flipping them between his fingers.  Finally, he was ready for bed, ravished from his hunt earlier.  He placed the rings in his trophy box.  “You disgust me,” he said, and slammed the lid shut.

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To Social Network, or Not to Social Network?

The Internet.  It is undeniably one of the modern world’s greatest inventions, and the main source of information gathering for many people.  It is also a daily mode of communication, along with text messaging.  Even though we have phones with us all day, it seems as if phone calls are an old-fashioned anomaly, a relic of a by-gone era.  In this day and age, it is as if every man, woman, and child – from toddlers to senior citizens – has technology at their fingertips.

Of course, in an article about the Internet, I would be remiss to not mention The social network of all social networks.  After all, whether you like it or not, Facebook is a part of our every day lives; it has even changed the way we speak: since Facebook, the word “friend” has now become a verb, i.e. “I need to friend her.” The advent of Facebook took place when I was in my first year of university.  I remember when a friend of mine with whom I went to high school, and subsequently college asked me if I had “The Facebook” during one of our breaks from class.  Prior to that, I had never even heard of the site.  She told me all about it, how you could add friends and people you knew, write a message to someone on his/her page, post photos, and provide information about yourself to others by listing your answers to the questions asked in the “about me” section.  I told her it sounded interesting, so she told me she would send me an invitation by email.

That night, I signed up for “The Facebook.”  During Facebook’s infancy, a user was required to be a university student.  It was further limited to only elite schools.  I filled out the required information, and quickly had myriad friends on my little piece of Internet acreage.

When I first filled out my “about me” section, I didn’t realize the power of what I was showing others.  Since then, I have grown a few years older and wiser.  I have also become very intrigued about Internet privacy and security.  Owe it to being overprotective of my younger family members, but what younger children are able to do on the Internet is baffling to me.  It is so different than even 10 years ago.  I do have a Facebook account, which is used mostly to keep up with family and old friends, as I’ve moved quite far from where I grew up.  Apart from being able to search my name and see my current profile photo, you won’t see much else.  With the rise of people having access to Facebook, it unnerves me how much anyone can find out about your personal information.

Lately, I’ve started using Facebook to promote my writing.  Soon, I will create a public profile so that I won’t expose friends and family to unwanted Internet traffic.  I have to admit, it disconcerts me to see that there are not higher security guidelines for social media – especially since teenagers and children are so lax with their security settings, and pedophiles, hate groups, and other unpleasant people (for lack of a better term…), can so easily access the Internet and these accounts.

For example, as I mentioned before, one used to need a university email account to access Facebook.  Now, I have seen kids as young as eight – EIGHT – have an account.  These eight-year-olds, especially if not monitored by a parent (what parent would let a child have an account is beyond me, but that’s another story), have no idea that what they put on their pages, be it photos, phone numbers, or statuses, can easily be accessed by anyone – chiefly, those unwanted and unpleasant individuals that I wrote of earlier – in the world.  Teenagers are even worse.  Because they work so hard to fit in and be “popular,” forget any security at all.  I have seen it in my own family, and I just have to shake my head.  I have seen “friend” lists of 3,000 people and higher.  Who in this world knows 3,000 people well enough to consider them all friends?  I have challenged friends (real life, human, friends) with 500 people on their accounts to tell me how they knew all of them.  Needless to say, they failed.  And these were very popular and well-liked peers of mine. 

It’s not just Facebook, though.  Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest are culprits just to name a few.  Just the other day, I read an article about some children in the U.S. who used XBOX’s online feature to communicate with an adult they did not know, and have disappeared.  As far as I know, it has been a week, and there is still no trace of them.  Interviews with the parents revealed that they knew their children played games online, but didn’t bother monitoring them – even though their children previously had similar “disappearances.” 

I don’t have children yet, so I can’t critique parenting with a fair view.  However, based on stories like these – they seem to be a dime a dozen these days – and having experience in the law enforcement field, I would monitor my children’s Internet usage carefully, making safeguards that deny access to certain sites, and continually educate myself with the new technology so that when they figure out how to bypass (the safeguards), they will be blocked yet again.  Furthermore, my future children may deem me as “lame,” but forget about Facebook and a mobile phone until I feel that they are mature enough to have them.  They want to speak with their friends (notice I write speak, actual human contact)?  They will be more than welcome to use the telephone.  Honestly, what will my (hypothetical) five-year-old be doing during the school day that would require her to take a break and text message someone?

My point here is not to say that the Internet and Facebook – or any social media – are “the devil.”  They aren’t.  They are things made with good intentions that have been, and are being, used by the wrong hands.  I just believe that higher security standards need to be made, or reinstated (i.e. Facebook’s past practices), and parents need to educate themselves, stay abreast with new technology, and monitor their children when they use these things. 

Let’s not forget that they can also talk to their children about consequences and dangers of the Internet and what they put out there for everyone to view.  I mean, really talk to them – don’t send them a text message about it.  Explain to them that even if they delete a less-than-complimentary photo, it’s never really deleted, and future employers may be able to see it.  

Like I said, it’s not all bad.  I have Facebook, Twitter, obviously WordPress, another writing account, and an Instagram.  All except Facebook, where my security settings are high, are open to anyone.  However, I am also an adult, aware that whatever I post is public domain.  And I’m using them to build my brand an market myself – something they were originally intended to do.

 

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The Message

    Afton came home from work after a long day on the job, pulling up to her house like any normal day.  Carrying her things in her arms, she stepped out of her car and around to the side door of the garage and locked it behind her.  She walked up to her front door, and her heart sank instantly.  It was ajar.  Being a police officer in Melbourne for the past five years, she instinctively reached for her holstered weapon.

     She entered her home tactfully, checking every closet, the shower, and any hiding place she could think of.  Checking under her bed, she let out a deep breath of relief and smiled.  She didn’t realize that she had been holding it in subconsciously out of anxiety until just then.  She slid her body halfway under her bed, pulling herself by her elbows, doing a sort of army crawl.  “Come on, girl, come on,” she called her dog.  “Let’s go girl, do you want a cookie?”  That was all she needed to say to get her out from under her refuge.  She must have hid under there when whoever it was was here.  After she gave the promised treat to her dog, Afton then began to go through the papers scattered everywhere.  This task was particularly annoying, as she always kept a meticulously clean house.  It would take at least a couple hours to sort and put all this away – something that took maybe just 15 minutes to mess up.

     “Nothing taken,” she said to herself.  Her safe, tucked away in the back of her closet, hadn’t been touched.  This person wasn’t after her important documents, her passport, and the stash of money she kept in case of an emergency.  There were no signs that it had even been tampered with.  Same with her desk.  Disturbed, yes, but nothing stolen.

     She picked up her phone and called the station.  They had advised her that an officer would be there shortly to take a report.  She asked if they would send Sean, her former partner of three years and first trainee.  She was just out of training school, and he was fresh out of the academy when they had been paired together.  She trusted him (which was hard to get from her), and wanted no one but him to do this for her.  As she went to return the phone to its receiver, she noticed a blinking light on the base.  She had three messages.  She pressed the button to play them.  The first was a dinner invitation from her older sister.  They had been trying to repair their relationship after years of a difference in beliefs.  “Alright, next one,” she thought, skipping her verbose sister’s invite. It was Afton’s friend.  She listened intently.  “I mean, of all the gin joints in the world!  There she was at Cotton On!  She had the nerve to talk to me, like you two were still together, like nothing happened and she never cheated.  She still can’t believe you broke up with her.  That snake of a-“.

     “Enough of that,” Afton decided, skipping to the final one.  This message scared her more than anything she had ever encountered in her five years of law enforcement.  It was a deep and raspy voice.  An inhuman voice, maybe someone speaking through one of those voice changers.  “Like the mothman,” she said aloud and shivered.  That movie had creeped her out. 

     The voice said “we are coming.”  A chill ran down her spine, but it wasn’t from the cold of the crisp July air.  The hair on the back of her neck began to stand up.  Suddenly, though she was a bit embarrassed to admit it, she was very uncomfortable being there by herself.  She was a police officer, after all, and she’d lived on her own since university.  But this was scary.  She looked at the time.  The minutes seemed like hours.  She was anxious for Sean to get there.  “Really, what’s taking him so damn long?” she wondered to herself.  Sean had been to her place tons of times.  He should be able to zip there from anywhere. 

     The phone rang.  Afton jumped back, startled.  Thinking it was one of her comrades, she answered it.  “Hello?” she said.  There was no voice.  It just sounded like static.  “Hello?” she asked once again.  Finally, just as she was about to hang up, the raspy voice broke through.  Again, it uttered the same message: “We are coming.”

     She slammed down the phone, and then picked it back up, planning to call the station to give them an update.  She put the phone to her ear.  There was nothing – no dial tone, no noise.  The lines must have been cut.  “Damn.”

     She thought she heard something outside, but there was no sign of a cruiser or Sean.  Next thing she knew, there was a knock at the door.  “Maybe he’s parked where I can’t see him,” she thought.  She opened the door.  Instantly, the pallor of her face changed from a youthful, young pink that had a glow about it to a ghostly white, devoid of all life.  It was like a bag of flour had been dumped on her.  Her eyes were the size of half dollars, and her mouth hung open like a cavernous hole.  In front of her stood a person in a simple mask.  Small round cut outs for eyes, and a thin strip at the mouth.  She immediately reached for her gun.  It wasn’t there.  She had left it on the counter.  “Great, what a time to start a bad habit,” she cursed herself in her mind.  She pulled her mobile out of her pocket.  The person just stood there, staring at her, let her put the phone to her ear, and then smacked it out of her hand.

     She stood still in shock.  Was this really happening?  Then she heard a bark and the tapping of her dog’s claws on the wood floor.  Her dog ran to the door, the masked figure making way for her and letting her pass.  Knowing she wouldn’t be so lucky, and not knowing what else to do, Afton ran for a window.  She saw what looked like the same figure, only a different build, outside it.  She went to another, then another.  It was the same at every outlet.  The side door.  The back door.  All with these people in simplistically terrifying masks.  And still no Sean or a cruiser.

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21/10/2012 · 4:31 PM

Dollars and Sense

How much do you pay for coffee every morning?  Five dollars?  Seven Dollars?  And then, of course, you tip your caffeine dealer, right?  How long did it take that barista to make your drink?  Five minutes, perhaps, and if it is a busy day, add just a few more minutes.  You’re out the door and on your way, ready to start the day on the right foot. 

Now, let’s take a moment to calculate how long you are going to enjoy that hot beverage.  If you drink it in half an hour, you are sipping between 17 and 23 cents a minute if you pay between five and seven dollars, respectively.  Let’s say you nurse it for one full hour.  That is still eight to 12 cents every minute. 

Our society says breaking the bank for designer java is perfectly acceptable, but paying 10 bucks for a book is ludicrous.  And the author who wrote that book took much longer than five or 10 minutes to get it on that shelf.

It takes a lot of hard work – and money – to publish a book.  Step into the life of a writer.  Let us go to step one: the author’s (that’s your) head.  This is where it all begins.  Somewhere, somehow, you get an original idea, a spark of imagination, then the writing bug catches you.  You write vehemently for weeks.  Then, you inevitably hit that proverbial wall.  Sometimes, you can sit for hours and can only think of a few lines to put to paper.  It keeps you up at night, this block.  Sooner or later, you break through it, and, months later, you have it: the first draft of the manuscript.

After you break out and guzzle down that bottle of champagne, reality kicks in: you must edit it.  You look over it, fix the little grammatical errors, and change a thing or two here and there.  After that, you may look to a friend to review it and see what he or she thinks needs tweaking.  Voila!  It’s a masterpiece, right?  It is now time to share your brilliance with the world.  Not so fast.  You have to find an agent.  Very few publishers, if any, accept any works without agent representation.  You have to research and find an agent who represents the kind of work you have written.  Then you must query the agent.  This query usually includes a synopsis of the author’s work, and gives reasons as to why it should be published.  We will assume you get accepted by an agent (this process can be terribly lengthy, as some agents do not even consider writers who are not published), and he or she asks for a sample of your manuscript.

The sample you send to your agent is typically about the first three chapters of the manuscript.  If the agent likes what he or she reads, then the agent will ask for the entire manuscript.  The agent will now represent you, and submit and pitch the manuscript for publishing companies.  If you are a relative unknown, this part of the process can also be lengthy.  But, let’s say everything runs smoothly and a publisher buys the manuscript. 

You are so excited that someone has decided to take a chance on you, you can hardly think straight.  Then, you hear the word “contract.”  This binding document has the power to decide your future – and possibly your children and grandchildren’s futures.  The smart writer would do well to hire a lawyer at this point, someone who can read the legal jibber jabber of the document to benefit them.

The publisher likes the manuscript, but the editor sees some “minor changes” that need to be made.  What you get back are red marks and notes all over your amazing piece of literary genius, with paragraphs marked out entirely, and – you can’t believe it – even an entire page or two that needs to be omitted.  After the initial shock that everything you wrote is not pure gold, you put your nose to the grindstone and improve your work.  This could happen a few times, until the editor and you are pleased with the writing.  After that, it is a matter of waiting.  Waiting for the books to be printed and shipped to stores.  Once it hits the streets, it is up to readers to pick up the book and decide whether or not to purchase it. 

So, while you hold your 23-cent-per-minute tailor made latte in one hand, complaining that 10 dollars is an outlandish amount to pay for some “stupid book” you are holding in your other hand, please consider the time, work, and money invested in making the novel.  Which price is really more ridiculous?

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Of Music and Writing or On Inspiration

The word “music” is derived from the Greek “Mousike,” which literally means “(the art) of the Muse.”

I have decided that there are two types of people in the world: hearers and listeners.

For hearers, music comes as a happy escape.  These are the sorts of people who turn on the radio and listen to whatever happens to be playing and use it as background noise.  Hearers tend to be fans of “pop” music.  You know the stuff I’m talking about – those candy-coated lyrics with no meaning behind them, polished off with the facade of a Disney star that is distributed and sold in bulk to the sheep-like masses of the everyday consumer.  Ah, capitalism.

Listeners, on the other hand, have a deeper appreciation of music.  To them, it means something more.  Listeners seek to find the special type of music that moves them to create something wonderful, whether it be their own music, a painting, or a poem.  Just like anyone, listeners can be found everywhere.  However, one particular type of the listener often comes to mind: the one who is typically tucked away in a local coffee shop that sells fair trade, organic coffee in a concrete jungle filled with high rises, or on any university campus, sitting in a quad playing guitar in between their liberal arts classes. 

As for me, I fall into the latter category.  Ever since I can remember, music was always in my life.  My father was a musician, so up until he left, there would always be some sort of melody in the house.  Usually jazz or Rat Pack.  After he left, there was not a tune to be heard.  That is, until I discovered that my father’s love of music was something he passed on to me.

I am no musician, and I have never claimed to be.  But there is something that comes over me, much like a fire spreading, when I hear a particularly beautiful song.  It is much more than just some vocals backed up by instruments.  Music reaches into the very depths of my heart, somehow turning on the proverbial light bulb in my head.

I was recently asked one of those “worst-case-scenario” questions that went something like, “If you had to lose either your sight or your hearing, which would you choose?”  While neither sense would be particularly appealing to lose, I answered that life would be very dull without music.  I did not actually answer the question directly, but it did spur the conversation.  Apparently, I did not choose the “correct” answer.

I took music classes throughout my grammar and middle school years, and often begged my mother for piano lessons and an acoustic guitar, neither of which I ever received, but have since picked them up as an adult.  What I did get were CDs and stereos. 

In high school, I started focusing more on writing.  I did not take any music classes, as I was entirely preoccupied with submitting some haphazard manuscripts to places I had never heard of.  I was disheartened when they were not accepted, but now I thank them for not publishing me.  I would hate to be associated with such hurried and ill-written work (do not even get me started with my poor character development and imitation of style).

It was not until university that I brought the two arts together.  I found that listening to music was very soothing while cramming for my exams.  Then, when I was writing a paper, I had some music on low volume.  Listening to the words, my creativity became even more vibrant.  I can’t believe it took me so long to figure that the two are an inseparable pair.

Now, that’s the only way I can write, but only to certain music.  For about the past year, I have been having an intellectual love affair with a certain singer/songwriter/all around brilliant musician.  I cannot hide it.  Everyone who knows me knows that I am talking about none other than the immensely talented Missy Higgins.  Her smart lyrics enveloped into melodious ballads are my oxygen when I go to work.  Her music floats around wherever I go, and I have managed to accomplish quite a lot while listening.  I do not know how or why I came across her music, but I am thankful that I did.  Perhaps questions like that are not supposed to be answered, but to consider myself blessed.  And I do.

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