Old Friends

This photo was snapped about 15 years ago.

There’s nothing like old friends.

In May, I got together with a few old friends in Seattle, who I hadn’t seen in practically forever: Pam, Clare and Pat. We had such an amazing time together, falling back into our own rhythm, much like the way we were back when we’d see each other all the time. It nourished my heart and my soul to be with my longtime friends, so much so, that I plan to go back this fall for another round with them, just hanging in the Northwest.

This past weekend, I got together with another old friend. Christine.

Years ago, Christine and I worked together, right here in San Diego. Then she moved away and we lost track. A couple of years ago, she came back into my life (Thank you, Facebook!), and we haven’t missed a beat since.

I have so much fun with Christine. She’s smart, cheerful, hilariously funny and oozes joie de vivre, to boot! Her happiness can’t help but rub off on me. Which makes me very joyful, indeed!

So, though I don’t see Christine often—she lives two and a half hours away, for crying out loud—when we do get together, we’re guaranteed to have a blast. Make that an explosion of fun!

This weekend, we met halfway, and spent the entire day losing track of time, by doing the following:

1. Shopping to our heart’s content at our favorite department store.

Isn’t she lovely?

2. Trying on expensive makeup from Australia. Talented makeup artist, Tim, worked hard to make me look halfway decent, but had a much easier go of it with Christine, who is beautiful, with striking eyes, a gorgeous smile and flawless skin. He sold her two products to get that look (see photo, above). He told me I needed 15 different products and a prayer, and that I should “hope for the best.” Sigh.

This is Christine, holding her brand new shoes, and starving while waiting for me to pick a place to eat. She graciously allowed me to snap gads of photos.

3. Laughing and giggling while shopping for a travel purse (for me), a pair of pink wedge shoes (for Christine), and a blouse from the sale rack that was such a good price, it became a must-have! (Christine, again).

4. Searching like crazy for a place to lunch. (We’d waited so long, we were famished!) And confiding, and laughing over avocado egg rolls, once we found the perfect spot.

5. Trying on all sorts of clothes in the women’s department, which was seemingly deserted–not even a salesperson in sight! It was as if the store had closed and we were accidentally trapped inside to wreak havoc. What fun!

6. Finally, when we were so exhausted we could have fallen asleep right there, between the dresses and the pants rack, we stopped at a café for refreshing Frappuccino’s, and used it as another opportunity to chat some more. While we were at it, we set a date for our next encounter, thank you, very much.

Then, regretfully, we hugged and said our goodbyes, with neither of us looking forward to the long drive ahead that awaited us. Me heading south, and Christine, due north.

One last chat before parting.

Until next time, Christine!

So, tell me. What’s the best day you ever spent with an old friend?

This is us just before heading home. What a day!

Do You Know Where Your Phone Is?

source: raitank/Flickr

Friends, it’s 1 am. Or 9 pm.  Or maybe it’s seven in the morning. Whatever the time, the question remains. Do you know where your cell phone is?

Consider this a favor (yes, you will owe me after reading this), for in my life I have seen the worst, and, if I haven’t seen the worst, then know that I’ve read about it.  Which is why, it is my duty to warn you:

If you don’t know where your phone is at this very moment, chances are it’s already fallen into the wrong hands.

Chances are, you were dining in an outdoor café and left your phone on the table in full view (all because you were waiting for a text from Aunt Tallulah regarding what time to pick her up to do the club scene later that night). And, while you were conversing with your dinner partner (Charlie, the guy with the gap in his front teeth and the sweaty palms, whom you’ve been trying to avoid for months, but he finally cornered you into having dinner with him), you didn’t notice that a person of ill repute just “accidentally” bumped into your table and—voila!—your phone is gone.

Here, at the university where I work, there have been a rash of phone thefts.  One even involved a strong-arm robbery (not to be confused with the kind that have weak arms), which sounds pretty scary, if you ask me.

But not as frightening as getting your phone swiped. For phones are no longer just phones. Face it, no one uses a cell phone just for making phone calls anymore.

No. They’re your link to the world. How else could you play “Words with Friends” or check your Facebook status updates, or “like” your cousin Mario’s meatloaf sandwich that he ate for breakfast and uploaded to his Pinterest page?  (Who eats meatloaf for breakfast, anyway?)

Smart phones also are great for shopping on Amazon, checking the value of your stock, buying a latte at Starbucks, checking in for your flight to Schenectady, and reviewing what’s trending on Twitter. All this and more!

Yes! Just think of all the data your little phone has collected on you–the sites you visit, your checking account info, and even all your passwords. Then ask yourself, are you sure you want to leave it out in full view, in all it’s naked glory, simply because you’re expecting a text from Aunt Tallulah or, more likely, from that guy you met at the bar last week, who still hasn’t connected with you, as promised? Sheesh.

Lucky for you, the Information Security Officer at the university where I work, asked some of her law enforcement contacts (from the local police, FBI and security professionals) why pilfered phones would be of any use, considering new service cannot be started on a phone, once it’s been reported as stolen.

Their answers were surprising. Or not, depending on how techno savvy and security minded you are.  Here’s what they said:

In fact, if you don’t already have a password on your phone, hopefully this will help motivate you:

  • Smart phones often have the credentials for the owner’s email “in the cloud.”  This will often allow a password reset for other services, such as other email systems, social sites like Facebook, perhaps even banking and financial.  Even if the financial credentials aren’t in the phone, there’s usually enough info on the social media accounts to get through the password reset secret questions. Even without those, there’s enough info in the phone to facilitate identity theft.

  • The reason for the violent high-risk thefts of phones, which the victims will probably soon deactivate, is to meet the following short-term criminal goals for supply of black market phones: drug deals, terrorist communication, and cyberhacking.

  • Don’t look at it as a phone.  Think of the information we now store and the account info we enter to allow instant purchase. If I had someone’s phone, I could data mine their identity, habits, home and more.

So, what are you waiting for? Put a password on your phone already!  Protect your information and the information of others you have stored on it.

And, if you won’t do it for yourself, do it for cousin Mario! After all, he doesn’t want his contact info exposed to the miscreants of society any more than you do. Ditto for Aunt Tallulah.

Enough said. You’re welcome, and don’t forget. You now owe me one.

Of course, you can make it up to me by commenting below. ;)

Do I Look Like a Mr. Chewy?

Dear Diary,

I have my undies in a twist. Oh, yes, I know what you’re thinking. I don’t wear undies. But if I did…well, suffice it to say, I’m peeved with Cook.

In your humble opinion, do I look like a Mr. Chewy to you?

For, ever since she discovered a new website where she can buy pet food, snacks, and all the other accouterments which dogs and cats crave, she’s taken to calling me by the site’s name. And, all I can say is, I won’t have it!

After all, I’m a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and I descend from royalty. I am Henry, master of this most humble abode. And yet, Cook insists on calling me, ahem,

“Mr. Chewy”

Yes, that’s right. Mr. Chewy!!

In my estimation, Cook has gone bonkers. Yet, I am helpless when she says,

“Mr. Chewy, it’s dinner time!”

“Oh, Mr. Chewy? Are you ready for your constitutional?”

“My, my, Mr. Chewy, looks like you could use a bath.”

When she calls me Mr. Chewy, I look at her with mock disdain or pretend she’s caught me in a yawn. But, if truth be told, I find it rather hard to resist, for I just adore the food, the snacks and all the lovely things she’s procuring from the Mr. Chewy website—all to make my life more pleasant—at least, pleasant enough until I can make it back to my birthright, my England.

Frankly, I have never seen Cook so happy. Though, me thinks, the woman doth protests too much–or did, before she discovered the ease of having my 15-pound bags of dry food delivered right to our door.

Now, she’s utterly jubilant!  The prices are reasonable, she says, and the shipping is free when she spends $49 or more.

Ho hum, I say.

Makes her job easier, she says, as she rarely has time to drive to the pet store, make her purchase and trudge home with the loot. Saves money on gas, too, she adds, as if I give a hoot about gas–whatever that is.

Which is why I say, “Since when, Cook, have I been keen on making your job easier?”

If anything, she is here to serve me, and that’s why I pay her the big bucks!

Note to self: Find out exactly how much I pay her. Perhaps my valet can answer that? What? I don’t pay her at all? Oh, bother!

She’s even taken to liking Mr. Chewy on Facebook, all because they post pictures of what she calls “adorable” pets. I say, I defy her to find one as handsome as me.

What’s a Cavalier to do about this, anyway?? Count the days, I suppose.

Yes, while Cook enjoys her new find, I continue to count the days, and Diary, it is Day 1,780. Which has me stricken to no end.

Why? Because, after all this time, I have yet to take my rightful place by the throne. I just know that my queen expects me to overcome this barrier, otherwise known as America, and make my way in time for her Highness’ Diamond Jubilee. It just isn’t fair that I have been unable to secure my passage. I asked Cook, what is the holdup, and she shrugged and threw her hands  in the air, muttering something to the effect,

“Why, Mr. Chewy, I know not what you mean!”

Which I can only conclude to mean that she is as baffled as I, that I have yet to find my way home. Each night, I look at the moon–the inconstant moon!–and imagine the Queen is looking at it, too, whilst thinking about me.  Alas, I pray all is not lost.

Perhaps if I go to mrchewy.com myself, I’ll find the solution to my most pressing dilemma. After all, I know that site has everything a dog of discriminating taste could possibly want!

Until next time, Diary.  I must go post-haste, for I hear a truck rounding the bend!

A Word from Cook:  Henry really is pleased that I am enjoying the convenience of shopping for him at the Mr. Chewy site and Mr. Chewy, himself, has compensated Henry handsomely, with bags of delicious dog food. But even such generous gifts cannot influence royalty. Noblesse oblige, and all that. Therefore, Henry’s opinions are entirely, ahem, his own.

Ratings Killed My Soaps

Or lack of it. There’s no denying that, over the last decade, ratings for soaps have dwindled considerably. And now, the end for two of my favorite shows is on the horizon. Yes, it is a bleak time for all soap fans. The end of an era.

Which is why I need a Plan B.  You may recall that last fall, I wrote a post (see My Life in Soaps) about where I want to live when I retire: Llanview, USA.  I thought it would be fun to spend my golden years living in a soap. Not just any soap, but my soap du jour, One Life to Live. After all, the people there are like old friends.

Well, no can do. ABC Television has pulled the rug from under me, thanks to their decision to pull the plug on One Life and All My Children.  How can this be, you ask?  I have been asking this myself over and over.  I’m miserable, verklempt, trying to make sense of all this, while feeling a terrible, aching sadness.

Here’s why I like soaps so much:

Soaps have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Over the years, these shows have seen me through good times and bad. I started watching when I was a freshman in college and discovered that, for many of my classmates, the place to be, weekdays at 1:00 pm, was glued to the tube watching AMC and One Life.  In fact, so many of them planned their course schedule around these soaps (Remember, no DVR’s back then!) that I think the university decided to play it safe and not schedule classes during the midday.  Come 1:00 p.m., you could find at least 20 of us squished into one dorm room—the only one on the floor with a TV—passionately watching the travails of the Martins and the Tyler’s, the Buchanan’s and the Lord’s. In no time, I was addicted, and I’ve been getting my fix ever since.

Soaps bring people together:  Way before we had the internet, Twitter and Facebook, soaps were a common ground.  Total strangers could come together and dish about the characters in the show as if they were talking about the people they knew. “Did you see what Erica just did?”  “How did Todd land in jail again?”  “Don’t tell me Asa is at it again!”

Susan Lucci plays Erica Kane, the infamous vixen on All My Children.

Soaps can be a special bonding time for mothers and daughters.  My daughter, Sarah, whose middle name was borrowed from a character on All My Children, discovered the world of soaps one day when she was nine and home from school with a cold. Up until then, I hadn’t let her watch the shows, but the storyline that week was coming to a head, and I just had to tune in. After a few scenes, Sarah looked at me and said, “Isn’t anyone ever happy on this show?” Nope, because if they were, it wouldn’t be for long and it certainly wouldn’t be a soap. And just like that, my daughter was hooked.

Soaps tackle social issues to teach invaluable lessons:  Recently, One Life has had a storyline about bullying. It’s been heart-wrenching to watch, but so timely in light of the culture of bullying that has been prevalent throughout the country. Other issues soaps have covered: addiction, domestic violence, homelessness and racial prejudice.

Many actors launched their careers on soaps:  Amanda Seyfried, Courteney Cox, Alec Baldwin, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Meg Ryan, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, James Earl Jones, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Marg Helgenberger and Susan Sarandon.  The list goes on.

Stars are soap fans, too:  Many celebrities who are fans themselves have vied for a cameo on a soap, including, Carol Burnett, Snoop Dogg, Betty White, James Franco and Oprah. Heck, even Warren Buffett has had his 15 minutes of fame on a soap.

Even in its demise, soaps bring people together.  One Lifes Facebook page has more than 11,000 comments from people bemoaning the cancellations.  Soap operas have the most loyal and devoted fan base of any television genre, which makes this the worst decision in the history of television, if you ask me.

ABC has promised to “conclude each series in a manner that respects their legacies and the longstanding hopes of many of their viewers.”  Well, I for one will keep watching until the bitter end.  And on the day of the last episode, don’t look for me.  I’ll be in seclusion, wearing my black armband, and holding back my tears.

So long One Life! Fare thee well, All My Children! Your fans will never forget you.

The Facebook

Image representing Mark Zuckerberg as depicted...

Photo of Mark Zuckerberg, via CrunchBase

I finally got around to seeing “The Social Network,” and after two hours of being captivated by the film, all I can say is: That Mark Zuckerberg, he sure could have used a timeout from his parents. Or maybe just had his computer privileges taken away.

Or, at the very least, mom and dad could have given their son some sage advice. Like if you only have one friend in the world, and this friend lends you $19,000, don’t screw him over. Of course, someone should have told said friend, Eduardo, lending large amounts of money to your BFF, especially one as self-absorbed as Mark, has turned many a genuine friendship sour.

Now I know there’s some fictionalizing in this film in order to tell a better story. The movie was based on a book called The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, and I’m going to assume it was written from the perspective of Eduardo, who comes off in the movie looking like a victim and a saint. But for the sake of my blog, I’m going to process it as 100% real, as in, this is what really happened. To me, this movie is gospel and I’m sure every conversation happened exactly as it was written in the script, down to the very smart and insightful associate lawyer, played by Rashida Jones.

In the film, Rashida represents us, the audience, who like us, listens during the depositions to the fascinating story of the making of Facebook as it unfolds through a series of flashbacks. At the end of the film, Rashida speaks for us, when she says what we’ve been thinking all along: Mark Zuckerberg is not a nice guy. I am paraphrasing, so don’t take my words as gospel.

The lesson here is, if you’re a college student, especially one from Harvard, and you want to start up something new but you need financial backing from a friend, make sure you put it in writing. Detail what the expectations are from each partner. I’m talking a contract, not a gentlemen’s agreement. When it comes to making money, there are no gentlemen, only ruthless capitalists. Didn’t these boys see Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street?” Greed isn’t so good when it’s at the expense of your friends or, in this case, a friend who also happens to be a saint.

As for the twins, I don’t have much sympathy for them, handsome and athletic as they are. In my estimation, which I base on the movie as my sole source, they didn’t give Mark the idea of Facebook, or The Facebook, as it’s originally called. They only met with Mark once and exchanged a few emails. Plus, there idea wasn’t as grandiose. They were thinking small, so if you ask me, they were lucky to settle out of court and make millions in the process. Frankly, I think they were just jealous of Mark, the boy wonder.

So if Mark’s parents had intervened, they could have disciplined their son several times, like when he trashed the rental in California. His dad also could have advised Mark not to befriend a guy like Sean, the founder of Napster. Sean was trouble from day one and Saint Eduardo knew it. Plus, Mark’s mom could have made her son write a nice thank you note to his friend, for believing in him and for loaning him all that start-up money. While she was at it, she could have made her son clean up all those broken beer bottles on the kitchen floor. That was disgusting.

To think, if it weren’t for Mark’s girlfriend dumping him (and you have to give her some credit for dating him in the first place), Facebook might not be what it is today. Maybe it wouldn’t even exist. Powerful stuff and certainly, food for thought. True love for Zuckerberg was out of reach and I attribute this to one thing and one thing only: Mark lacked empathy—compassion for his fellow man or in this case, his girlfriend and his BFF.

Poor, rich billionaire lad. If you ask me, the only thing missing in this film, was for “Citizen Zuckerberg,” alone in his Facebook world, to utter the words, “Rosebud.” Cameras would then pan to his childhood sled. That would’ve been perfect.