Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Taking for granted

Carolyn Hax is a Style columnist for the Washington Post. She writes an advice column called Tell Me About It, answering questions sent in by readers. Her current column includes this question:
An ex-boyfriend recently sent me a Facebook friend request, which I accepted. I am married with children and so is he. We live several states apart.

After reminiscing about our past in private e-mails, I let him know that I had mentioned to my husband that I was in contact with him, and that he should feel free to comment on my wall. He had not done the same with his wife, and he let me know it would be best if I did NOT comment openly for all friends to see. I felt very uncomfortable with this but decided it was his business.

Months later, I wished him a happy birthday on his wall, only to notice that he had deleted my post. Should I un-friend him?

Now, I'm not going to reproduce Hax's answer, which after all is the property of the Post, or even offer an opinion myself, because, honestly, I don't care. But what did strike me was this:

Ms. Hax's column is printed (on paper) in a newspaper with a very large circulation, and is also syndicated in over 200 other newspapers (including my local one), and read by I-don't-know-how-many people, and yet the Facebook-speak is simply presented as common English usage, that might have been around since, you know, Shakespeare, and doesn't need to be explained to anyone. Friend request? Friend as a verb? Wall? Un-friend?

Not that I wasn't able to figure them out (even though I'm not a Facebook customer), but still.

By the way, if you want to wish me happy birthday on my wall, you'll need a can of spray paint.


Sunday, October 18, 2009


Northern Bro checking in with a perspective from the trenches on the health care debate:

Two things happened this week: First, we found out our insurance carrier was going to increase our premiums by 16.4% in January. I expressed surprise that they would go up by this amount in this political climate. Our rep insisted that they had to increase rates because of the political climate. Their story is that because of the uncertainty created by the health care debate in Washington many people are rushing out to get elective surgeries out of fear that the Democrats are going to take away their insurance (something that no one in our little corner of the Northern woods has witnessed) and that because the President offered COBRA subsidies as part of the ARRA, many sick people are still on the insurance rolls who ordinarily would not have been able to afford insurance. According to the insurance company both of these factors made it necessary to increase our premiums.

Secondly, the unmarried partner of one of our employees lost her foot to infection this week. She had been laid off and didn't have insurance so when her foot became infected she put off going to the hospital to have it looked at. By the time they finally decided that a visit could not be put off any longer it was too late to save her foot.

It appalls me that there are people around who claim our system does not need fixing.

Of local cuisine, fast food, and people who surprise you

In this recent post, I mentioned that I'd been away for two weeks, and where I had been the first week (St. Thomas). So where did we spend the second week?


So... about Curacao:

While we were in Willemstad we popped into the local McDonalds -- I know, McDonalds? -- for some iced teas, because, you know, most places in Willemstad don't serve iced tea (the real, brewed fresh kind), and, believe it or not, McDonalds does. While standing in line, we noticed this on the menu board:


McKroket? Seriously? As you may know, the kroket is a Dutch speciality that's available all over the Dutch West Indies -- Holland House in Philipsburg on St. Maarten serves great ham krokets -- but... McKroket?

I had to give it a try.

It looks like this:


It was... tasty. You know, for fast food. Meat and cheese mixed together, breaded, and deep fried. Served on a service-issue McDonalds bun. It was interesting to see McDonalds attempt to incorporate local cuisine into its menu. After a little browsing on the Internet's tubes, I learned that you can get this in McDonalds stores in the Netherlands, too.

Just so you aren't misled, this is what real Curacao cuisine looks like:

Local Curacao Food

And it's great!

Also on the food front, we had lunch at (and took a ton of pictures at) the terrific Curacao Butterfly Garden. There's a post about that on Judi's Butterfly blog. You can find it here.

Another thing I learned on this trip is that you never really know anyone. The sea-channel that links Curacao's magnificent but somewhat-inland harbor to the Caribbean splits the city of Willemstad in two. The side that has most of the buildings and people is called Punda -- literally "this side" in Papiamento, the local language -- while the other side is called Otrabanda -- "other side." Makes sense, eh? :) Punda and Otrabanda are joined by the world famous (really) floating bridge -- a pontoon bridge that swings out of the way when ships and tugboats are making their way through the channel. While the bridge is swung aside, pedestrians gather in crowds on both sides, waiting for it to close.

Judi, as you may know, is big on "following the rules." Common Judi-isms: "The sign says not to do that." "I don't think they want us to go there." "They have that rule for a reason."

So we were in Otrabanda, and just walking up to the floating bridge, wanting to return to Punda, when the bridge started to open. The fence was crowded with pedestrians, waiting. But the gate in the fence was open. And you can't imagine how surprised I was when rule-following Judi suddenly walked through the open gate, all by herself, and, without missing a beat, hopped across the widening space that separated the bridge from the land.


Of course I instantly followed her -- I mean, the gap was getting wider and wider -- and then I was standing on the bridge as it moved under my feet, the land and the crowd of patient pedestrians behind the fence falling away behind me.


Yes, Judi. Jay-bridge-walking Judi, as casual as if this was the kind of thing she did every day::

Just on the Floating Bridge

The bridge is usually crowded with people, so it was strange to be on it when it was almost deserted:

Almost Empty Floating Bridge

A yacht in the channel, passing by the opposite end of the floating bridge, which is obviously no longer attached to land:

Boats that the bridge opened for passing by

The far end of the bridge is lined up with a restaurant, creating the optical illusion that you could walked from the bridge straight up to your table:

Passing the restaurant

But the fact is that the restaurant is up the channel from the real terminus of the bridge, and there's a lot of water between the bridge and the restaurant.

As Judi waited at the far end for the bridge to close, I caught up with her and said, "I'm amazed that you just jumped across to the bridge. That isn't like you":

Waiting for the bridge to rejoin land

She answered, with nonchalance, "I know, and it occurred to me that I might fall in and drown, or my dress might get caught in the mechanism, or I might be crushed. I can imagine the headline: 'American tourist crushed by floating bridge.' But then I went ahead and did it anyway."

Finally Leaving the Floating Bridge

You never really know anyone.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Bad, bad blogger botches Banned Books Week

What can I say? It's been a very, very busy past two weeks at work. Is that the reason? Whatever it is, I missed Banned Books Week this year. It ends today. How could I let this happen? I love Banned Books Week. Anyway, here's my belated post for Banned Books Week, 2009:


To those who are active for a cause -- civil rights, the environment, abortion rights, heck, even anti-abortion rights -- it's often a point of pride to be arrested and convicted in the service of the cause. Recently the mayor of some Southern city offered a pardon to any activist convicted of a crime during the Civil Rights movement: They only had to ask and their record would be wiped clean. Almost no one asked. That conviction that comes up during every background check isn't something to be ashamed of. It's a badge of honor. I've even heard of parties thrown for activists when they reach a milestone -- say, twenty five, or even fifty, arrests and convictions.

If an activist takes pride in the number of his or her convictions, then for a "banned" book the measure of pride must be the number of times that someone asks to have it stricken from a library's shelves. Did you know that And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, has been the book most requested to be banned for...

...three straight years.

Truly a badge of honor.

And there's one more great reason for me to recommend And Tango Makes Three: If, like me, you blew off Banned Books Week until the last minute this year... it's an illustrated childrens book, so it won't take you any time to read. You can still squeak in under the deadline.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Reminding by committee

Recently I received one of those automated telephone calls reminding me of a doctor appointment. It started with a chipper ladies voice telling me the doctor's name, and the date and time of the appointment. Then it changed to a more dour ladies voice telling me arrive fifteen minutes early. Then a man's voice cut in to let me know that if I was having a certainprocedure done (I wasn't), I needed to arrive thirty minutes early. Then the original chipper lady returned to give me a phone number to call if I had any questions.

I had a distinct feeling that I had just received a reminder call from a conference room full of people who kept blurting out little bits of information as they thought of them.


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