A neglected gift

Last night I discovered my daughter’s hidden blog, to which she has clearly posted rather erratically. That fact, together with many of the blogged ruminations themselves, is ample evidence of the old proverb ‘the apple never falls far from the tree’.

I’m prepared to risk my daughter coming upon this post, thereby revealing the truth that I’ve kind of stalked her online. After all, if she did find this post, I’m sure a first year law student could argue that she stalked me. And besides, her blog makes the occasional reference to me. So it’s only just. (And she can hardly unfriend me on my own blog, now can she? Hmm? Yes you see, there’s no answer to that one, is there?) [Rationalising digression ended.]

It seems my daughter and I share quite a bit, maybe more than either of us would wish. The family line is glutted with the writing gift. Authors and journalists abound. She and I love writing. We also love procrastination, clearly. Perhaps ‘love’ is the wrong word. No procrastinator takes extended delight in their repeated dilly-dallying and certainly not in the resultant missed opportunities. But however one may spin it, we clearly share the capacity to identify endless distractions to attend to ahead of the task at hand, even if the task is something we enjoy, such as writing. So we have in common sorely neglected blogs, punctuated by spasmodic short-lived resolutions of sedulity.

Herein is my latest resolve to write more, allowing due passage to the branch of God’s creative spirit most evident in me. Being between ministries there should be no excuse for laxity. But then again, there are so many tantalising possibilities for … well, anything really … I’ll be back.

If I like you less, does that mean I like you more?

I don’t know who or what I like anymore, since Facebook stole my dictionary. And now I’m wondering whether “like”-ing everything I read would actually devalue the currency of my good opinion. Like printing money, sort of. And vice-versa too, really. I mean, if you “like” my link or my post, I now ponder innumerable qualifying questions … How many “like” buttons has Nigel[endnote As it happens, I do have a Facebook friend of said forename. But, Nigel, if you chance to read this, rest assured you are not personally my intended reference point. It’s simply that you happen to share two syllables in common with my generic all-purpose hypothetical persona.] pressed today? Did he like them all as much? Or are some of his “like”s more equal than others?

So here’s my suggestion to Facebook’s cool bureaucratic dudes. They need to hire an actuary or two, to devise a formula to run on the server. The formula would generate a rating of the quality of each “like”. So, for instance, if Nigel’s “like”-ing history is such that he has already “like”d five links, four pictures and seven game high scores in the past twenty minutes, then my chest needn’t swell with too much pride when he “like”s my comment. That’s because his “like”, though not entirely insincere, has more of a mildly-better-than-a-mug-of-lukewarm-international-roast-instant-coffee kind of quality about it. If on the other hand, Nigel has only punched “like” on two other blog posts in the past two days, then I could rest secure in the thought that I sit well above at least an average flat white ristretto on his scale of life’s points of true meaning. That would be very helpful after a hard day.

This proposal is predicated on the assumption that the finite human spirit is capable of emotionally approving a restricted number of ideas daily. So, for instance, if you find my company rather flat this evening, you might consider the possibility that I’ve mentally dispensed my good opinion upon so many worthy thoughts today, that my affective capacity is at present reduced to a level equivalent to the physiological fortitude of a butter lettuce leaf on a 40° day.

I feel that if Facebook’s minions of power would smile kindly upon this my humble plea, the word “like” might remain a player of substance in modern English parlance for at least one more decade.

Confessions of an unusually old closet hipster (apparently)

I’m still in recovery mode after a Saturday morning breakfast conversation with my two still-living-at-home unattached 20-something Gen-Y offspring. It was in this conversation over egg and tomato that I was zealously apprised of a fact I had no doubt been suppressing for many years: I am a hipster.

The revelation did strike me with some mental confusion, however. On the advice of one of my familial interlocutors I scurried off to my macbook (significant in itself, as will be revealed shortly) to trawl Google’s collected wisdom on the subject of ‘how to be a hipster’. Most of what I could find through the first half-dozen links was about fashion, as practised by a sub-culture none of whom have yet attained the age of 30. There was the first bewilderment. I’ve just turned 52, and my son and daughter did reluctantly admit that I lacked the dedication to tight jeans and pre-loved flannel shirts worn by all self-respecting hipsters at uni and other places. With this admission came the conferral of an additional adjectival epithet … I am in fact a closet hipster.

This episode in my cultural enlightenment began with the suggestion that I might just as well be wearing hipster goggles. (Uttered with reference to my newly acquired multifocal specs. Had I then grasped where the conversation was heading, I might have raised the irony that this “hipster” now has glasses to correct presbyopia.) With hindsight, that remark was the softener to capture my attention for the coming moment of awakening. It was pointed out to me that hipsters are invariably a. coffee snobs, and b. lovers of Apple gadgets. What could I do but bow my head solemnly, plead guilty, and await judgement?

Oh yes, I must add that both my judges avowed that they themselves are pure King Canutes, stoically resisting the whelming tide of hipsterdom which has swallowed whole vast hordes of their peers. I did flag a possible appeal on the basis that my son has both an iPhone and an iPad, whereas I have only the former. However it was pointed out that my son’s iPad doesn’t count as it was given to him by work, and also that I had previously let slip my craving for an iPad and envy of those already so blessed. Guilty yet again, and appeal lost on a technicality. Not to mention the undeniable fact that I recently shouted my daughter to a drink in a particularly hip café in über-hip Yarraville.

So there you have it. I am a (closet) hipster, expertly judged, despite my ever greying hair, ageing ocular lenses, crook back and firsthand knowledge of the 1960s. Maybe I should go back to tucking my shirt in …

One question remains – Am I to receive my judgement as a complement or an insult?

Luke 5:1-11

Luke has linked: the great catch of fish — Jesus declaration that they will catch people — the leaving everything to follow.

He says “When following me the impossible is possible. So if I tell you you will catch people, don’t doubt that either.” They respond by leaving everything – even the fishing where there has just been great success, to follow a new life with one who can demonstrably deliver what he promises.

This speaks to my continuing self-doubt.

Defaced and loving it

It’s now about 3 months since I was promoted to the rank of Permanent Facebook Evictee. This was achieved some 6 weeks after an initial reprieve, allowing my return to Facebook following my account being disabled. (Thus attaining the rank of Provisional Social Pariah.) Part I of the story may be read here. Here are some things I’ve learned as a now hardened Facebook persona non grata:

  • there’s a growing community of Facebook evictees gathering on various online forums, at least for mutual solace .. and in some cases to strategise (e.g. class actions against Facebook’s faceless overlords). I don’t imagine this community will quite become a pretender to Facebook’s social empire; but it is growing apace.
  • being a Facebook evictee offers a potential for public notoriety, possibly greater than one could hope for as a compliant Facebooker. I’m slowly acquiring a fan base of varied ages, desperate for interviews (autograph requests I’m sure are a matter of time), and expressing a sense of forbidden privilege merely to be associated with me, to sit near me, to hear the story of my wickedness, or to be a distant friend of one of my Gen-Y offspring. Is this, I wonder, what it’s like to be a member of the Honoured Society? (And should I buy a violin case?)
  • post-Facebook life is blessedly joyous and free. Without the distraction of an exponentially lengthening list of events, quizzes, games, notes, groups, doubtful associates, status updates, gossip, relationship intrigues, virtual plants, pokes, pixely photos, and heaven knows what … I now have time for what truly matters (such as playing solitaire, googling about potential ailments, and keeping up with Twitter (that last refuge of the recalcitrant sociopath)).

Yes, dear reader, there truly is the possibility of a fulfilling life after that exposure as a keyboard criminal, which undoubtedly awaits us all.

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Blogging is good for your soul

The title of this post just came to me after reading a very helpful blog post by John Piper on why pastors should blog. This in turn caught my attention as I was continuing to chew over the impact on me of an address, also by John Piper, which was really his personal story. I listened to a podcast of this while driving last Saturday.

Some of what struck me in that talk:

• his passion to write since very young, including poetry
• writing came from his father who wrote poetry
• he sees preaching and poetry as nearly the same activity
• he speaks from a full text always
• inspired by Jonathan Edwards’ goal: to capture the affections of hearers with the truth
• scholarly mind, yet reads very slowly

Why did all that strike me? … He could be describing me! In company with many many others, I’ve been a fan of Piper for many years – especially as a preacher. I had wondered why I warmed to his communication so much. I think I now know why.

So my latest resolution – which stands either to be honoured or broken – is to blog much more often on a much wider range of themes. Writing has energised me for a long time. Let’s now see if I follow through …

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Confessions of a facebook felon

On 31st December I attempted to log on to my Facebook account, only to get the following message: “Account Disabled
Your account has been disabled by an administrator. If you have any questions or concerns, you can visit our FAQ page here.”
“Opportunity for growth and general knowledge enhancement,” I thought. So away I went to trawl Google and the rather extensive and sleep-inducing Facebook terms, conditions etc. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
Cyberspace is awash with forum discussions about the experience of having one’s Facebook account disabled – or even worse (some folks have had their entire profile deleted permanently). It seems that Facebook’s administrators have some automated antispam sleuthing software running on their servers. A good idea in principle – and Facebook certainly has its share of spammers to contend with. But unfortunately human intervention in the process seems somewhat limited. So one’s chances of getting a real human response to one’s e-mailed questions about why you’ve been disabled and whether it can be reversed, are not really great. I’ve certainly had no response so far, and it’s clear that this is a common experience.
Also a common experience is being entirely clueless as to what you might possibly have done to breach Facebook’s conditions. The automated messages from head office provide no clues, other than drawing your attention to the terms & conditions, which leaves many of us none the wiser. As someone said on one forum – and I agree – it’s entirely reasonable for the administrators to run such automated sleuthing processes, provided that this is accompanied with prompt and thorough processes for investigating reports of “false positives” (geek-speak for people or messages incorrectly rated as spam, etc.). However this doesn’t seem to be the case, which is considered very bad form and rather unprofessional by people in the IT industry. And in similar vein, there are no warning messages about suspect behaviour etc – just ‘sudden death’ suspension. So what happens (quite frequently it seems) is that Facebook users unknowingly trip a wire that gets them disabled, and then simply stay disabled for days, weeks, months, or permanently. Some people have struck it lucky with some personal communication – which may or may not lead to them having their names cleared and accounts reinstated. Others have ended up receiving a final ruling from the administrators advising them that their accounts will not be reinstated and expressing “regret” that reasons cannot be given. Most just hear nothing at all ever.
There’s one interesting blog article here: 13 Reasons your Facebook account will be disabled . Raises many possible clues, but no answers really. From reading that and similar articles and trying to understand the Facebook terms & conditions, here I think is my best guess as to my punishable crime. And may my profligate confessions stand as a warning to other would-be loose-living felons …
Facebook’s genre is “social networking”. However it seems that it doesn’t pay to be too liberal with one’s socialising, lest one be judged a spammer. A day or two before my account was disabled I thought to myself in a moment of boredom: “I know – I’ll do some social networking on this great social networking site.” So I set about trawling my longterm memory for names of people who were part of my life at various times in the past 40 years or so, and searching them on Facebook. I hasten to add that this didn’t result in wholesale friend requests – I think I may have lodged 3 in an hour – that’s all the “positive sightings” I had. But what did happen was a fair bit of trawling of long lists of old friends and associates with more generic names. So, you know .. you click on several at random, seeking clues … From what I can gather Facebook’s antispam software gets rather suspicious if a user clicks on too many other users’ profiles in a certain space of time (there’s nothing published about what the offending rate is).
So there it is, for what it may be worth. The sad tale of a young man cut off from society and marooned through wanton loose-living. You may or may not ever meet me on Facebook again. Take my sad tale as a solemn warning as to the perils of excessive social networking. Admonish your children and grandchildren with my story. (It’s just a pity you can’t show them what a social felon looks like … ).
Feel free to share this sorry account with others.