September 2011

I was going to complain about my terrible morning.  But I walked, so let me tell you about my glorious morning instead.

I was up early and out the door by 6:10.  It was chilly out there which is great when one is walking and generating far too much heat. So that was the first good thing.

Then I looked up to see if there were any stars showing. I was really looking to see if there was much cloud cover and wondered if I would be walking in the rain later. But instead I saw stars.

In fact, I saw lots of stars. Then I began looking and peeking through the trees for more stars. It was still quite dark, but the stars would hide, shy around the streetlights. When I got to the walk near the golf course, there were no lights for a longer stretch. And the stars were shining gloriously, majestically, brightly, astoundingly. All those stars. All that light from such a great distance. Traveling for eons to delight me on this last day of September.

I marveled at the stars. I reveled in the stars. I turned on to the main street which is lit by far more lights. I continued on my walk, watching only the strongest, brightest stars still in the sky. Between the coming dawn and the glare of the streetlights, there were only a few stars left. My walk was half done and I turned to get back home.

The sky itself was beginning to lighten. The deep black was turning to smoky gray. The world was turning beneath my feet as I walked toward home.

For a short time, the sky was simply lightening. It went from smoky gray to pearl gray. And then, like the miracle of time, the very lowest edges got a bit of a coral glow. Near the glow the sky was shimmering like the inside of a shell. Nacre. Gorgeous. And then the sky arched upwards, deepening in shades of gray.

I could now see some clouds in the sky. Some wispy white, some heavier and looking like clumps of charcoal. At the horizon, there was more coral and the Carolina pines were silhouetted against the peachy-gray sky. It was beautiful to watch.

Since I live in a development that has taken offense at straight lines, the walk twists and turns. I can walk on one sidewalk, never leaving the road, and face east, west, and south. I twist and turn without ever turning. So my vista kept changing.

The trees arched up and then receded. I next got to see the clouds with underbellies painted with a touch of coral. They still had gray tops but the sun was coming to play. And around the bend, the horizon shifted and now the sun was splashing peach between the upright trunks of the pine trees.

The sky continued to lighten and the clouds were now completely bathed in the soft orange of the sun. The walk was done and my day was so different than I had first imagined it.

For the last two days, I was rudely awakened by the horrid alarm clock. Yesterday, as I swatted the contraption to silence, I gloried in the thought that I could sleep in on Friday. No alarm clock to wake me. I woke at 4:38 and could not fall back to sleep. My day to sleep in wasted in waking early. What a bad start to a day.

Right up until I got outside and looked at the universe in which I live. Lucky me.

Change is inevitable; except from vending machines.

Yesterday, at least in America, Facebook changed their format drastically. For a while, we could outwit the change by saying we were English (UK) instead of US and it would revert to the more familiar, more secure, more user-friendly – or at least user accommodated – format than the new release.

Amazingly, many of my friends are over the age of – well, over that age. We are a bunch of stodgy old gits and we were not happy with the “improved” Facebook we were stuck with.

Astoundingly, some of my friends are NOT stodgy old gits and are twenty-somethings instead. I know it is hard to believe, but there you have it. These youngsters were not as outraged at the changes. Partly, I believe, because they are too young to actually recognize the danger of your data going out all over the place. My mother used to say, “You can’t put an old head on young shoulders.” (Apparently, you can’t put a young head on old shoulders, either – says the cranky old person.)

Partly, perhaps mostly, I believe they weren’t as upset because as one young woman has said over and over and over, “Change happens. Get used to it, move on, and shut up.” Or something like that.

I got to thinking about this. The rate of change keeps increasing. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, things have been drastically changing. Rather than feudal, top-down, hierarchical, never-get-out-of-the-rut-you-were-born-in lifestyle, we have a mobile, entrepreneurial, fluid society.

Mankind was tied to the earth until recently and in just a couple centuries, he made his way to the Moon and sent his robotic minions to Mars and out into the outer Solar System. In only 150 years time we went from the traditional horse or ox drawn carriage to a Ferrari and on to the rocket car that sped across the desert sands at over 1,000 km/hr (and hopes to be able to break the 1000 mph within the next year).

Society used to be a stable place where only the rich could afford to divorce. Today, we are hovering around a 50% divorce rate and nuclear families have also lost the multigenerational stability of ages past. That figure obviously doesn’t even begin to account for families outside traditional marriage.

We are in fact changing so quickly that old farts like me are astounded and annoyed by the change. Perhaps my young friend is correct. However, perhaps the wisdom of the ages has some merit as well. Perhaps we need to look at the unintended consequences of some of our behaviors rather than just roll with the punches. Change is inevitable, but can’t we make sure the changes are beneficial?

I’m not particularly fond of change just for change’s sake. There seems to be no real value in just changing things because someone thinks I want it. This is true whether I’m dealing with Microsoft or Facebook.

I still despise the entire ribbon idea with icons upon icons taking up too much space on my screen. This is especially true when I’m using my HP Mini rather than my HP Too Big To Carry Around. I collapse the ribbons to get them out of my way and then have issues with finding things. I can’t tell you how many hours I have wasted looking for things I used to be able to find with two clicks or a few strokes of the keyboard shortcuts.

Facebook likes to upgrade on a monthly basis. They are always tweaking and improving. Usually, they don’t do a major design change, but something smaller that is just slightly annoying. The background of the photo display changed from black to white without me getting annoyed at all.

Their new design seems particularly horrible to this safety conscious person. My nephew who despised Facebook and their lack of security before would be appalled now. The ticker displays what everybody is doing. I guess teens and twenty somethings like this aspect. It seemed especially invasive to me.

When my friend commented on one of her friend’s posts, I could see it even though in days of old, I couldn’t.  So if Sally is commenting on Susie’s post and I am not a friend of Susie’s I shouldn’t be able to see it. But now I can. So if my friend Sally is complaining to Susie about her dipshit friend, Patti, who is such a snob and a dolt and wore that horrible outfit the other night – I might just get my feelings hurt.

Hurt feelings don’t seem so bad. But what if I had some lunatic ex-boyfriend stalker person who was a friend of Susie’s friend and as Sally and Susie talked about Patti, he could find out where she was, what she was doing, and begin to stalk her through friends on Facebook.

There are also issues with the insecurity of teens online and those who would exploit them. It is impossible for me to figure out who can see what. I know I can see far too much and although I changed all my settings to just Friends rather than Friends of friends, it still seemed too much information was being bandied about.

The fact that I can’t find anything on the Home Page because Top Stories that didn’t interest me took up most of the page and I had to scroll forever to find new stories was irritating. The new picture display made sense only if you were displaying one picture at a time and yet when someone did that, I had page upon page upon page of scroll, scroll, scroll to get past their 20 pictures. Annoying as hell and I wanted to scream, GET AN ALBUM.

Notifications of every damn thing was easy to turn off. Subscribing to all of my friends was a pain in the ass and so I made a group of everyone, but that didn’t help with pages I truly wanted to follow.

If the designers at Facebook had just left the sorting feature in place, I could have dealt with all the other bullshit. But instead, I couldn’t just get status updates. I couldn’t just look at pages. I could just look at links or pictures, but see above about that picture fiasco.

What I would really like is for some guy to create a place for old people to socialize. I don’t want a bunch of whiz-bang features. I want a place to just meet my friends scattered across the globe. I’m not friending 1,500 strangers so I don’t need to categorize them. I have my few friends and acquaintances and I want to be able to keep in touch.

What I want is someone to make me a Wrinkled Facebook.

How much joy and happiness and contentment do we miss just because we aren’t paying attention? I can tell you when I hit too many red lights, but I really don’t notice when I never have to down shift. I know when traffic flows poorly with some nitwit on the phone and in my way while he/she drives erratically, but I often fail to notice when traffic runs smoothly.

This morning, I was awakened by my alarm clock. This isn’t really my preferred method of arising, but I forgot to wake myself up before the alarm clock went off. So I was jangled awake and my day was already off to a bad start. I stayed in bed for a few minutes trying to talk myself into actually getting up. I finally won the argument with myself and stumbled out of bed and made it to the bathroom without hitting any walls. I was not grateful for this, but when I’m not awake enough and do hit a wall, I sure notice that.

I grabbed my walking clothes and got dressed. I was not excited about heading out into the morning, either. However, I partied on Saturday and ate way too much and then I ate too much again on Sunday. I really needed to get out. So I did.

Bah, humbug.

I tromped along and dodged the crepe myrtles which need to be trimmed up before someone loses an eye. I didn’t like that, either. Bad morning all around.

I got up to the pool area where there is a break in the trees and there, playing hide-and-seek with the tree tops was a beautiful coral-colored full moon. It was stunning. The pinky-orange shimmering through the tall Carolina pines was gorgeous.

My path through the neighborhood bends and turns as the builders never met a Roman they could like. They never heard of squares or a grid and the streets bend and curve and weave in and out. That meant the moon moved from my right to my left or would suddenly appear in front of me. Always the same beautiful color.

My day improved remarkably as I was delighted in the sights before me. I’ve been listening to a Great Courses on the geology and the wonders of the Earth. I had gained a new appreciation for the Moon and this morning it was even more lovely.

There are so many things in my day that should make me feel delighted. My two-year-old granddaughter, Francesca, is delighted by her surroundings. Somehow, I’ve gotten too busy or too jaded to appreciated the wonder of the world. That is lamentable.

Even here at work, there are things in which to delight. I brought watermelon to work for my lunch. Sweet, juicy, cool, refreshing watermelon. I enjoy watermelon. As I nibbled on it, I began to really be mindful of the taste and my enjoyment in the moment grew.

Being me, I also have some chocolate here at work. I can savor the delights of what was once called “the food of the gods” and here I am just a peon delighting in the creamy smoothness and delectable flavor.

I have my computer and can play online or create entries for my word games. I can check in with my friends on Facebook. I can write a blog post. All of these things are enjoyable in different ways.

Instead of living in the moment and appreciating all the good things, I spend too much time stressing about the few things that go wrong. And really, they are few. If you stub your toe, you can really remember how bad that is. But how often do we notice when we go weeks or months without bending the little piggies in the wrong direction?

Things really are pretty good. They are either pretty good because there is much to delight in with every passing day. OR they are good because there are so many things that can go wrong – and don’t.

Today is a great day. Carpe diem.

There are advantages to being technologically inept. I can’t get my MP3 player to act the way I would wish. So I walk each morning in silence. Well, recorded silence. I have the sounds of the world surrounding me. It gives me time each day to do nothing but think thoughts of great and small consequence. Usually small.

Today, I left the house at about 6:20 AM. It was still dark out there, but dawn was breaking. At least it was trying to break through the cloud cover remaining from yesterday’s storms. There was enough light matched with the street lighting for me to mostly see where I was going. I could discern the sidewalk separate from the surrounding grass.

So I walked early. It was chilly and I walked fast in order to warm up a bit. Since I couldn’t walk yesterday (see the noted storms above), I continued my walk past my usual route turnaround. On the way out to my new terminal position, I met no one. It was silent and I could just plod along thinking my undeep thoughts.

I turned around before splashing through the puddle near the apartments. I thought “Why can’t they build a little trench on the low side and drain this water away?” As I said, not very deep thoughts. (Was that a pun?)

I began my journey back home and to my breakfast coffee. I wasn’t far when civilization began to intrude. I was scared half to death as I walked in my silent reverie when all of a sudden, a biker zipped past me on the sidewalk. This is wider than normal sidewalk and there was more than enough room for the both of us. I was well over to the right. But it would have been far less jarring if the bike rider had shouted out the “On your left” salutation warning me of his passing. Voices are less scary that the zipping past of a bike in the semi-dark.

It continued to lighten and I was back in the neighborhood itself. There were now clusters of children waiting for their bus ride to school. Most of these children were accompanied by some parent or adult figure at the bus stop.

Out of habit, I greet each person I see as I walk. It has taken me a very long time to get the slightly-older-than-me Asian woman in the floppy hat to return my greeting. After a few dozen times, I guess she figured I was harmless and she will actually “good morning” back to me.

Today, I began to notice something a bit weird. I had just read how adults do not treat children very well. We think of them as second-class citizens or something. It was a diatribe written by some marginalized teen or pre-teen and I felt a bit sorry for the kid.

But as I said, today I watched. I greeted each small group of bus waiters. I would look at everyone in the group. Only the adults responded. At the one group with the three girls and no adults, my “good morning” was ignored. The mother and daughter who bike up to the school each morning passed by. The mother responded, the daughter did not.

Soon after the biking duo passed, the jogging lady went by and we each spoke our greeting. Next came a high school girl with her backpack. I assume she was walking to a friend’s house to get a ride in a car to school which is so much better than taking the bus. I greeted her and was met with silence.

I don’t know if kids have always been frightened of adults or if our whole Stranger Danger program has led them to believe that every adult not related to them is out to whisk them away and do devious and horrible things.

But if I could find the teen’s angst filled lament about being disrespected by adults, I would love to see what the response to my morning musings would be.