Tuesday, May 31, 2011

THE END OF THE MONTH

Wow – a whole month!

Like a great dessert this post will be a small portion and a bit sweet.

While there certainly were days that I thought “will this month never end?”  along with “oh man – what am I going to write about today?” there were many more days where I actually had to filter ideas and try to decide what to write about.

I entered this blogathon because one of my godchildren in Australia inspired me to do so (thanks ‘Riss) and because I had hit a real rut in my writing. It was not actual writer’s block but rather that I just wasn’t looking forward to it all that much.

While I had played with blogging on a couple of my sites I really never got into it preferring to write other things some of which saw light of publication and some things which sit on my hard drive hoping that they will see some action at some point.

 I did do some recipes on the old AOL which were more like mini-blog posts back in the days when I was a community leader there and today I will visit any number of recipe sites and see them posted there. I suppose I will gather them all and repost them here or on one of my other blogs as well (once I figure out what I want those other blogs to be when they grow up.) Eventually Foodie Fridays will go wherever the recipes end up as well.

By the way – in case you are interested the other blogs are/will be located at From The Gatehouse and Pete’s Place here on blogspot as well as at Join Me For A Cuppa and Whitestone Photo on the web. Don’t worry – I’ll post links here as well as on my Facebook and Twitter accounts when I post any new blogs.

Now that the blogathon is done I will also get back to maintaining iPeter.net my disaster site.

I can always use help with iPeter.net. If there is a disaster that takes place anywhere in the world and you know of organizations that are coordinating or helping  in other ways with disaster relief I would really appreciate it if you would share that information with me.  I try to find out as much information as I can whenever there is a disaster but some of the information is suspect and cannot be confirmed while other information is just hard to come by. So all assistance that any of you can give me on this I really would appreciate.

However first I’ll be taking a much needed two or three day break from writing because I have neglected some other things that have to be taken care of and need to catch up with them.

What's been a lot of fun has been viewing the stats for the blog just to see what countries you, my readers, come from. So far I have seen readers from Australia, Canada, Chili, Mexico, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey,The United Kingdom and the United States which makes it rather exciting. 

So my friends – as they say “The meaning of life is ‘42’ and thanks for all the fish!” I’m not saying goodbye but rather raising a cuppa in your direction until we meet again!






Monday, May 30, 2011

WORDLE


Today is one of several "theme days" offered during this year's blogathon. While I haven't participated in the other theme days because I really wanted to concentrate on free-form writing of my own ideas, I did want to check out today's theme which is "Wordles." After doing so I decided that this could be fun and decided to participate.   
So what’s a Wordle you may ask?
A Wordle is a tag cloud (also known as a word cloud).
Tag clouds are a way of visualizing the frequency in which certain words, keywords or metadata are used and can be utilized as an aid to navigating a website.
The original use of tag clouds on a major website can be traced back to Flickr, Technorati and Del.icio.us in the early 2000’s.
While the original enthusiasm for tag clouds plummeted in the mid-2000’s further software development that led to the use of visualizing word counts in free-form natural texts and brought back their popularity as new ways were thought of to make them truly useful.
           Wordle was created by IBM senior software engineer Jonathan Feinberg in June of 2008 and rapidly found a number of ways to be used in different fields including education and art.
           According to the Wordle website, “Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.
          Just playing around with Wordle for a bit was a lot of fun and I fully intend to explore it further as I can see many uses for it moving forward. I strongly suggest that you visit the site and play around with it.
           In the meantime here’s my Wordle as my May 30th blog post:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

THE TOURISTS ARE COMING! THE TOURISTS ARE COMING!

Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the tourist season here in the Berkshires. And we welcome them with open arms (and sometimes a bit of grumbling...) 
I live in a very beautiful area of the US. Of course I think that most areas of any country have their own special beauty but, being slightly biased, I think my area has a slight edge.
Of course we welcome tourists. A part of our area's economy depends upon it. We are located almost equidistant from Boston Mass, Burlington VT and New York City NY. I guess the grumbling comes when some tourists treat us as uneducated hicks (we aren't) or servants - on the street (again - we aren't) or just plain old figure they are on vacation so they leave their manners at home. (Simply put - DON'T DO THAT!) I've had people walk into my house because they thought it looked really nice and they wanted to see what was inside. Hmmm - I have signs posted at the entryways to my drive that say "No Trespassing." Now tell me - who is uneducated? I live 1/4 mile from a popular concert venue. When there is a popular concert I've had people park their cars in my driveway without asking for permission. (Yes - I've had them towed. Remember - my driveway is marked with a sign.) I'm not a nasty person and I do understand that I live in a tourist area. During the summer I expect that it will take a lot longer to get places and that I have to plan my grocery shopping around "tourist schedules," etc. meaning go shopping in the early morning or during a concert and get home by intermission. That's OK. And if you enter my property and ask me if you can park your car there during the concert I'll probably say yes. But don't take liberties like that unless you know me. OK - enough with the rant.


Originally inhabited by the Mahicans, the first English settlers appeared in the Berkshires in the early 1700’s.
The original British settlers had farms, quarries, sawmills and textile mills. Potash production and glassworks were also early industries. At one point in the 1700’s iron ore was found leading to the establishment of several ironworks in the county as well.
In the 1800’s the area also saw the beginning of an influx of artists and writers including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Ward Beecher, Fanny Kemble, Catherine Sedgwick, Edith Wharton and Herman Melville to name but a few. In fact Herman Melville wrote Moby Dick in this landlocked area of the country!
The site of Pittsfield High School was originally the farm of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s family!
            Since then a number of artists, poets, actors, musicians, sports stars etc. have all been born or made homes up here – either part-time or full-time. Some of them include the late actor Christopher Reeves, musician Yo-Yo Ma, singer/songwriter James Taylor, poet Rosemary Starace, the late writer William Shirer, actress Elizabeth Banks, Arlo Guthrie, painter Norman Rockwell, sculptor Daniel Chester French, actress Maureen Stapleton, actor Matthew Perry, baseball player Dan Duquette, baseball player Jim Bouton and many more.
            The first of the large estates had construction commence in 1844. From 1880 through 1920 the wealthy managed to transform this sleepy area into a Gilded Age resort similar to Saratoga Springs NY and Newport Rhode Island. As these millionaires built their “cottages” for entertaining parts of the area developed a “hoity-toity” reputation. Ironically land in some towns went for as much as $20,000 an acre (remember this was in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s) while in a neighboring town it might only cost a few dollars an acre.  Today the cottages that have survived are museums, hotels or performing arts venues.
            Today the Berkshires are a very popular tourist destination for people of all backgrounds.
            You like to hike? Hiking trails abound here including a segment of the Appalachian Trail. Into nature? In addition to several Audubon maintained facilities there are the Berkshire Botanical Garden and the Hebert Arboretum for nature lovers. The Housatonic River and the many lakes in the region offer canoeing, kayaking, fishing, etc. There are campgrounds galore as well. Bicycles are welcome and the country roads make for a wonderful ride.
Photo postcard taken by my father in the 1950's.
Into something a bit more upscale? The area is famous for the performing arts and visual arts with such well known venues such as the Barrington Stage Company, the Berkshire Theatre Festival, Jacob’s Pillow, Shakespeare and Company, Tanglewood, the Williamstown Theatre Festival and more all based here. It is also home to the annual Berkshire International Film Festival.
Museums include Chesterwood, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Williams College Museum of Art and the Norman Rockwell Museum are complimented by a large number of art studios and galleries that are open to the public. 
            Prefer historical sites? How about visiting the Hancock Shaker Village or Mount Greylock? You might also want to visit the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace, the Colonel John Ashley House, Naumkeag, The Mount - home of Edith Wharton and many other places.
Just want to hang out on a porch? Summer rentals are more popular every year and there are even timeshares available.
Spa fanatics will love Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires while people into yoga will prefer Kripalu. And don't forget The Kushi Institute for people into macrobiotics.
But not to worry. The Berkshires is not just a health food destination. With a wide variety of restaurants run by people from all over the world disbursed throughout the county you won’t lack for different types of food. Many places will even make you picnic boxes to take to an event.
If you’ve ever handled a United States currency note (i.e. a dollar bill) then you have a connection to the Berkshires. Crane Paper Company manufactures the majority of paper used for United States currency right here in Berkshire County.
            Interestingly, despite being home to the largest currency paper manufacturer, the Berkshires also has its own local currency called BerkShares. Usable as real currency by participating stores, banks, etc. they have become a very viable alternative to US currency because one purchases them at a discount over US dollars. So, to use the example from their site, “You go to the bank to purchase BerkShares to spend at a local restaurant. You go in with 95 federal dollars and exchange them for 100 BerkShares. You go to dinner, and the total cost comes to $100. The restaurant accepts BerkShares in full, so you pay entirely in BerkShares. Therefore, you've spent 95 federal dollars and received a $100 meal - a five percent discount for you. The owner of the restaurant now has 100 BerkShares. They decide that they need to deposit them for federal dollars and return them to the bank. When they bring them to the bank, the banker deposits the 100 BerkShares you spent on dinner and gives the restaurant $95 federal dollars, the same 95 dollars that you had originally exchanged for BerkShares. The end result? You receive a five percent discount because of the initial exchange, but the same $95 you originally traded for BerkShares all goes to the business where you spent those BerkShares.”  BerkShares are available to anyone who wants to buy them at several local banks.
The first street to have an AC transmission system allowing the distribution of electric power over large areas using a transformer was here in the Berkshires. The demonstration took place in Great Barrington where William Stanley the inventor of this system lived. He lit offices and stores along the main street. His design became the basis for all transformers and the AC distribution system formed the basis of  electrical power distribution. His Electric Manufacturing Company eventually moved to Pittsfield and eventually became General Electric (GE).   
And that all-American pastime baseball – let us not forget that. The earliest reference to baseball was published as a Pittsfield by-law in 1791. It prohibited anyone from playing “baseball” within 80 years of the new meeting house in Pittsfield and was written after someone broke the meeting house windows in a game. 
1791 Bylaw Stating In Part " that no Person, an Inhabitant of said Town, shall be permitted to play at any Game called Wicket, Cricket, Baseball, Batball, Football, Cat, Fives or any other Game or Games with Balls within the Distance of Eighty Yards from said Meeting House " 
In 1859, the first intercollegiate baseball game was played in Pittsfield, MA and the area has provided many professional baseball players as well. Also located in Pittsfield is Wahconah Park – one of the last ballparks in the US with a wooden grandstand. Built in 1919 and seating 4500 people, the stadium has had a variety of associations including being a minor league affiliate of the New York Mets and the Houston Astros and many professional Major League Baseball players have come out of these teams. 
This scenic area boasts year round activities with the busiest seasons being summer and winter.
Now I’ve been writing about Berkshire County but the term “The Berkshires” has slowly spilled over to include parts of New York State, Northern Connecticut and Southern Vermont.  These places also have some wonderful activities and places to visit but I’m still a bit biased!
Well – I could go on but instead I’d just like to invite you to visit the Berkshires. It’s truly a wonderous vacation spot.
            So let me know when you’re coming up and we’ll meet for a cuppa someplace.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

ENJOYING THIS YEAR'S FLOWERS

For years Mom always planted a simple garden – mostly begonias and impatiens along with some day lilies. About 10 years ago I added some hosta and daffodils to the mix and, after some expression of dissatisfaction with the change (and trust me – it was the fact that there was change) she got used to it.

Last year it was finally time to get a bit more daring and we got a lot of different annuals including hydrangea bushes. We removed some of the bushes from in front of the wall between the porch and the gate and this year it is a beautiful flower bed. Additionally over the last couple of years my friend Steve who used to have a landscaping business up here does a lot of the planting and figuring out what will look good. He also planted tulips last fall that were to come up this spring which they did.

The tulips and snow crocuses are now gone as are most of the daffodils thanks to local wild fauna and their dining preferences along with the severe rains we’ve been having on and off the last few weeks. The leaves of the day lilies are growing nicely although the flowers haven’t yet begun to show.

Last night we had a pretty bad thunderstorm. There was wind and the weather forecast predicted we might even get some hail. At one point they were even talking about a possible tornado.

Today I realized that if I did not get some photos now and we did get the bad weather then later on I might not have any photos of this year’s garden – something I would end up regretting. This is what occurred last year. Everything was planted and we had a very nasty hailstorm. So I have no pictures from last year.

This year's planting looks great. One can sit on the porch or in the sun and enjoy the flowers with their coffee or tea. Hopefully Mom will also decide to spend more time downstairs and enjoying all this. 

At one point this summer the windchimes will be finished. This is a project that my friend Alan is doing. I had to have some trees removed before last winter. This one was extremely tall and very dead. The idea of the windchime came to Alan when he and his wife Rosemary came over one day. We were discussing which trees had to go and he said "You know - that one, if they don't cut it down all the way, would make an awesome windchime." And the project was on!

When the fellow came to take down the trees with his crew it turned out that he is really in to windchimes as well. I have photos of that day and will share that all at one point. Needless to say it turned into quite the "treechime fest!"

I do want to thank Steve for all his hard work on prepping and getting my "garden" ready for this year. I could not have done this without him.

Now it is time for the next step. So grab your cuppa, sit down, kick back and enjoy while I share these photos with all of you. (Note - clicking on the photos will enlarge them.)

The Front Of The House
Looking Through Arch On Porch
Looking Through The Gate

African Violets In Teacup
Allium

Alliums, Begonias, Impatiens

Alliums, Begonias, Impatiens

Begonias and Tubular Begonias

Begonias, Hosta, Asters, Geranium

Chicks and Hens, Impatiens

Coleus, Tubular Begonias, Varigated Ivy, Geraniums

Hibiscus

Hosta, Geraniums

Hydrangea

Impatiens, Hibiscus





Impatiens Hibiscus

Impatiens

Tickweed, Begonias

Impatiens, Trailing Lobelia

Base of Windchime

Windchime

Friday, May 27, 2011

TAKING CARE OF A LOVED ONE - PART TWO


Yesterday I wrote partially on a more personal note. Today’s post deals with things that everyone should be thinking about. Sorry there’s no Foodie Friday this week. It will return next week.


No one wants to acknowledge that they are going to die but let's face it. Death is the ultimate act of life. It happens and as of today there really is no way to avoid it in the end.

The following are items that one really needs to deal with while a person is still capable of making decisions on their own. You the reader should be doing all this for yourself and you should also be talking with your loved ones about doing all of these for themselves as well. 

1.       HEALTHCARE PROXY:  If the patient has a healthcare proxy and it is not you, know who it is and how to reach them. If there is no healthcare proxy find out from your local hospital or an attorney what is involved and make arrangements. (Some states also list a sample or official form on their websites which can make your life easier.) A healthcare proxy is both a legal document (sometimes known as a durable power-of-attorney for health care) that appoints someone to make healthcare decisions if the patient is incapable of doing so or should the patient choose not to do so as well as the term used for the person who is that agent. The document does not remove the rights of the patient to make his/her own decisions rather it ensures that in case something happens and the patient is not capable of doing so that someone will be able to act on their behalf. In many cases it can save a lot of time when communicating with healthcare professionals. It is important that a copy of the healthcare proxy document be filed with the patient’s local hospital as well as with any medical professionals the patient sees on a regular basis. One can have a primary and secondary person designated as a Healthcare Proxy (HCP) in the document in case the primary is not available.


2.     Advance Directives:  This document is meant to ensure that if you are too ill or hurt to tell people your wishes that they will be followed. It is a legal document that deals with end-of-life care ahead of time. The big plus with this document is that if a decision is made in accordance with the directives (also sometimes known as a “living will”) then no one can sue because the patient died or became totally incapacitated. It can address a number of issues including tube feeding, organ donation, tissue donation, autopsy, the use of artificial means of keeping one alive like breathing machines and what to do if breathing stops. If a person has advanced directives and needs a surgical procedure it is extremely important that they make a decision as to whether or not they want to suspend it temporarily during the surgery.

3.     WILL: A will is something that everyone should really have. If something happens to you – either in a medical situation or by accident – then at least your possessions and money (if you have any) will be distributed the way you want them to be and by the person you want to handle it all. A will also prevents people from just helping themselves to your stuff – and this can happen – and thereby gives your estate and executor legal recourse. Believe me – some people will just take what they think they are entitled to.

4.     FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS: Here in the States it is possible to prepay a funeral. This is an annuity that ensures your funeral (or the disposal of your body) will be done in accordance with your wishes. Because it is an annuity, you are protected over time if the price of a funeral goes up. The contract also will specify exactly what you desire. So when Uncle X shows up and insists on a bigger and better coffin or ceremony or a burial when you chose cremation his hands are tied. This is extremely important for a number of reasons. First the funeral is planned while the deceased-to-be is still alive so he/she has input. Secondly the financial aspect of the funeral is done.  (You can even prepay your own memorial stone if you want.) This is good because when people have to deal with burying their loved ones it is a very emotional time and they are vulnerable. Unfortunately funerals are, in part, a sales event and some (not all) funeral parlors will try to upsell the bereaved to a better casket, bigger services, etc. Prepaying does away with not only that but also any family arguments that may arise because someone isn’t happy with the way things are being handled.

Other things that need to be investigated (and that can vary from state to state include looking into inheritance taxes if the person’s assets are numerous as well as property transfers and how they are affected by state and federal assistance programs.

An example would be if a person transfers a car to a family member or friend and then within a year or two has gotten so sick that they have gone through all of their assets – will any government entity or nursing home be able to claim that car thereby reversing the person’s intent?


A consultation with a lawyer who specializes in elders and/or a certified public accountant might be in order to find out these answers and for suggestions on some other paths to take.

Once done, family members and close friends should be informed exactly what has happened and who is “in charge” where necessary. This way if there are any objections they can be dealt with at that point. Believe it or not – there will be hurt feelings. And a family member is NOT always the best choice to be a HCP or executor of an estate. Think about it – how would you feel if you had to make a life-and-death decision for a loved one? Another thing to remember is, if the patient is admitted to an ER or hospital that is a teaching hospital, that an overzealous resident may sometimes try to convince the Healthcare Proxy to go against the wishes of the patient. So the HCP has to also be someone who is strong enough to respect and fight for the wishes/desires of the patient.

I hope that these two articles have been of use to people. Let me know.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

TAKING CARE OF A LOVED ONE - PART ONE

I’ve come to the conclusion that getting old can sometimes really suck. It shouldn’t but it can. My mother will be 91 in August and still has a tremendous will to live. There is so much she wants to do in her life and she talks about it all the time. This is a good thing.

However saying you want to do something and actually doing it are two completely different things. Mom is partially bionic. She’s had both knees replaced and just last year she had a full shoulder replacement as well. The last surgery was probably the most difficult on her. She has never fully bounced back. Mom has pretty constant chronic pain and, given the choice, would prefer to stay in bed all day long. (She doesn’t have that choice too often as I try not to let her.)

We have the technology to keep people alive but the problem appears to be that we may just be living too long. There are many older people who, after living long, healthy, productive lives are seeing their brains start to basically shut down. They may be able to handle day-to-day functions but their short term memory starts to go. (I know – that happens to a lot of us but this can happen more frequently to the elderly.) Weakness sets in so that, although they may wish to go out for a coffee every day, they are not physically capable of doing so. And the more they give in to their aches and pains and baby themselves by staying in bed, the weaker they get.

Some give in to it totally and give up. Their lives consist of staying in bed and going to doctor appointments – even though there is no reason for them to do so because there is nothing wrong with them. Their doctors tell them this but television and magazine advertising by pharmaceutical companies seem to be a bigger persuader than the doctors.

Then you get someone like my Mom who really doesn’t want any more medications and would rather be doing stuff but just can’t. The lack of strength, etc. becomes even more debilitating. Getting Mom dressed and downstairs each day is a chore when she is feeling well. When, as now, she is feeling poorly, it is close to impossible.

It doesn’t help that over the last few years several of her friends have passed away – the majority of them younger than her. Although she denies it, it has to be depressing.  

                Over the past few weeks Mom has woken up with what are called “night sweats.” She’ll phone me (we use my cellphone and her landline as an intercom system in addition to a baby monitor) and I’ll go in to dry her off. Her temperature, oxygen intake and pulse are all healthy/normal yet she doesn’t feel right.

           Last week I took her to see her primary care physician who said that perhaps she had a “hidden fever.” He prescribed an antibiotic to fight the wheezing she’s been having along with her shortness of breath. Since then she has had some more episodes of shortness of breath and wheezing which could be attributed to the very humid weather we’ve been having. However today she was adamant that I get her to the hospital – something she is not fond of doing.

                The upshot is that she went to the Emergency Room where we spent most of the day. Tests showed nothing wrong but, again the diagnoses of “hidden fever”  was given. I will say that after getting some fluids via IV she seemed to bounce back so, even though the bloodwork did not show dehydration as a cause, maybe she still had a touch of it.

                Believe me, it is as frustrating to the doctors as it is to us. And all I can do is observe her and report back to her doctors what I observe. This does help them a bit – whether it’s to rule out things or just to try and narrow things down.

                So, just like with a child that might get ill, if you have a parent or other elderly person in your household who starts complaining, remember to observe and keep careful notes so that you can discuss it with that person’s doctor when you make an appointment (or the ER doctor if it comes to that.) Many seniors will, when they talk to the doctor, only tell him/her about what is troubling them at that moment.

I have noticed this with my mother. I’ll make an appointment about her feeling dizzy but, when we get to the doctor’s office her knees are bothering her from her arthritis then, when the doctor enters and asks what is wrong she will concentrate on her knee pain.

                Many seniors will also either be constant complainers or they will be stoics. You will either be constantly subjected to a litany of what’s wrong with them or you will notice that they are in pain or something is wrong and they won’t discuss it with you until the pain or whatever it is becomes unbearable. This is another area where being extremely observant is important.

                 Now I keep saying to be observant. It is important that you also be as objective as possible. This may include having friends of yours over to see if they notice the same things. When you are a caregiver you tend to get overinvolved with the person you are caring for. This means you may become a bit subjective and see what isn’t there. The trick is to take a big step backwards regularly and make certain that what you think you observe is really what is there.

                With most of today’s medical practices and the constraints put on the doctors by insurance companies here in the U.S., many doctors cannot practice medicine the way they would like to. That is – they cannot spend as much time as they would like with each and every patient. Where I live we are lucky – many doctors will spend as much time as they can with each patient and they also follow up with phone calls (or have a staff member do it) in order to be sure everything is OK.  By keeping accurate observations and even writing them down to hand to the doctor when he/she walks in you can make the best use of their time and the patient’s time as well ensuring better care.

                Another thing to have and bring extra copies to every office and ER/hospital visit is a printout of every medication the person is currently taking (including temporary medications and herbal supplements) along with a list of allergies. Additionally bring along with a medical history to the best of your/the patient’s ability.

                You can save a lot of time, and earn the respect of medical staff, if you keep these lists on your computer, update them regularly and bring a printout with you to each visit. If it is a trip by ambulance to the ER then make THREE copies: one for the ambulance personnel as they may need it for insurance filing or other reasons, one for the ER personnel (which you can hand to the ambulance people saying “one is for you and the other for the ER” and one that you bring with you in case anyone has any questions and hasn't seen the printout.

                Tomorrow we will deal with four important issues that should be addressed to ensure smooth health and end-of-life care for everyone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SOCIAL MEDIA - HOW DO I FOLLOW A PERSON?

I’m not talking about stalking here but rather Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites along with blogs. There are several reasons to connect with people online. These fall into several categories and that’s what today’s post is about. Personally I use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn along with a couple of the aggregators and a couple of the music and photo sites such as blip.fm, twitpic, etc . Other people use many more sites than I do and I raise my glass to them.

Facebook:
First you have your true friends. These are friends that you know in real life and who you are in touch with in a multitude of ways. Online connections are just an additional way to keep up with them and possibly feel closer as you read about their day-to-day adventures. You get to see more photos of their families and yes, sometimes even see what they are eating for dinner. Remember – these true friends can be people you have met over the years through social functions, business events or other ways. You may have only met them recently and yet have struck such a bond with them that you feel like you have known them forever or don’t know what your life would be without them.

Next you might have “those people.” These are the people you used to know or had some other potential connection with. As an example, I am the co-administrator of my high school online alumni group. As such I try to not only connect with people who went to the school via the alumni group but also directly as friends. In my case it works because the school was a small school  with an average class size of 12 people from grades 1 through 12 and the school was only around for less than 20 years. This might not work with a larger school or other organization but there are people that you never met, that will still try to connect with you because you must have passed each other in the hallway for their last year there. “Those people” and whether or not to connect with them are a judgment call.

Going on from there, you have what I refer to as “affinity friends.” These are people that you have a loose tenuous relationship with. It may be that you share a common interest such as stamp collecting or esoteric politics or chain mail making. You connect through a fan page on Facebook or another site and again, you may or may not interact. In fact you may never ever meet other than that one time you pushed the “confirm” button.

Then there are friends of friends – people that you begin to have a conversation with on a mutual friends page due to a comment your mutual friend made or people you have met via an introduction (online or via email) through another friend. These folks can be extremely interesting and actually become friends over time.

Add to that people who are open networkers. When I first started on Facebook that is what I was. I accepted any and all friend requests. I quickly shot up to almost 5000 friends and had no room left for people I actually knew.  Most of these people were connections from LinkedIn where I was also an open networker. I rapidly realized that I had to make a decision and I did. I posted on my Facebook page that I was going to start weaning out people I did not know.

Now prior to doing cut-down process I actually had some great interactions with some of my LinkedIn connections via Facebook. I kept them as friends. But everyone else went and I am down to a “manageable” 626 friends now. What’s scary – but in a good way -  is that I actually know most of them in person. There are probably about 40 or so that I only know from online or through an affinity connection.

Facebook does have a cap of approximately 5000 people that you can friend. To get around that limitation you will need either a fan page or a group page. But while those pages will certainly let you communicate with more people it isn’t the same as a true friend page.

Twitter:
Until someone spams me or if they spew vitriolic garbage that shoots my blood pressure through the roof, I will let anyone follow me on Twitter. I figure that if you are really that interested in what I have to say then go ahead. Listen. Unfortunately Twitter does have a 1999 follower limit of sorts. You can only follow 1999 people until more than 2000 people are following you. Once you go past that magic 2000 number you can follow as many people as you want – with a caveat. You cannot just jump in and follow 500 people at once. Twitter has a couple of algorithms designed to try and thwart spammers. If you follow to many people on the same day you will find your account blocked. (By the way – I’m about 500 short so feel free to follow me on Twitter where I’m known as @PAWeissenstein. Just be aware I won’t be able to follow you back so no offense intended.)

Now how do you choose who to follow on Twitter. For some people the rules for Facebook that I stated above apply. Others, once they have reached the 2000 people following them mark, will follow everyone back. While following everyone back may mean that you will find something worthwhile, and you will also, in theory, expand your influence, you will probably need to develop your own rules on how to handle that. Many people will use a client such as TweetDeck, Seismic or HootSuite in order to manage their Twitter account(s). These tools will let you create columns which will then sort your incoming tweets by people, category, etc. The true Power Users have no choice but to utilize these and the other programs out there in order to maintain their feeds and interactions. But then again, this can become almost a full time job and one has to make the decision on how much time do you wish to put in to your social media life?

LinkedIn:
LinkedIn is a great job searching tool. You can find things out on LinkedIn and garner leads that you just can’t do anywhere else. Unfortunately the spammers have also discovered that over the last couple of years as well. Whether to keep your network open – meaning you accept all invites or closed – meaning you only accept invites from people you know or have actually met is a personal decision and also a debate that has raged on since LinkedIn was started. There are pluses and minuses to both sides of the story. The one thing I strongly suggest is that you do get as many of your friends and family connected to you on LinkedIn as possible. Then you can make the best decision for yourself.

Blogs – while I will take the time to read a lot of blogs they won’t all make it on to my blogroll. This is not intended to offend anyone. I could easily create a blogroll that would take so much time to read that one wouldn’t have time to read the blogs! So I use a double edge sword there. First I list the blogs of a few of my friends that I really think the world should get to know. Then I list blogs where friends of mine and I all think are worth sharing. It is impossible to read each and every blog I would like to read every single day but I will do my best. I may not comment on each blog I read either. I don’t expect comments every day on my posts either because of that. I just hope people are reading it.

Other social media sites – there are many other sites out there such as NING, MySpace, etc. It is always your decision as to where and what you will participate. I have, over the years, signed up for several other sites but tend not to use them at all. Why? It’s simple. The internet is really like a cavern filled with pirate’s treasure filled with real jewels and gold as well as lots of fool’s gold. In my opinion, unless one is running a business which relies on internet feedback one needs to choose how much time and how many places they will participate in before it overwhelms oneself.

Certainly there are programs out there that can help you manage everything but at what point do you give your own personality up to a program? This requires a lot of thought.

So that’s it in a nutshell from one individual person . What’s your take on this?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

TOE-ING THE LINE - PART 3

Today is the 7th day after the surgery on my foot and I had my first follow-up with the surgeon. As most surgeons are, he was very pleased with his work. And he should be. I can already see that there will be no scar from the incision. Of course the fact that he is a plastic surgeon probably means that I should have expected that. 

Most people in the United States hear the term "plastic surgeon" and think they only do cosmetic surgery, Hollywood and tummy tucks. Nothing could be further from the truth. Plastic surgeons do much much more than that.

While it is true a chunk of business comes from “Botox Babes,” “Nostril Nellies,” “Tummy Tonis” and other body augmentation/re-arrangements they are highly trained professionals who also do reconstructive procedures to accident victims, surgery on the nerves, etc. 

Several years ago my mother had a serious fall and hit her head on a bookcase cutting open her forehead. She also damaged the optic nerve in her left eye. At the hospital, the eye doctor – a skilled surgeon himself – actually had a plastic surgeon do the procedure. Today you see no scar on my Mom’s forehead. Unfortunately they were unable to save the optic nerve but they did do wonderful work.

The doctor who did my procedure also did marvelous work. Rather than my seeing him again at his office, I will see him in two weeks at the Wound Clinic when I go for my bi-weekly appointment for my toe.

Oh – and my toe, instead of pointing up towards the heavens, now is flat – the way it should be!


Monday, May 23, 2011

SPRINGTIME THOUGHTS AND MEMORIES

If you live in a house the time tends to arrive each spring when you start thinking about the garden. Now I am extremely fortunate in that I have a friend of mine who is extremely gifted at landscaping/planting and he takes care of this for Mom and me.

Last fall he planted a bunch of tulips, daffodils and other bulbs and they have come up adding a flash of color to the outside of the house. This fall he’ll plant more.

My house is pretty much surrounded by trees. Due to the pine trees some of the soil is extremely acidic. Both these situations limit what exactly one can plant. Fortunately there are several plants the fit the bill. One of these is hosta. To me hosta is a pretty weed. I say this because it grows and grows. Each year it gets a bit bigger and spreads out a bit more.

Fortunately it has attractive leaves and so it will be used in areas where trial and error have shown that we cannot plant anything else and expect good results. As Mom says “As long as it’s green!”

Of course she said that about the lawn in the back of the house which had gone pretty much to moss. Fortunately there have been huge advances in lawn products – specifically grass seed and this year the moss is gone and new grass is coming in.

It is nice going outside each day and seeing yet another burst of blooms coming up somewhere around the house. Some of the summer plants have been picked up while more will be gotten over the next couple of days. So I expect that the majority of our summer plantings will be in place by next weekend. I will get a photo and post it at one point as well.

Seeing flowers coming out of the ground does something very positive to one’s outlook on life. Looking out the window after hearing what you think is a car door slamming to see that it’s Mama Bear and her two little cubs going through your dumpster also reminds you of the “circle of life.” Yes – every year in the spring we get a mama bear coming through the neighborhood trying to scavenge food. One year she actually managed to tip the entire dumpster and I watched as she carefully brought each bag over to a small area of our backyard where she opened them. She then called her cubs over for a dinner picnic.

At the time I had a mac.com account. No one knew then that Apple was planning to delete the entire mac.com website and migrate us all to me.com without doing something to migrate our existing sites. Fortunately they did migrate all the photos to one section of our iDisks and the text to another. Without further ado – here is the text and the photos from a previous visit of “The Visitors.”


THE GUESTS
You know how you get those guests that just drop in without warning?
Well here you see a mother and her kids who decided to do just that to us!  

Playing In The Field

Tag You're It!

I'm It!
Bet You Can't Catch Me!



Bet You Can't Find Me!




Mother with Children - Look for the Shy One in Bushes
Suppertime!
Yummy Mommy - Our Favorite!

So I hope you enjoyed that brief trip down memory lane with me.

This year I’ve outsmarted her. No food waste in the dumpster – only non-recyclable stuff. Food waste goes into bags here in the house along with the other recyclables and I do regular dump runs. Sorry Mama Bear.