Monday, December 19, 2011

500 Miles

Eleven years ago, I met this girl.  Since most of my friends lived in Orange County and I was going to school at UCLA, I didn't meet her until a few months after I first heard her name.  She was incredibly popular with my friends, and I was so jealous of her.  Everyone loved her, and she and my then-boyfriend had hit it off so well that people joked she was his "Other Girlfriend."

Little did I know that this person would become my rock, one of the people I loved most in the world.  It happened slowly, as all good relationships do.  But somewhere between reading Harry Potter to each other and having all-night Buffy marathons, it was sealed.  I understood now what people meant when they said BBF.  Because our friendship has always been fluid.  Schedules and lifestyles have made the time we can spend together wax and wane.  But I've always been happiest and most centered when I could be around her more.

Now, my friend has some exciting changes happening in her life.  Moving 500 miles away, beginning an advanced degree, moving 500 miles away, learning a new city.  Did I mention she's moving 500 miles away?

This is the right decision for her, it's something she's wanted to for years, and has seriously considered for at least half of the last decade.  I am so incredibly happy for her that she's taking the next step in her life, and I will now have an even better excuse to come up to San Francisco every month or so.

But I've been in denial for a while.  "I'll think about that later," I've told myself.  In a not-unusual turn of events, we are currently working together.  And as I transferred her accounts to the people taking over for her, it hit me.  My very best friend in the whole wide world is moving 500 miles away.  And even though I've kept it together and remained really happy for her, I'm finally allowing myself to be sad for me.

This is not the end, it's not even the end of our story, it's just a new chapter.  All the same, it's still a parting of sorts, and I know my life will not be the same with her farther away.  So, selfishly, I say, "So long, Maile.  I'll miss you."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

It's not Sports, it's their fans I can't stand...

My dad was an athlete all through college and high school, and so, like most dads with only daughters, attempted to instill in me a love of sports.  And it worked for many, many years.  I could still explain the basic mechanics of football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and even soccer (it was more impressive in the 80s before it was "cool").  However, something very important happened at the end of my adolescence that turned me off of sports forever.

I went to college.

And suddenly, I became part of "the team."  I was no longer an individual fan, cheering for whichever team I liked better based on record or players, or hell, even which colors or mascot I liked better.  No, I was now a Bruin, who hated Trojans at all costs.  Ironically, it was mostly Trojans who informed me of this.

While I'm all for a little friendly competition, I never really got the cross-town rivalry thing.  *I* wasn't on the team.  None of the Trojans that razzed me about being a Bruin played on any of the sports teams.  But somehow, we were bitter enemies because our schools shared a Zip Code.

The most bizarre thing is, this kind of mass hypnosis doesn't stop at college.  Tell a Raiders fan that you root for the Cowboys and you're all but persona non grata.  Or try to explain to an Angels Rally Monkey why you like the 49ers so much.  I dare you.

But that might not have deterred me if it wasn't for the chauvinism and condescension I get from the male fans whenever I show the slightest interest in sports.  Either my questions about the legality of a move are met with jeers, or my translation of the mechanics to a fellow female are met with fascination.  It's as though my gender precludes me from comprehending the mechanics of manipulating a ball around a field.

So a few years ago, I gave up.  I have no real love for sports apart from an understanding instilled in me by my father, so I think I will simply leave the cheering to the true fans.  At least until I'm old enough not to care about the other stuff.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Birthday Omphaloskepsis

I think one of the reasons some people detest birthdays is they frequently feel as though it is a knell of more time past, and less time ahead.  For me, it is a marker of progression, a clear point from which I can regard the previous trip around the sun, and determine what I most desire for the next one.

A big focus for me this year is going to be joy.  The previous year of my life has been filled with not a little doubt, pain, and fear.  And while I have had ample reason to feel these things, many people I know and admire would meet these circumstances with considerably more aplomb than I have.  This year, I wish to learn by their example and take life in stride.

Another focus for this year will be frugality.  I pay my bills on time and never want for food or gas, however I have literally no reserves, nothing set aside for the future, or even for rainy days (and Mondays - they always get me down!).  This WILL change.

Finally, I am going to "enhance my calm."  As I face the reality of two children becoming a part of my life, I know that patience and understanding are key to the development of any child.  I wish to be a positive force for love and good in these kids' lives, and so... patience for this padawan will be the name of the game.

I think that's plenty for the next trip around the sun.  Let's see how I've done on the next November the twentieth!

Monday, November 14, 2011

To My Future Stepkids - Installment 1

Hi Aurora and Gabe,

We haven't met in person yet, only over Skype and phone.  But already, I love you.  I ask your father about you constantly, and I rejoice in your victories, and sigh at your mistakes.  Trying to help your father be reunited with you has been a huge part of my world for the last few years, and now that we're so close, I'm a little scared.

I'm so terrified that I'll injure you.  That you'll resent me for not being your mom.  That you'll resent the kids I'd like to have with your father one day.  That I'll mess you up without even meaning to or realizing it.  But I promise you that I will always be doing my best to be fair and nurturing, to love you and cherish you the way you deserve.

I want to be a good stepmom to you.  A friend and advocate, someone you respect as an authority figure, and look up to as a role model.  I want to help your father raise you into functional, beautiful grown-ups, and cry at your weddings and cheer at your graduations, volleyball games, recitals... I want to be a good step-parent.

But I'll need your help.  I know that I'm not your mom, and I may have different rules that you're used to.  We both need to be understanding of each other as we try to get used to living with each other. At some point we will all make mistakes, but I think if we all try to work together to make a family, we'll be stronger and happier for it.

We're still working hard at finding a job for your father, and until then, I'm making myself and our house ready for you.  I just want so badly for us all to be a family, I hope that wanting and wishing and working is enough.

See you soon.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Internet "Privacy"

I'd like you to take a seat.  Get comfortable, because what I am about to say might be uncomfortable for you to hear.  Yes, those people in the room with you can stay, they need to hear it too:

I am judging you.

I don't mean to, and many times, I'm not even aware that I'm doing it.  But I am.  Every time you post something, or even if you don't post for a while, I learn something about you that either earns you a few more points in the "like" column, or a few more points in the "dislike" column.  And here's something else that's also kind of difficult to say:

I am not unique in this.  

We ALL learn about each other from the way we present ourselves and how we act, it's not just on Facebook.  It's not even exclusive to the Internet, because believe me, if you get drunk and puke on my shoes, I will notice.  The internet is different from a party however, because while I can take a shower and buy new shoes, it is virtually impossible to remove content wholly from the web.  That part was important, so I'm gonna do another bolded bullet point:

Once it's on the web, it's there forever.

Oh sure, you can write to YouTube, or Facebook, or whatever, and have the offending material removed, but dollars to donuts someone has it saved somewhere and it will resurface again.  The scarier part is that somewhere on a server is a cached copy of that video of you lighting your dog's farts.

Now I'm not telling you this to scare you, or to encourage you not to light your dog's farts... though that is pretty gross, and probably not very good for you OR your dog... point is, I'm not even the person you need to worry about.  Check out this article from Gizmodo:

That's right, kids.  Not only is it possible for potential employers to Google your name, now a company has figured out a way to do it FOR them in a way that doesn't violate fair hiring practices.  They don't look for race, religion, marital status, or kids, but they DO look for violent tendencies, references to drugs, racist remarks, and sexually explicit behavior.  What does that mean?  And I truly hope you'll pay attention to this next part:

Think before you post.

If you drop an F-bomb in a review on Yelp, they can find it.  If you twitter a picture of you wearing a Circa 1941 SS Uniform, they can find it.  If you make a comment about the president being a socialist, they can find it.  Anything connected with your name, address, email and phone number is fair game.  

But this isn't just about employers.  Your friends see your private posts, the ones those searches can't find, and believe me, they are judging you too.  Because they know that they are judged by the company they keep, just as everyone else is.  

So what am I suggesting?  Censorship?  Fear of expression?  Hardly.  But I want you to be aware that the opinions you choose to express publicly have repercussions.  This is not new.  We have always been held accountable for what we say in public, problem is, we can now say things in public from the privacy of our living room.  And once it's on the internet, the fact that you were drunk, or upset, or hadn't slept for 2 days doesn't matter.  By the time you can explain, you've already been convicted in the court of Public Opinion.

Plain text robs us of context.  It can be particularly effective for comedic purposes, but remember that for a large portion of the people you are in contact with, all they know of you is what is on your Facebook Feed, at least until the next time they see you.  The Myth that people are not the same on the internet as they are in person can no longer protect you, especially if you use your real name or any part thereof.

So please, and I say this with all the love and support I can: Choose your words carefully, you may have to eat them.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Are you kidding me?

This was in response to a UK Lottery Phishing email I received, that just said, "Please open attachment for details about your winnings."  Luckily for me, Gmail has an image previewer, so I was able to satisfy my curiosity without giving my computer the electronic equivalent of the Martian Flu Virus.

Dear "Kate Brown,"

Well, I suppose if someone is still gullible enough to fall for the Overseas Lottery Scam, they're probably also stupid enough to open an attachment from someone they've never met.

Listen, I know you're probably just some poor kid in India working in a sweatshop for someone who will beat you and kill your sister if you don't send shit like this out. Still, there's gotta be a way to get out of that and somehow be a law-abiding citizen. Because no matter how you look at it, stealing people's money is wrong. So is using up valuable pornography bandwidth with fraudulent emails about lotteries, and princes, and friends being stuck in England.

Hey! Maybe you sister can get into porn! Then you won't have to send out bullshit emails to hardworking americans like myself. Sure, I'm supposed to be working right now and instead I'm writing you this (pretty brilliant, I must say) email, but this isn't about me. It's about you and your sweatshop conditions, and the ridiculous belief that somehow you are justified in cheating little old ladies out of their fixed-income earnings from their husbands' pensions.

Because honestly, those are the only people who fall for these scams. Well-meaning octagenarians who want to leave a little something for their grandchildren. Like my grandma. Well, not my grandma, because she's not a dipshit. But women like her. Women who have no marketable skills and can't join the workforce because when they were 10 they were told their husband would take care of them. My grandma is smarter than that and became a librarian, but like I said, this isn't about me.

Well, "Kate," I'm glad we've had this talk.  I'm sure I've taken up valuable time for both you and your supervisor/kidnapper.  You must have someone to swindle somewhere.  Maybe once you're done robbing US Senior Citizens, you can go beat up some kids for their lunch money!  Won't that be fun! 

Happy Felonies!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Evolution of Social Media

In the beginning, there was email, and the User saw it, and it was good.  Then the User said, "Let there be a way to instantly message my friends in a back-and-forth conversation."  And so, the programmers huffed and puffed, and lo and behold, IM was born, along with many platforms to support it.  AIM, ICQ, Yahoo!, Trillian, the possibilities were endless.  And AIM begat Skype, and the User saw that it was good.

But over in another part of the Internet-o-Sphere, another User wished for fame, for glory, and perhaps for a little drama.  And so the programmers brought forth forums.  But no, this was too anonymous!  People could be total assbags to each other with no real consequences!  And so came livejournal.  Now, you could have friends!  And then came friends-locked posts, and special lists and filters!

But the User was a little ADD, and livejournal posts tended to be tiny novels.  And so came Myspace.  Now THIS was networking!  Pictures and friends and... sparkles?  No, no, no! (cried the User).  Give me something clean, something simple.  Something even my mom can use!

And so was born Facebook.  And everybody joined.  Everybody.  And the User who remembered email and forums and secret chat rooms said: WAIT A MINUTE!  Where did my anonymity go?  I used to have a private life that nobody else could touch!  I used to enjoy the solitude of a life seperate from the real world!  I guess you just can't please some people.

Monday, January 3, 2011

On Parents and Parenting

It is inescapable.  As parents, we inflict irreparable harm upon our children.  And as adults, we carry with us scars and strengths we developed from times we failed to please the closest thing to God we'll know in this life.

And perhaps that's the root of the conflict presented in the parent/child relationship.  A child can only see their creators and providers, protectors and teachers as Gods, when in fact they are fallible, flawed people who once needed creation and provision, protection and teaching.  And so the cycle goes.

I think most people do the best they can with what information and resources they have.  Apart from the truly horrible element of society, it is the first instinct of all humans to protect any child, especially those in their care, and none so much as their own.  And yet, even though our parents love us, and nourish us, still, they must fail us in order for us to become whole people.

While parents do retain their overall Godliness, there are moments, in every person's life, where the human pokes through.  That time your mother didn't believe you when you really hadn't taken the book.  The trip with your dad where he took the side of his friend instead of yours.

And don't get me started on divorce.  While it is generally a good thing for all involved, it is also generally the nastiest and most painful experience a couple and it's issue can endure.  How else could it be?  Two people who thought they were perfect for each other have discovered they are not, and now, what's more, there are children.  Children who must be protected, nourished, loved and taught.  Children whose Gods have begun to fight and disagree, perhaps even try to hurt each other.

This particular struggle seems to be a theme in my life.  I was once a child of such a conflict, and now I find myself among a family going through that self-same struggle.  What can I offer in this situation?  My experience could have been better, it also could have been much worse.  Now the things I "would have done differently" are the things I AM doing differently.

It seems like an excellent time to consult the demi-gods.  The Gods in this story have their roles, and that is not a conflict I can help.  But the step-parents, and the future step-kids.  These are the relationships that might yet become very important to me in the future.  Perhaps its time more than one hatchet was buried.