Tuesday, September 18, 2007

All Flickr and no sleep

...makes Katherine do crazy things like go out in almost-90 degree weather to bike 10+ miles to rephotograph something amazing I haven't seen posted on Flickr yet but really really want to put up there. (And here too, of course.) It's not just the photo; it's that I haven't had a crazy long bike ride since...two days ago. (I rode the entire length of Broadway going north [2800-6400 north] and the entire length of Ravenswood going south [7100-3000 north].)

Monday, September 10, 2007


Yes, I've learned to post a photo.

And a link to more.

Once again I have the cheapest phone on earth

First, here's a shout-out to the utterly incompetent traffic aide standing a few feet away from me during my long wait at the intersection yesterday, while I got out of the turn lane and waited to go straight, unaware I'd be heading onto an expressway no matter which direction I took. (I thought the cabs honking at me were just being jerks.) By failing to say anything, you made my life more exciting, and helped me overcome adversity--in this case, possibly getting run over by any of the 1000s of cars swarming around Soldier Field for a massive sports event I hadn't even known about until I was biking downtown. (It wasn't a Bears game.)

In other news, I have a functioning cell phone again. Circuit City doesn't sell T-Mobile pay-as-you-gos at all. Best Buy has them on display but hasn't stocked them for weeks. (Enraging.) Target sells them at a higher price, but it'd been 5 days, I wasn't going to run around anymore. A woman at Target got one just before me and at the register, her young daughter was oddly thrilled that I was buying the same phone. (Like when a little kid meets someone with their same first name, I guess.)

After a fruitless attempt to get to a LadyFest-fundraiser sale (The Reader had the wrong hours) I got to the T-Mobile store at Lawrence & Damen at 6:10. The sign said they closed at 6, but one employee was in there helping out one customer. I went inside and waited. Until 7:00. She was getting a real phone and real contract, which takes an eternity, which is another reason I like my cheapskate phone. I wasn't annoyed at them, just tired, and sad as I watched the last real hour of sunlight ebb away. But hey, I got to listen to "lite" music, including "Dancing Queen," and bizarrely, "Wild Thing." It took literally two minutes to get my new phone set up. I went into the twilight, walking to Andersonville, dialing almost everyone I knew to get their numbers in the phone, reaching only one person. (Later I got my first call and my first missed call.)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Internet days of yore/joining the 21st century

All right, kids, this is when I'd put on a grandma sweater and fix some chamomile tea (if it wasn't 85 degrees) and we'd settle in for my tales of ye olde Internet (when you probably did have to walk miles through the snow just to get to 4800 speed modem access, but never mind the technical details). The kids growing up with so-called Web 2.0, or anyone who's just gotten online in the past few years, have a vastly different experience from when I first got online in 1992.

I used Prodigy message boards and email--the main competitors were AOL, CompuServe, and Delphi, and I suppose local bulletin boards and university accounts. The communities on Prodigy fell apart when Prodigy started to charge per hour of use instead of a flat fee--the other services already charged per hour. It's amazing to think of paying a fee per hour to be online (other than using an Internet cafe). People fled to AOL. The other thing I find astonishing now--you couldn't easily (or at all?) email between the different service providers.

Anyway, so I was online (though not technically on the Internet yet, unless I was looking at my dad's university account) since the very early 90s, back when most people barely knew what you were talking about, and you could brag about having communities of friends all over the country. Well, it was hard to brag if you had all these friends because you barely had friends in real life.

(And more than any technical changes, to me the most incredible change in the Internet has been from its function as a community for people who often didn't have great real-life relationships--i.e., the unpopular kids--to a place to show off your popularity by collecting friends on social networks. It's bizarre to me, and surely the kind of thing some people my age have written dissertations about!)

But since then, I've been incredibly late to most of the big developments online. The hype shifted from discussions of bulletin boards and chat rooms to the World Wide Web--but I don't think I ever actually looked at a website until 1996. My friend Jason had a blog (back when they were "online journals") by 2000 (earlier?) but I didn't really look at blogs until 2004--2005, when I first explored the very-well-developed political blogging communities. (Weren't blogs talked about for the first few years mainly as "self-indulgent" personal sites, then all the hype about political bloggers came along?)

As you can tell, I still have a lot to learn about blogging--but after 2+ years of this blog's existence, I just TODAY learned to change the template, add a subtitle, and add links. (I wasn't totally incompetent for 2 years, I just didn't post here.)

More on how very, very far behind I've fallen: I didn't look at Wikipedia in earnest (I'd discovered it accidentally a few years ago) until this summer. (I haven't yet edited anything.) I've almost never seen Ebay, though that's out of a smart reluctance to spend time online trying to add to the unbelievable clutter of my place. I hadn't looked at MySpace, YouTube, and Flickr until 2007. I've never downloaded a song or listened to a podcast. I'm trying to figure out RealAudio to catch up on massive amounts of public radio. I've looked at Amazon reviews as long as they've been around (did they use to rate books on a scale of 1-10?) but have never posted one. (Once you were able to rate other people's reviews, it got intimidating.) You get the idea.

But I've CHANGED! I've done more in the past week and a half than in the last few years (and 4 of those days I was away from the internet entirely):
Last week: I put up a Flickr page. I restarted this blog (after having to switch to Google). I emailed a photo for the first time.
This week: I put up a MySpace page. I looked up dozens of people I know to see if they're on MySpace. (I haven't added friends yet.) I got several Flickr friends/contacts. I went through my entire email inbox and unsubscribed to some junk lists that have scared me away from it for a while. I got a second email account that I actually plan to use (unlike the ones I created to respond to people on Craigslist, then got scared to look at). I made the aforementioned changes here.

I know I'm only doing what millions of other people easily do every day--but it's a huge deal to me.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Away in Iowa/R.I.P. first cell phone

So, I left for Iowa (on Greyhound) early Sat. morning and got back early Wed. morning (over an hour late because of slow boarding, and morning traffic--don't they factor that into the schedule?). I very, VERY badly wanted to post here from Iowa, but wasn't willing to do it on my parents' computer (partly because they have dial-up, mostly because I haven't learned how to erase my browsing history). I didn't have a big block of time to try it at the public library, and Ames doesn't have any Internet cafes that I know of (wi-fi access, sure, but obviously I don't have a laptop). I have a LOT of Critical Mass stuff to write, and the Iowa trip story.

This trip was my first time taking my cell phone out of state. I had it just four months--I'm rather late in the game, I know. I made a few calls approaching the Illinois/Iowa border, including one to a friend I saw in Chicago last week. I "surprised" him with a call from Iowa and was surprised he was in Wisconsin. (It really doesn't take much to excite me.) Later, I talked to a friend in Ames (that's central Iowa); the phone worked fine except for on the underground level of our house. Oh, and until I got water on it in my purse.

The "unlock" button gave me trouble but I managed to set the alarm before bed. In the morning the alarm rang--and I couldn't work the buttons to shut it off. I could just barely hit "snooze" over and over. Afraid it'd continue indefinitely (and for some reason, I kept the phone's existence secret from my parents--why?), I threw it on the (concrete) floor. It shut off. And I turned it back on again--still no "unlock."

By the time I got on Greyhound Tues. night, I saw I'd missed two calls. I started banging on the keys and the fairly cute young guy across from me offered his pocketknife. (See, there's an advantage of Greyhound over flying.) Instead, I let the young guy behind me try to fix it--he'd fixed others--but to no avail.

I went to the T-Mobile store in Chicago where I first got my phone set up. The same young employee who'd helped before helped again. Now, I don't expect every T-Mobile employee to know how to fix everything, but he REALLY didn't need to say "Oh my god" at every step. The phone never turned back on again.

He transferred the chip/card into a used phone they had lying around. Apparently I lost nearly everything--except my pay-as-you-go minutes. He showed me text messages in it to see if they were mine, or the previous owner's. Something about "Leah" and a message just saying "I love you." "That's not mine," I said grimly. Wonderful, I hadn't YET had an existential crisis over the fact no one's ever texted "I love you" to me.

Some of my data may have been in there, but my list of numbers was gone--luckily they're nearly all on my home phone. He offered to sell me the used (camera)phone for $40, but I freaked out trying to use it. I couldn't figure out any of the usual functions I use on my cheap, crappy phone, so I had him take the card out and put my useless phone back together, to search for a new one Thursday.

I had a lot of fun with that phone. The first call I received was while browsing at Borders. Then the same person called me back in line at Borders. And at the library one day, and at at least one restaurant, and on numerous bus trips. (Not to make him sound like a pest--I'm just pointing out I've had the phone ring at most awkward situations I can think of. But I always, always turned it off before attending any kind of show.) I can't wait to start again!