Breaking News: My Brother’s Got the Scoop

My brother and I have this thing. Call it one-upmanship. Call it a contest to see who can be first. Call it sibling rivalry at it’s worst. He actually started it, many years ago, and in the beginning, I didn’t think anything about it. But, suddenly it dawned on me, and, when it did, I said,

This is how I learned that my idol, Nora Ephron, had passed away.

“Game on!”

And, ever since, it’s been a mad dash to the finish.  Everyone at work is privy to this race of ours, and some have even tried to help me win. But I rarely do. You see, my brother is quite adept at this and he definitely has an advantage, he being in a time zone that is two hours ahead of mine, so I’m often still asleep when he awakens and gets the latest scoop.

Still haven’t figured it out?

My brother loves to be the first with breaking news. He’s a regular news wire, Twitter feed, CNN junkie all rolled into one. He has his finger on the pulse and the other hovering over his smart phone, at the ready, to send out a text to all the family with the latest news.

Plain and simple, my brother was born to be a journalist, a muckraker, a newspaper reporter, a newshound. Yet, he’s none of these.  Not by profession, anyway.

Mostly, he has a zeal for being first with breaking news about celebrity deaths, but on occasion he’s been first to tell me breaking news about celebrity, well, breakups (for example, think Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes).

This goes as far back as Princess Diana. In those days, neither of us had cell phones. I’ll never forget that evening. It was late August, kids were still out of school, enjoying the last days of their summer vacation, and we had spent the entire evening doing one of our favorite things, exploring our local bookstore. We had just returned home, each of us having added two to three books to our personal libraries, when the phone rang.

I picked it up. It was my brother.

“Watch the news. Princess Diana is dead!”  He blurted, and then hung up.

No, wait. This actually started further back than Princess Diana. It was in 1994!

A Friday evening in early June. I remember because I was sick to my stomach. I had gone out with friends from work to celebrate someone’s retirement and we had eaten at this Greek place and though I love Greek food, I got sick. Really, really sick. I couldn’t-keep-anything-down I was so sick. So I was home in a near coma, laying on my bed in a pool of sweat and drifting in and out of consciousness, when the phone rang.

“Turn on the TV. OJ’s being chased by the police!”

That’s all my brother said and hung up. In my delirium, I did what I was told. I dragged myself out of bed and turned on the TV. I watched for the next several hours, what would turn out to be the most incredibly slow chase in history. I wasn’t sure whether my eyes were deceiving me, and to this day, I still wonder how much of that chase was real and how much of it was part of some surreal Fellini-like dream that I was having as a result of my debilitating nausea.

In any case, over the years, my brother must have told me of about 277 celebrity deaths, including Phil Hartman, Whitney Houston, Dick Clark, Donna Summers, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Trisha tried to help me be first with news about Andy Griffith.

About a week ago, Andy Griffith died. My friend, Trisha, tried to give me the heads up via text, hoping I’d be first with the news. But she doesn’t have the practice, the experience and the tenacity, that my brother has and so, she couldn’t compete. He beat her text by mere minutes.

But, there’s always the next time. Like this past Sunday, when Academy-Award winning actor, Ernest Borgnine, passed away. I happened to be on my computer when the email alert from The Washington Post arrived with the news. I immediately looked at my texts to see if I’d received one from my brother. Nope. I then went into action and sent a text and an email, not only to my brother, but to all my siblings so they could have proof that I was first with the news.

Well, as macabre as this contest might seem, I’m in it for the long haul. So, until next time, Bro!

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. 😉

Stylin’ with Twitter!

Or, how a Gal from Queens found a way to make Twitter work for her to get the purse of her dreams!

It’s unanimous. The vote is in.  I’m a Twitterholic, plain and simple.  There’s no denying it any longer.

Friends, you all know how just months ago, I was Twitter-wary.  I signed up for an account, as a way to build awareness for my blog, and was certain that if I didn’t keep up with the fast-paced, breakneck speed of tweeting, I’d choke and fall into a pile of scrap metal. I was a disaster waiting to happen.  An Edsel amidst a highway of Ferrari’s.

Well, not true anymore.  I get it now.  Turns out, you don’t have to go fast and get your panties all in a tizzy.  You don’t even have to defy the laws of gravity. You just need to know what you want out of tweeting and how to make it work for you.  Twitter is social media at its finest! Thanks to tweeting, I’ve got the world on a string and I’m sitting on a rainbow.  I’m no longer Twitter-dee and Twitter-dum.  Instead, I’m Twitter-happy and Twitter-savvy!

Need proof? Consider this. As of today, I’m included on 14 Twitter lists, which means I’m respectable enough to be on lists created by other tweeters. Lists that help them stay organized and follow tweets by category—whether by city, interests, or profession. Such lists as “Klck-asswriters,” “Brilliant-bloggers” and “Positive-kismet.” Which makes me grin from ear to ear!

Tweeting is a great way to connect with people you like, including celebs (Steve Martin is so funny to follow!).  It can be a fount of information—it’s how I learned that Christine Aguilera botched up the national anthem during the Super Bowl, and that Osama Bin Laden had finally bought the farm. It’s a super way to establish ties with others who share your interests, including brands and retailers you like.  And it’s one of the best ways I know of getting the purse of your dreams! WAIT a minute. Purse? You betcha!

Which brings me to my favorite social media story.  Once upon a time, there was a gal from, ahem, Queens—we’ll call her @monicastangled—who loved to shop at Nordstrom’s. She was one of their most loyal customers! So much so, that on her birthday, her good friend, Trish (aka, @tbrsd), took her to lunch at the Nordstrom’s Café, where they enjoyed Nordies’ famous, yummy Roma Tomato Basil Soup. Afterward, they met Patrice, an amazing Nordstrom stylist, who helped pick out beautiful, stylish clothes for the birthday gal. Soon, they developed a very nice rapport, thus helping @monicastangled become très chic, indeed.

Then, last week, the Nordies Anniversary sale began. Lo and behold, @monicastangled saw a stunning, ultra smart Kate Spade New York purse on the Nordstrom website. It was a must have!

Too bad for @monicastangled, the purse was not available, not on the website, not at her local Nordstrom or anywhere else.  Crestfallen, @monicastangled wondered how she would manage without the purse–and then it hit her!

As luck would have it, @monicastangled is a Twitter enthusiast and, among her followers is Northwest/Northern California regional manager, @NordstromDoug.  He had noticed just how much she likes Nordies and started following her (though not in a stalker way by any means).  So @monicastangled decided to tweet her dilemma:

“@NordstromDoug Patrice, my Nordies stylist, is looking for #KateSpade purse 361292 black. Can you help?”

And thus kicked off what has gone down in the history books as,  “The Great Kate Spade Purse Caper of 2011!”


@NordstromDoug enlisted help by retweeting to @NordySanda–who is a tweeter extraordinaire based at Nordstrom’s flagship store in Seattle–and who right away started tweeting about the situation, heretofore known as, Operation Purse Rescue. Here’s what she wrote:

“@nordstromdoug @Monicastangled I can double check when I’m back @NordstromSea tomorrow. That was a popular item!”

Determined to find the purse, @NordySanda left no stone unturned and no store un-searched. After a few back and forth calls with Patrice, who was also working briskly to hunt down the purse, a miracle occurred. Somewhere in the nation, someone returned the purse to their local Nordstrom and, before you can say, “I’m a Fashionista,” the edict had been sent out to:

HOLD that handbag for the Gal from Queens!

And so @monicastangled and her purse were united at last, and all was well with the world—thanks to the know-how of the hard-working team at Nordstrom’s and, of course, a very special thanks to Twitter, which brought them all together.  And, in a final tweet, @NordySanda wrote,

“@monicastangled So glad we were able to find your @katespadeny Joelle handbag! Enjoy! It was a team effort:)”

And they all lived happily ever after. Which, if you ask me, is as good as it gets.


I’m Featured!

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Image via Wikipedia

Dear Readers,

While I’m still recovering from Oral Surgery #43 (You can read about my travails, here), you should know that I’m famous! Well, not quite famous, but I’m featured today on the homepage of The Lady Bloggers Society, which has posted my story, titled, Twitter-dee and Twitter-dum.  I hope you’ll check it out!

Oh, and you should know, that I do enjoy tweeting now. I get it. I really do. It’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys, if you ask me.  In fact you should follow me! @monicastangled is my handle.

Thank you, Lady Bloggers Society, for taking a chance on me!

Freshly Pressed x 3 and What Became of Joe?

Life is good. I’ve got a song in my heart and the world on a string! Joy has come in and asked me to dance. Yes, if you ask me, everything’s coming up roses!  For, this past Friday, I was Freshly Pressed, which means my blog was featured on the homepage. And you know what they say—third time’s the charm.

Yes! I have been FP’d three times! The trifecta of all Freshly Pressed presses! First to receive FP notoriety was my On Notice post, which I wrote on account that I had a bone to pick with Mr. Stephen Colbert.  Then came one I wrote, in which I confessed to re-writing my family history by conjuring up The “Fake” Family Tree. And now, my Broken Hearts & The Road Not Taken post. Being pressed can be addictive, so I better put a reminder on my Outlook not to let this all go to my head.

What do you mean you can't take me out to pee because you've been Freshly Pressed and have to stick by your computer? What about me and my needs?

Best of all, I was pressed on a Friday, and that means my blog was in the spotlight ALL WEEKEND LONG! And that means I’m probably headed for my 15 minutes by now. Note to self: check out Wikipedia tonight and see if I’m in it, because, if you ask me, that’s the truest benchmark of recognition.

So how did I find out, you ask?  Well, I had just posted my story early Friday morning, and was getting ready for work.  I checked my emails for any messages about comments.  There were two from my regular readers.  Nothing unusual so far. Then, as I’m out walking Henry, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, on his morning constitutional, I check my email on my iPhone. Lo and behold there’s a message from Erica, the Story Wrangler at

“Congrats!” she says. Your post has been promoted to Freshly Pressed on Keep up the good work!”

That’s when I start jumping up and down and screaming like a clown who’s oversized foot has been run over by two Volkswagen Bugs.  My brain goes into hyper-drive and my heart skips into a state of complete apoplexy. Suddenly, I’m too excited to walk Henry and plead with him to hold it in. I run to my computer, leaving Henry downstairs, with his leash still on. I shout to him to close the front door, which in my haste I forgot to do. In typical fashion, he ignores my request.

So thank you, thank you.  Thank you, WordPress for seeing something good in my post. Thank you, too, to all my wonderful readers and fellow bloggers who contributed to my more than 9,000 views!  Thanks to the 140 of you who “liked” my post, and to the more than 130 of you who left comments on my blog, 74 of you who became subscribers on a whim–or perhaps on a bet–and 35 of you who took the leap of faith and decided to follow me on Twitter, thus assuming I have something important or even pithy things to say in 140 characters or less.

What Became of Joe?

I loved receiving all of your thoughtful comments and responding to each and everyone of you who wrote. Quite a few of you said you want to know what happened next, and I promise you, you will soon. Others wanted to know what became of Joe.

Well, after I moved to Seattle, I lost track of Joe, but, as a result of this post, I have rediscovered him on Facebook.  Joe’s a published author and a photographer, living in another part of the country and seems to be enjoying a very fulfilled life. I’m happy to say he read my Freshly Pressed post and hit the “like” button! So I’m pretty sure that means he liked my post and is glad we have reconnected. Better late than never, if you ask me. Oh, and Joe has a blog of his own, Long Tale Short.  Check it out! The man definitely has a way with words. But here’s the strangest part of this story: All these years, Joe also has kept a copy of The Washington Book Review (which was the name of the newspaper we worked on together), and had just happened to come across it again, barely a few days before I contacted him on Friday, out of the blue.  A bit freaky Friday-ish, I’d say.

She Writes Volunteer Coordinator

Well, this has been an amazing ride. Best of all, it happened on the same day that She Writes Founder/CEO, Kamy Wicoff, announced that I have been selected to serve as the first-ever Volunteer Coordinator for She Writes, along with Amber Medina West.  Yep, she’s a Medina too, but we’re not related. Just a happy coincidence. By the way, you can visit a post I wrote titled, She Writes! to find out what I think of this resource for writers.

So, if you ask me, it’s like I won the lottery. Fame, fortune and the paparazzi surely must be just around the corner!