Sunday, December 20, 2009

What's Different About Facebook?

Raeanne Gardner Olivier June 21 at 9:34pm
Are you THE Kent Schnake that attended Harris in the 60s?
Kent Schnake June 22 at 9:27am
Yes I am. Are you the Raeanne who went on the hayride with me but wouldn't let me kiss you :-)
Raeanne Gardner Olivier June 22 at 11:41am
hehehe...Yes, I am, but I hope you won't hold that against me...Surely the statute of limitations has run out after 45 years..

I remember Raeanne very well. But when she wrote to me, that was the first communication we had had in about 44 years. I suppose there are other ways that our paths may have crossed. However, she still lives in Metairie, LA where I went to junior high. I am in Oregon thousands of miles away. We have no friends in common that we have stayed in touch with. And I am pretty sure that if we had walked right past each other on the street, we may have had a fleeting sense that we knew each other, but I doubt that it would have prompted us to speak.

What's different about Facebook? It enables me to maintain a bit of social contact with folks in Louisiana, Chicago, Seattle, Latvia, Tanzania, Norway and more. It is almost effortless. We don't have to write to each other, we can just check our news feed or take a look at each other's walls. We can share photos and even videos. Snail Mail, Telegraph, Telephone, Radio, TV, and E-mail don't work that way. There is a fundamental difference.

I am watching and wondering how it will impact the world.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Walk, I Talk, I Write

I walk about three miles most days. I do it because when I am done, I feel better. I do it because I know that it will help me maintain a reasonable weight and decent health, I don't do it to impress anyone else.

I probably utter a few thousand words every day. I guess I am a member of the chattering class. A large percentage of the words are uttered without much thought. Quite a few are reflexive responses like "thanks" or "excuse me". However, much of what I say is directed to other people. I put a lot more energy in working to make an impression on others with my words than I do with my walking. I almost wrote that that only makes sense. Not so. I can imagine actors, dancers, young people flirting, and others, whose walk might be just as important to them as their talk. And I mean walk, not as a metaphor, just locomotion.

I write a fair amount each day. A lot of it is like my speaking, pretty much just a reflexive response. I write e-mails that answer questions. I write short notes on Facebook as a way of staying in touch with another person or a group of people. I do think before I write, but mostly I'm just trying to be clear, not profound.

This blog has been different. It is not a record of my day to day life. It has no particular theme like sports, films, or music. It is all over the map. I've written about gold prices, life experiences, people I have known and people I have only read about or seen in the media.

Some of the posts may seem a bit philosophical, others humorous, and many probably seem pointless to anyone who happens to read them. My first few posts were written with my daughter in mind. I was sharing a little bit about what my life was like in the early years. There have been a few posts (out of hundreds) that describe more recent events in my life. However, early on I decided that for most posts I would write about anything I felt like writing about.

For a while my writing was like my walking. I wrote because it felt good when I was done. I also figured it would probably help keep me mentally fit, the way walking helps me stay physically fit, and it would enable me to write better over time.

After a while, some influences crept in that have all but crippled me. I began to realize that there were a small number of people who read a significant number of my posts. My readers, so to speak. I have tried hard not to cater to any particular audience, but over time I have begun to feel the pressure of those few pairs of eyes that read my posts. Another problem was that I learned that folks find my posts when doing web searches. They stumble upon what I have written. It may be related to that which prompted them to do the search, as when someone types in the film title "American Meth" and finds my review of it. Often the search that leads to my blog has been an image search. One common way folks come upon my blog is typing the simple question: how do I make a good choice.

Not only have folks found my blog, they sometimes have spent a bit of time reading it. My tracking software began to show me that I was getting hits from many countries. 79 different countries in the past year. There are only a couple of hundred countries in the world. I became somewhat obsessed with watching the hits come in day by day. Another thing that surprised me was that my blog is read in other languages. Apparently folks have used Google language tools to read my blog in a 39 different languages.

Now I find that I spend too much time thinking about who might be reading my blog and how they come upon it.

I need to take concrete action to bring myself back to writing because it feels good and it is good for me. A good place to start would be to eliminate my site tracking tools. I can't be influenced by data I don't have. I can't spend time obsessively reading the reports if they don't exist. So as of tonight, no more tracking software.

The only way I will be aware of readers is if they choose to comment. Since that seldom happens, I imagine I won't be very aware of readers.

I am going to leave the blog public. If someone is encouraged or entertained by what I have written, I am glad. It is freeing to know that the blog doesn't push itself on to anyone. The only people who will see it are those who deliberately decide to take a look. I have always intended that what I write could be read by anyone who chose to do so. I have private journals where I record thoughts that are only for my consumption.

I feel a bit giddy. I feel as if I am breaking free of fetters. I am stepping outside after an incarceration. Relative to writing, I will be returning to my first love: spinning tales, histories, and ponderings simply because I feel like doing so. I will treat comments just as I might respond to someone on the street who speaks to me. If they are obnoxious, I will ignore them. If they are friendly or asking a question, I will very likely respond to them.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

How We Think About Time

Photo credit: View with a grain of sand by lepiaf.geo (better off slipping into blur)

Time is the one commodity that is uniformly distributed among the billions of people on this planet. Every one of us receives 24 hours, 3600 seconds per hour, doled out once each day. The only folks who do not receive their daily allotment are those who are not yet born and those who have died.

Time can be neither stored nor borrowed. The 24 hours given to each us passes inexorably at the same rate for all of us.*

Time flows uniformly, yet we seldom speak of it that way.

I have no time.
I need to kill some time.
We will lose time.
We are out of time.
He worked overtime.
I need to find some time.
Please give me some time.
Your time is up.
I saved some time.
I spent too much time.

We must remember that we do not spend time. Rather we make choices about what we will do as time passes. We may try to fit too many, or too few, activities into a span of time. It is our choices that may vary. Time does not change.

We speak of time passing quickly, or slowly. However, it is our awareness of time passing that varies, not time itself. A common change in awareness occurs as we grow older. We say that each year is shorter. In other cases our perception of time's flow can change in an instant. Time flies when we are having fun, yet it nearly stops altogether when we are in great pain. A moment is all that is required to pass from one state to the other.

Now is a moment. All other time is past or future. The events in time past are unchangeable. Events in our future on this earth cannot be predicted dependably. Not by us.

What we do. What we are. What we hope to be. We impact with each choice we make during each moment we are given. Plans have no value for predicting the future. Their value is in helping us to choose now.

I thank God that my plans (and yours) are not the basis for our hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version)

11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

God grants us the ability to make choices in the moment. He retains sovereignty over the outcome. If there seems to be a conflict between our ability to choose and his ability to plan, it is because God's relationship to time is not constrained as ours is.

2 Peter 3:8 (New International Version)

8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

It is only by God's grace that we can redeem the time we are given.

*There are concepts in relativistic physics that allow a clock to tick measurably slower (relative to ours) when it travels at high speeds (relative to us). The effect here on the face of the earth is so small that very few are ever aware of the minuscule variations.