Tag Archives: Google

An Oblivious Society

The review for “Clear, Winter Nights” by Trevin Wax has been delayed until Monday, October 28. Meanwhile, enjoy what was supposed to be Monday’s post. :o)

train station
train station (Photo credit: nolifebeforecoffee)

Technology is great unless, of course, you’re the San Francisco student on the light rail train who was shot and killed on September 23, or the man glued to his phone that I startled when I ran up behind him a month ago. He wasn’t the only one. It’s not just technology that has made people unaware.

People are generally not aware. When I have gone running or shopping, people don’t use their senses to know when people are around them, trying to pass in an aisle, or even aware of people close behind them trying to pass them on a narrow sidewalk. This picture taken on the subway in San Francisco shows a typical day of ear buds in people’s ears and eyes fixed on their cell phones. The gun man did not hide his gun. He took it out, wiped his nose while holding the gun in his hand, and even with the close proximity of the gunman to the others on the train, not a single commuter raised his eyes to see the gun until the gunman shot a student leaving the train.  It was too late for the student who died from the fatal shot; and this in a city and state known for it’s convoluted anti-gun laws. It doesn’t surprise me that the gunman was able to flash the gun on the cramped light rail train.

I’ve come across so many people fixated on their cell phones and ear buds whom I have startled when coming up behind them on the streets or who stop engaging with others because of their ear bud usage. When I Googled cell phone addiction, it did not surprise me to find many articles on the subject. Our wants and needs’ line have blurred. I wrote about that here. Recently, I acquired a smart phone because our finances allowed the extra cost.

As a writer, we’re required to social network and write, but after several years of social networking, It has left me empty. My biggest concern has been in getting a smart phone is in not engaging in life because of it. I have a smart phone and I still make a concious effort to put it away. The smaller screen causes one to focus more intently on the words, shutting others out, while a regular computer screen allows your view to expand and include those around you. I also have an ipod shuffle for running, but I train my eyes to look around as I run, keeping aware of people around me. When I trail run, I do not use my ipod. Running in such an isolated place has its own dangers with not only the two-legged predators, but the four-legged as well.

So I’m not surprised at the kidnapping rates in our state or the crime in San Francisco anymore. The San Francisco gun man on the light rail went out hunting for a random human victim. He did eventually get caught. With so many cell phones, someone could have dialed 911. If San Francisco wasn’t anti-gun, a CCW holder would have had that gunman on the ground. Both actions would have saved the 20-year old’s life.

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Fancy Wine Labels

Wine labels fascinate me. The more creative the label the more I am apt to buy that wine. Recently, I tried two different wines: Spin the Bottle and CarniVore. Both diversely different in taste and color.

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Spin the Bottle has a label where the light causes the bottle to spin. It is a sweet wine. CarniVore has a black label with a tear through the center as if a carnivore had clawed it’s way through it. The wine is very dark, strong, and definitely full bodied.

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Wine is enjoyable. It gives me a sense of sophistication, visions of rolling green hills, and brown horses as if life didn’t have a Google calendar sending text reminders to my phone of things to do and places to go. Of course, my sense of sophistication is partnered with bare feet propped on the coffee table! Not exactly, Vogue, and that doesn’t matter to me. What matters is the time I set aside in the midst of a full life to read, talk, or just relax without any agenda. Life is good when full of things to do, a sense of purpose, but it’s not good if every moment is filled with good things.

Wine labels are like stories or art, picturing the simple things of life, of vineyards, open air, free time and family. Good things better enjoyed together with a glass of wine, bare feet on the coffee table, and lots of cheese.

Trusting The Source

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The news is necessary. I trust only certain news stations to bring me most of the truth, understanding that bias exists even with the best of intentions. A person can’t write something or talk about something objectively. If you examine what it is you are reading closely, you will find a bias. Bias is more rampant nowadays and less reporters are trying to hide that bias, opting instead to write convincingly to sway the readers mind towards a hidden agenda. Video is even more damaging.

A recent video of a supposed heckling of an anti-gun father from the Newtown shootings is a relevant example. See an edited version reported by the Huffington Post here (originally posted via MSNBC) and the unedited version played hereSee the difference?

MSNBC agreed to review their video after a tireless Twitchy chased the story one twitter account at a time to ask people to retract their knee-jerk reactions to the edited video and encouraged them to watch the unedited version. Video editing is why I trust little when it concerns the news. I have my favorite news source and my other lesser news sources where I gather information. In fact, it’s good to look a variety of news sources so the truth shines brighter. Like when someone on twitter tried to counter my argument, all I had to do was send him the Google search link where he could have a broader picture of the situation and see the untruth that was spread by liberal news sources. Trust is a thing earned.

With the chaos in the world, the unrest, and watching as people try to bring down our country from the inside, I ask myself—whom do I trust?

I remember that God is in control. No matter how scary the future, God has the world’s past and future written in His book. His word never changes. He is constant, blunt, and I am reminded of the story of Esther that our pastor explained during prayer time.

In Esther 4:12-14, Mordecai said, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Mordecai’s statement about relief and deliverance is a statement of total trust and faith in the promises of God. As our pastor said, Haman couldn’t completely annihilate the Jews; neither could the Holocaust, Holodomor, etc. During Esther’s time, Jesus Christ was to come from a line of Jews sometime in the future and so while some would die in Haman’s annihilation, some would be saved. I thought this was relevant for today.

We watch the news, watch how some churches add to the Bible or take away from the Bible, and we wonder if there will be any believers left when Jesus returns? When our pastor explained this verse in Esther during staff prayer time, it reassured me. Somehow, whether America survives or not, there will be believers taken up on the last day at Jesus’ return. For now, we must fight using the truth, question everything, and join grass-roots movements, and not, as my favorite line in Independence Day says, go quietly into the night.

God is a source we can trust.

Unplug

“Since being home, I have continued to journal every morning. I am also saying No to additional commitments, so I can make sure I have time for those priorities that matter most. I feel like my tank is full again.” – Michael Hyatt

My husband and I have normal cell phones; not iphones or Blackberries. There are no Androids in our possession. We have text ability, but no internet.

Writing is a second full-time job on top of my little less than 40-hours a week day job. I’m connected to the internet a lot. It’s a job requirement with writing, but I have deliberately kept internet off our phones for two reasons: 1) It’s unneccessary. 2) It’s expensive. My Kindle is dependent upon Wi-Fi. This leaves me able to focus on what’s important.

I can text statuses to Twitter and Facebook, but I cannot see the replies to respond. I am glad that I am hindered by this because it enables me to focus on real life without feeling the need to check my phone. It keeps my social networking in check. I don’t need to be connected 24/7.

When my husband watches baseball, I read on the couch and I may check Facebook on my Kindle, but I am working on making sure my writing doesn’t drain the time my husband and I enjoy together, even if it’s just reading and him watching baseball. I don’t want my memories made up of him and I in separate rooms talking to each other.

A picture on Facebook showed a typical family in this culture. They were sitting around a television and all of them had a gadget, either a laptop or a phone. Nobody was really communicating or engaging with each other. Sadly, I have seen this myself.

Communication is not just about the words you say, but the time you spend with each other. It’s the eye contact you make. Michael Hyatt also said, “Almost immediately, I saw my attention span increase. Gail and I spent every morning being quiet, reflecting, and journaling. We did a lot of reading. I didn’t feel the usual hurry-up and-finish pressure I experience in my normal life.”

In writing, there are self-imposed deadlines and neccessary deadlines. There are wordcounts to finish, blogging and social networking to do, and emails to answer. When not writing my novel, I am blogging or writing a short story or devotion. I am always working. But as my Mother-in-law said one day that I work hard, but also play hard.

The life my husband and I enjoy teem with memories of beautiful vistas, forest paths, roadtrips, and memories enjoyed with family. When I said to a friend, “I don’t schedule things on my husband’s work days because I make him a priority,” she had a strange look to her face. I wondered if this was an alien thought.

Meetings, passions, and other well-intentioned things can eat up the time you and your husband spend with each other. It can also create distance if you have a crazy work schedule. Marriage needs to be protected so the two people in it can grow old together, not a part.

Which is probably why I never do weekend retreats just for women (just day trips). I don’t have children that I need to get a break from and when I am away from him I miss him. He misses me. So it’s good to unplug; not just for marriages, but for friendships, too. People deserve your full attention.

Do you unplug?

I Am Using You

Faith Barista’s, Bonnie Gray once talked about comments in a blog post or email. She said each comment is a gift. Except, I whispered to myself, I am using my readers. That anyways was how I began early  in  my blogging days when I had not yet found my voice or  my heart.

Bloggers wrote about how to get ahead in the world of literature by leaving comments with a link. As I grew in my writing, I realized that behind each blog post is a person. Bloggers take the time to write their heart or invest in their blog by giving us valuable and free information. My google reader filled with posts that I began to follow and leave comments. Then, I invested my heart.

Leaving comments like, “Great post,” or, “Good point,” or other vague words doesn’t encourage a blogger because those words don’t warrant further conversation or discussion. Not to say I would despise my readers for leaving short comments, but if it’s sincere, then I am glad. Still, ettiquette seems to dictate online that if one blogger visits us, we must visit their blog.

One blogger apologized that he hasn’t visited my blog in a while. I follow his blog because I got to know him as a person. There’s a real community of bloggers who care about each other and some who are just trying for their fifteen minutes of fame in a competitive world. I have encountered a few of them. They are the same or similar people I have encountered who want me to critique their stories, but don’t want to critique mine. There’s enough apathy out there to warrant that we think about why we do what we do, and it all comes down to Bonnie Gray’s post about each comment being a gift we give to each other.

You may not see my comment on your blog. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t there; it simply means I couldn’t think of anything worthy to say. I couldn’t gift you with the right words other than to promote myself. And I may not have read your blog, and you may be a faithful reader who, like me, likes to read blogs because you got to know me like a friend.

But I think we do need to change our way of thinking in this commercial lifestyle. I am still using you, but not to promote me. I am using you to grow me. Your stories, your life, your  lessons, and you mean a lot to me. Anger dehumanizes people. I see anger all of the time on the road and in the stores, even in church, but here we can be honest, call each other out on our untruths or misunderstandings. We can gift each other with comments that encourage deeper discussions.

So thank you, Bonnie, for being such a positive influence on all of us!

Are you a self-promoter? Why do you read blogs?

Christmas Story: Calling in Dead

The tree shimmered, decked out in gold and silver glass ornaments, ribbons and beads. An angel lorded over the tree, her candle glowing and her face frozen in a perpetual smile. Sunny Grable scowled. She crammed her hands into her denim pockets and wished she had a permanent marker to change that angel’s expression. Some goth lipstick and a pimple or two would take care of the angel.

“I’m late.” Her mother, Clarisa hurried into the living room. “Unplug the tree, Sunny. Don’t want to leave it plugged in while I’m at work. Now where’s my papers?”

Sunny yanked the plug out by the neck of the cord. The plastic boughs trembled as her arm brushed against the plastic pine needles. Clarisa rummaged through her large purse. Papers crunched and keys jingled. Sunny plopped down on a chair and drummed her fingers on the armrest.

“What if I told you that I’m pregnant?”

“Then, I would probably be upset.” Clarisa hurried into the other room. “Where are those papers! Arrrgghhh! I should have gotten up earlier today.”

“What if I said I was smoking marijuana?”

“Are you?” Clarisa ran into the room again holding a manila folder bulging with papers. “Got it!”

“No, I’m not.” Sunny stared at the white carpet.

“And pregnant?” Laughter danced in Clarisa’s eyes.

“You don’t think anyone would want me?” Sunny saw a small dark mark on the white carpet. She had put it there last week using a marker to see if her mom would notice it. So far her mother hadn’t said anything.

Her mother stopped. She turned and put her hands on her slim hips. “Sunny, you are gorgeous! But I would like to see you pregnant and married to a good man, and not in that order.”

“I’m not pregnant.”

“Good. What time will you be home tonight?” Clarisa stuffed the envelope into her purse.

“Usual.” Sunny leaned her head back.

“That late? When is the manager going to give you better hours?”

“Probably never.” Sunny stood and pointed at the oversized clock hanging on the tallest wall. “You’re going to be late.”

Clarise’s head swiveled and she gasped. “Oh, I can’t be late again. See you tonight! Did you find a church?”

“Go!” Sunny pointed to the door.

“You’re right. We’ll talk later.” And her mother stumbled out the front door to her black, fancy sports car.

Sunny called in sick-of-life. Actually, if she had called in dead it would have been more honest; instead, she called in just plain old sick. Guilt grew heavy on her mind when her kind boss insisted she relax and get well; to not worry about the work load. Her other co-workers could handle it today. Sunny stared at the angel. It smiled, looking peaceful and beautiful. She resisted the urge to desecrate it. So Sunny turned on the television instead, and channel surfed for a couple of hours. The phone rang and she let the answering machine get it.

“It’s Lena. I’m just reminding you of college group on Thursday. We are so glad you came to visit us last week.” Lena left her phone number should Sunny have any questions.

Not likely. Sunny flipped the channel again. An hour later, her cell phone vibrated against her hips. Sunny dug into her pocket and looked at the number. Don’t know it. Don’t care. She tossed the phone on the opposite chair. It slid across the cushions (also white) and wedged between the back of the chair and the seat cushion.

Daytime television sucked. Sunny turned off the television and walked to the window. Mrs. Mead hung a wreath on her front door while Mr. Mead began to string lights on the garage. Allison, the single real estate agent approaching her fifties, struggled with a briefcase as she closed her front door and locked it. She never parked in her garage. I wonder if I’ll be like that woman—almost fifty and single?

The Christmas season had just begun. Sunny went upstairs to her bedroom and closed the door. She flung herself over the unmade bed and buried her face in the pillows. Last Christmas had been different. She had a boyfriend—a cool boyfriend who was smart and was in his second year of college. They had been dating a year prior to the season. His sister hinted of a ring, and when Jake made reservations at the restaurant on the corner, Sunny danced not-so-quietly around her bedroom. He didn’t like church. He said he didn’t believe in God. Sunny liked that about him. No rules to follow. They could just be, and walks in the moonlight had nearly turned to something her mother would not have approved of. Sunny sat up and went to her computer. She logged on to Facebook.

“Called in dead.” Sunny typed as her status.

“Cool.” One friend commented and liked it.

What a nerd! Sunny waited for somebody to care, scanning the news feeds. Jake had not unfriended her from Facebook. She liked to stalk his statuses because it made her feel somehow connected again to his life. He hadn’t posted anything in a month. Did he still use this or did he go to Google +? Sunny thought about searching Google+, but decided maybe it was time to let him go, too. Two months ago, his status read he was in a relationship, but it was complicated. A new girl—someone better looking perhaps with high ambitions? Sunny remembered their conversation last Christmas at dinner.

“You look—ah—beautiful.” Jake was punctual. He drove up and even walked all the way to the door. Usually, he just honked the horn.

The conversation at the restaurant was a real kill-joy. Sunny had barely eaten. She kept watching his hands, waiting for the moment. How many wedding movies had she watched all the way up to the dinner and how many bridal magazines did she pour through dreaming about her own wedding? Countless. Then, her dreams scattered like the flavored peas on her plate.

“I didn’t know how to do this.” Jake looked uncomfortable. “I didn’t want to do it over the phone and nothing seemed right. I—ah—met someone.”

Sunny left. She walked five miles home in heels. Her feet ached, but her heart hurt more than her arches. Her mother was at work. Her father had a meeting. Sunny cried all night until her mascara ran rivers down her cheeks. The smoky eye effect now looked more like the zombie effect. A year later and Sunny still felt like her heart had never recovered.

“Not cool. Dislike.” Rebecca wrote on Sunny’s status.

Sunny met Rebecca last Thursday at the college group. Rebecca friended her immediately online. Sunny didn’t know how to un-friend without hurting her unfortunate new friend.

“Why?” Sunny’s fingers stabbed the keys.

“It’s not right.” Rebecca explained in a private message a moment later. “You’re a Christian, right?”

“What’s that got to do with anything?” Sunny turned to instant chat.

Rebecca did likewise. “Because you lied.”

“I did not. I am dead. Dead on the inside. Life sucks.”

“It’s a lie and it’s not honorable. Life does not suck, not when you know Jesus.”

Rebecca irritated Sunny the first day they met with trite phrases. She always wore Jesus shirts and hated rated ‘R’ movies.

“Hello! Real life does suck even if you know Jesus. And I don’t know Jesus.” Might as well tell happy Rebecca that Sunny wasn’t a member of that club. “I went to your group last week because mom has pestered me to go to church. I have no idea why. We’ve never been a church family. I think she just wants me to meet someone.”

Rebecca sent an unhappy face.

“Guess you had better un-friend me.” Sunny typed. She waited for the notification, but Rebecca did not un-friend Sunny.

“You’re still welcome to come. We all care about you. Plus, Katie told me about your break up last Christmas. That was horrible.”

Sunny slapped her palm on the desk. Best friend and gossip Katie told all to a bunch of Jesus-loving college people! Sunny’s embarrassment warmed her face to the very roots of her red hair. She typed, “It’s nice she told a group of strangers about my personal business.”

“Come this Thursday. It’s going to be a great teaching, and even if you don’t care to hear the teaching, come eat pizza with us.”  Rebecca ended that sentence with another unhappy face.

What was Sunny doing Thursday? Oh, that’s right. Single me has no hot dates lined up! “I’ll check my Calendar.” And Sunny closed instant chat and shut down Facebook.

What if she did end up dead? Would anyone care? Sunny sat down on the edge of her bed. She stared at the cover of her favorite music album on her desktop wallpaper. Her mother had no reaction to any of her statements this morning. If Sunny posted on Facebook, “I am going to kill myself,” would anyone ‘dislike’ or notice? Would anyone run to her rescue? What was church about anyway? Okay, Sunny reasoned, maybe she would post that status and see if people would take notice?

Sunny signed back on to Facebook. She ignored Rebecca’s other messages and wrote, “I am going to kill myself,” on her status. Sunny sat back and folded her arms across her chest. Saying something like that was like yelling ‘bomb’ in an airport. Five minutes passed. Nobody said anything. Sunny opened chat again and checked the names that were online. She frowned. Ten minutes passed and still not a single like or dislike. Sunny signed off of Facebook and went downstairs. The clock moved a notch. It was mid-day all ready. Her stomach growled. The phone rang. Sunny let the machine get it again.

“Sunny, this is Pastor Mark over at Running Brook Christian Church. Please pick up.”

Sunny picked up. “H-hello.” She had never had a pastor call her…ever.

“You don’t know me, but your friend Rebecca called me just now. Why do you want to kill yourself?”

The doorbell rang.

“Um…hold on.” Sunny squeaked and swallowed. In the side windows, a woman with long black hair tried to look through the sheer curtains. Lena.

 

“Don’t hang up on me.” He said kindly.

Sunny opened the door with the phone resting against her shoulder. “L-lena?”

Lena’s tense smile gave Sunny tremors of regret. “Rebecca called me.”

Sunny closed the door on Lena and stood with her back braced against it.

“Sunny, please open. I want to speak with you.”

Sunny looked at the phone and hung up on Pastor Mark. She ran upstairs and logged on to Facebook. Only Rebecca had left twenty-seven frantic comments. A friend she liked to eat lunch with from high school said, “Cool.” Because Sunny didn’t do drugs, sleep around, didn’t die her hair black or paint her lips the same color, people assumed she had no issues. They assumed this was some joke. Jake didn’t even comment. She deleted her Facebook profile and sat on the edge of the bed as the doorbell rang. Fists pounded on the front door. Sunny picked up her scissors and looked at the blades.

The door splintered downstairs. Mom’s going to be upset with the officers for breaking her door. Steps pounded up the stairs. Sunny kept looking at the scissors.

“Put it down.” A soft male voice said.

Sunny swallowed as she spotted a police man standing at her bedroom door with his hand on the butt of his gun. What had she done? “It was a joke.”

“Put it down.” He commanded.

Sunny set the scissors on the bed. Lena followed the policeman in and sat in the computer chair. Her brown eyes gazed at Sunny.

“When we walked in, it sure didn’t look like a joke. Why were you holding the scissors?”

The policeman’s radio muttered in the lengthening silence.

“Look, I wasn’t going to do it. I just wanted to see if anyone would care. This is so embarrassing.” Sunny hid her face in her hands.

“They will have to take you into custody for 48-hours to be evaluated. Sunny, we care…all of us at the church. But more importantly, Jesus loves you and He certainly would care about you taking your life.” Lena said.

“I wasn’t going to take my life.” Sunny didn’t admit she had thought about it.

48-hours later, her mother quietly checked her out of the psychiatric ward and escorted her to the car. “You scared me.” Her voice trembled.

“I’m sorry about the door.” Sunny slid into the passenger side of the car and closed the door.

Lena called often while Sunny was in the hospital. Rebecca also visited. Some of the other college students in the group called or visited. Jake never showed up. Her mother got involved with the counseling and never realized how invisible Sunny felt at home.

“The door is the least of my worries.”

“I wasn’t going to do it.” Sunny said weakly.

“But you thought about it.”

“Once.” And only that church cared. Sunny checked her watch. It was Thursday. The group would start in fifteen minutes. “Do you mind dropping me off at group?”

Her mother paused as she unlocked the passenger door. “You hate church. You hate God.”

“Please.”

“Pastor Mark visited with your father and I.” Her mother whispered. “He’s a nice man.”

Sunny’s eyes widened.

“Your father and I have decided that we need to spend more time with you and…God.”

“And group tonight?” Sunny trembled.

Her mother nodded.

Sunny walked into the church twenty-five minutes later. She felt dizzy, excited even, and curious as she peeked through the square window in the door of a classroom. All the men and women had their heads bowed. Lena’s quiet voice murmured through the door.

“For you so loved the world that you gave us your Son…” Lena prayed over a familiar scripture.

Warmth spread through her body. Lena had read her scripture in the hospital and spoke to Sunny about the cross and what that meant. “It’s about a relationship with Christ. It’s about a way of life, not a book of rules. If you love Him, you will want to listen to Him and His Word. You’ll want to honor Him with your actions, your thoughts, your decisions, but if you mess up, all you have to do is ask.” Lena said over the phone on the last hour of her lock-down. Sunny remembered those words now.

Everyone’s heads raised. Sunny inhaled deeply the smell of floor cleaner and glue, then opened the door. Her stomach churned. A dozen smiling faces turned toward the door. Rebecca jumped up from her seat and embraced her in a tight, air-blocking hug. Lena nodded approvingly. Her eyes gleamed as if lit from inside.

“Today we talk about how God can be our soul mate, like God can be a husband to a widow, he can fill the voids in our life.” Lena began the lesson. “Let’s turn to…”

Rebecca dragged her chair closer to Sunny and shared her Bible. Sunny smiled. Maybe Rebecca wasn’t so bad after all. Sunny bent her head over the book and began to learn what “Christianity” meant to this group of college-agers who didn’t have to show kindness to her at all. When Sunny returned home that night, she looked up at the angel on the tree and decided to leave the angel alone. She climbed the stairs and reinstated her Facebook account. She deleted the suicide comment and wrote, “Dear Friends, tonight I came to know Jesus and He can fill the void in my life. I can have a friendship in Him. Forgive me for my status the other day. No more calling in dead.”

Rebecca liked the post. So did the eleven other new friends Sunny had added from group tonight. All of them left an array of encouraging comments.

Sunny went to her friend list and paused the mouse over the ‘x’ next to Jake’s name. “I don’t need you anymore.” She clicked twice, and Jake was gone.

Copyright 2011 Nikole Hahn