Be My Eyes

I never thought I’d say this, but for the first time in my life, I really, really wish I had an iPhone. I’ve managed to avoid jumping on that bandwagon all this time, in spite of the fact that people often look at me funny when I tell them I can’t access the internet on my phone, and while it is capable of taking photos (I’m not that far out of the loop), it can’t send them to anyone.

The thing that has finally given me iPhone envy is this app that I heard about just today, called Be My Eyes. It connects sighted volunteers with blind and low vision people who need some momentary assistance. Given that there are about 14 volunteers currently signed up for the app for every blind person who has signed up for it, the gentleman whom I heard talking about it says he gets a call about once a month.

These calls can be something random, like, “Can you tell me if this milk has expired?” or “Is this tie green or red?” or “How many eggs does this recipe call for?”

I think this is a wonderful way to give a helping hand to someone in need. It would be great for homebound individuals, for example. They could feel as though they were contributing to the wider world. A great way to battle loneliness is to make a difference for someone else.

This app is one of those delightful inventions that makes you wonder why no one has thought of it before. If you have an iPhone and any time at all, I encourage you to volunteer. And if you do, I’d love it if you shared your experiences below.

P.S. Since I posted this this morning, several readers have pointed out that the app also works on Android. So those of you with fancier phones than mine really have no excuse!

 

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Clicking Your Way to a Better World

I must admit that I spend entirely too much time on the internet. You do, too. Don’t believe me? What are you doing right now? Tiptoeing through the tulips? I think not.

(Not that I’m not happy to see you. I’d miss you if you weren’t here. I really would.)

Sometimes I think I really should make a permanent, all-encompassing change in my life and reduce my screen time to, say, an hour a day. But gimme a break. I’m as likely to do that as I am to give up pizza, and I have the thighs to prove it.

I do try to do the next best thing, though. There are quite a few sites out there that allow you to have a positive impact on the world simply by clicking a button. That’s amazing. I can save the world while staying comfortably potatoed on my couch. (Yup. Potato is now a verb. Because I say so.)

What follows are some of my favorite “positive click” sites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

  • Ecosia. This is a search engine, similar to Google, with an important difference. For every 45 searches you do on Ecosia, they will plant a tree. They’ve planted more than 20 million trees so far. That makes me incredibly happy. So Ecosia is now my default search engine.

  • Free Rice. This is a fun site. You can feed the world while learning things. Basically, you choose a topic, such as English Vocabulary, or World Landmarks, or Language Learning, or SAT Test Preparation, or Human Anatomy, and you’ll then be asked a series of questions. For every question you get right, they donate 10 grains of rice to the World Food Program. 10 grains of rice doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up quickly. So learn stuff and feed people. It’s the ultimate win/win situation!

  • The GreaterGood. I cannot say enough about this site. Everything you do there will have a positive impact. They have various categories, such as Hunger, Breast Cancer, Animals, and Veterans, and if you go to those sections of the site once a day and click, you will be helping these causes, and it won’t cost you a penny. But beware. They also have a store, and it has the coolest clothes and shoes and jewelry that you have ever seen in your life. And when you buy an item, more donations kick in. For example, I bought an awesome jacket, and because of that, they donated 50 bowls of dogfood to an animal shelter. I think about that every time I wear that jacket, and it makes me feel even warmer.

There are all kinds of websites out there that have positive side effects. You just have to look. If you can suggest any other sites of this type, by all means, include them in the comments section, below! And keep on clicking!

make a difference

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How Easily We’re Taken In

If you’ve got a website, you must be legit, right? Hmph. Anyone can have a website. What apparently is much harder to acquire is critical thinking.

Case in point, The Shed at Dulwich. For a few weeks, it was London’s number one ranked restaurant, according to TripAdvisor. It was the place to be. Their phones were ringing off the hook, but it was a wasted effort on hungry diners’ parts, because they were so exclusive, they were booked for weeks in advance.

The food on the website looked delicious. Their meals were mood themed. My favorite one is “Comfort”. It consisted of “Yorkshire blue Macaroni and Cheese seasoned with bacon shavings and served in a 600TC Egyptian cotton bowl. Comes with a side of sourdough bread.”

And even that didn’t raise eyebrows? I guess the thread count was high enough to give it authenticity. No pilly-sheeted bowls for their patrons!

Here’s the thing, though. The Shed was, literally, a shed. In someone’s back yard. No address, as it was “by appointment only”. No food to be had, unless you wanted to share the resident’s TV dinner. The food in the pictures was actually made of shaving cream and urinal cakes and even, in one case, the author’s foot. It was a huge hoax. It was all just an experiment to see if he could punk TripAdvisor, and wow, did he ever.

Before you say you’d have never fallen for it, ask yourself how many times you’ve bought something that was completely unnecessary simply because it was popular. Can you deny that you’ve ever regretted an impulse buy? Have you ever stood in line for the latest iPhone when the one you have is perfectly functional? Who among us doesn’t look at pictures of ourselves from 35 years ago and think, “What the devil was I thinking when I bought that shirt?”

Let’s admit what the advertising industry has known all along: Humans will follow trends even if it takes them over the edge of a cliff. Even the Russians know this. It’s why we have a buffoon in the White House.

This destructive tendency is even more acute now that we have the internet. Now we can have our misinformation more quickly and act upon it with even less thought. How lucky are we?

We need to teach ourselves and future generations to ask questions and check sources and listen to that little doubtful voice inside our heads. We need to value education and actually apply that learning to our daily lives. Otherwise we will plunge off that cliff to our urinal-caked doom.

Urinal Cake
Urinal Cake, anyone?

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A Great Net Neutrality Business Op

Well, here we go again. The People are being ignored. Despite the huge public outcry, the FCC decided to rescind Net Neutrality. (It sure was nice knowing you guys.)

Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman, is thrilled. He even put out this condescending video to try to convince the rest of us that this is going to be a good thing. Never mind that pretty much all of us are calling bullshit. To hear him tell it, all most of us use the internet for is to post cute pictures of puppies and watch Game of Thrones. Again, I promised to watch my mouth on my blog, but I can’t help it. I have to say that Ajit Pai is a self-important, dickheaded Trump toady.

The attorney general for the state of Washington is already filing suit against this absurd decision. (I just love my adopted state!) And there’s talk that state laws will be passed here to uphold net neutrality regardless. I hope more states hop on that bandwagon!

But if worse comes to worst, I hope that savvy internet providers are seeing what I’m seeing. Here’s the perfect opportunity to look like one of the good guys and say, “Our competitors may want to do away with net neutrality, but we hear you. Our company will remain net neutral.”

As pissed off as all of us are about this whole thing, any company who is smart enough to say that first, and actually follow through, is going to scoop up all the customers. Yes, they might lose money from advertisers, but that won’t matter if they don’t have anyone to advertise to.

If I had the money to become an internet provider tomorrow, you bet your life I’d be doing this. To hell with Big Brother. I want what I want. No one should get to choose for me. Who’s with me?

net neutrality

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On Being Off Grid

My laptop has been circling the drain for many months now. It was booting up at a snail’s pace, and then freezing up every minute or two, regardless of what software I happened to be using at the time. It was beyond frustrating. You’d think, living in the techno-savvy Seattle area, I’d have tons of friends who could help me with my dilemma, but noooo… As per usual, I was on my own.

I knew that when I started to seriously contemplate throwing the damned thing in the canal or using it as a very expensive door stop, something had to be done. But that would mean taking it into a shop. And that was akin to cutting off my oxygen supply.

You see, I don’t have a smart phone, or a tablet, or any other device that would keep me connected to the wider world. Without my laptop, I don’t even have any way to watch “TV”, because I left my TV on the curb out of utter frustration about 5 moves ago, and haven’t had one since. And I knew that the repair folks could potentially hold on to my electronic baby for a few days.

So, with a virtual tear in my eye, I abandoned my child with a total stranger. And then I got home and nearly panicked. What does one do without internet? I couldn’t respond to comments on my blog, or make snide remarks on Facebook. When a question popped into my head, I had no way to answer it.

My laptop is also my main source of entertainment. Fortunately, I had the foresight to go to the library and check out a book. And heaven knows that my new house is overflowing with home improvement projects just screaming my name.

So I took a nap.

And then I woke up. I was thinking of ordering pizza. But I had no way to get the number to the pizza place. I could starve to death without my laptop.

This was ridiculous. I managed to live half my life without internet. I didn’t know what I was missing. I got along just fine. But I had phone books and encyclopedias and maps. I’m convinced that if the grid went dark, a good portion of humanity would be rendered incapable of life itself. That’s rather sad, when you think about it.

One thing was certain: If I didn’t get off my butt and find something to do, I was going to freak myself out. So I started doing home improvement projects.

I cut and put up 7 shelves. I hung a cork board and a coat rack. I installed a doorbell. I cut dowels to put in my windows for added security. I put up my rain chain. I planted some concord grapes and some flowers.

And then the phone rang, and it was the repair guy saying that they had replaced my corrupted hard disc and removed an impressive amount of dog hair and dust from my fan, and I could come get my laptop.

So my baby is back in my loving arms, after serious surgery. Now all that’s left to do is reinstall all the software that I lost. And that sucks, because for the life of me, I can’t find my Microsoft Office product key and really, really, really don’t feel like paying 175 bucks to replace it.

Dependencies on top of dependencies…

But really, I did get a lot more done than usual, and I’d forgotten how much I miss reading actual books. Maybe I should have computer-free days every now and then. It would do me good.

Oh, who am I kidding?

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Nice Try, Player

There’s a reason I have stayed off the internet dating websites for quite some time now. I kept meeting the worst of men; the very dregs of masculinity. In fact, I’ve met so many icky men in cyberspace that I began to look at all men as icky. I decided that if I wanted to continue to function effectively in this world, it would be best if I didn’t get in the habit of looking at 49 percent of the population as pond scum.

So now I have date night with my dog. He’s not the most brilliant conversationalist, but he’s yet to taint my view of the planet. And he doesn’t mind chick flicks.

So time goes on. I rarely even think of romance anymore. It’s quite liberating, actually. I’m getting a lot done. I have fewer dust bunnies.

Then the phone rang. It was a local number that seemed vaguely familiar, so I answered it.

“Hey Barb, It’s S, from the dating website?”

“S…? Oh! S. Hi?”

Why in the hell would this guy be calling me? We went out twice. We had a great time. We hit it off, actually. But in the end, he was so self-absorbed that he expected me to be there for his drama, but when my beloved dog Blue was dying a weeks-long, horrible death, he mysteriously disappeared. In fact, he stood me up on our last date because he forgot he was getting his chest hair waxed.

No sooner had I buried Blue, but S tried contacting me again. I told him that I had been through a month of hell, and sure could have used a friend, and he was nowhere to be found, so I didn’t see friendship, let alone romance, on our horizon.

And yet, a year later, here he was on my phone.

“Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you, Barb. I just was wondering if you got the test results.”

“Test results?”

“Oh. Did I call the wrong Barbara? Oh! I remember you. You were, like, 70, and lived in Shoreline?”

“I used to live in Shoreline, yes, but I’m 52.” (Bitch!)

Why was I even talking to this guy? I bet he couldn’t even remember my hair color. But then, I slow down to look at traffic accidents, too.

“Oh, definitely the wrong Barbara, then. This Barbara is only a friend, and she got some medical tests done two weeks ago, and I was just wondering how they went. But, hey, I remember you were, like, a really, really good kisser, Barb.”

“Um, yeah. Well… take me off your contacts list, will you, S? We wouldn’t want this mistake to happen again.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Best of luck to your friend Barbara. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Saints preserve us.

Player

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Ghosting

Every once in a while, I think about the many people I’ve met on the internet who have come to be good friends. It’s a different world. As a young adult, before the internet, I could not have conceived that these types of connections were even possible. But children today are growing up taking these long distance relationships for granted. (With adequate supervision, I fervently hope.)

I’ve met several of these people face to face, and we are friends to this day. I’m going camping with one of them this summer. (Waving hello to Martin.)

But for all the good friends I’ve made, in the virtual world of Second Life, or via my blog, or on Facebook, there have been at least as many who have taken a piece of my heart and disappeared with it with no explanation whatsoever. Lorraine, Steve, John, Vicki, Brian… yeah, I’m talking to all of you.

I don’t have a problem with them not being in my life anymore. The choice is entirely theirs. Some friendships are annual, others are perennial. I get that. What I have a problem with is the lack of closure. For all I know, they’re dead. That’s a horrible feeling. It’s cruel to make someone grieve when grieving may not be the appropriate response.

There’s something about being able to hide in cyberspace that brings out the worst in people. I strongly suspect that none of them would be this rude face to face. And yeah, explaining why you’re ending a relationship is never fun. It would be tempting to skip that step entirely. It’s understandable to want to avoid the awkward stuff. But people have a right to their closure. They have a right to understand why. They have a right to learn from their experiences.

Depriving people of such rights without so much as a by your leave reveals something rather ugly about you. Just sayin’.

Ghosting

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Where Are You?

Okay, let’s see if this “six degrees of separation” thing actually works. I could use your help. The bottom line is I’m lonely and I’m discouraged.

I moved to Seattle a year and a half ago, not knowing a soul. But I’m not really sure that I fully understood what a huge leap of faith that would be. Had I thought it through, I may not have had the courage to take that step.

I think I’m a good person. I’m funny and interesting and compassionate and passionate and entertaining and intelligent and I have integrity. I’m also someone who thrives in a relationship, but out here I can’t even get a date.

Not for lack of trying, believe me. I’ve recently stepped off the toxic treadmill of rejection that is internet dating. I think I met every nut job and player in the Seattle metropolitan area. I have to admit that my work schedule does not do me any favors. My “weekends” are Mondays and Tuesdays. That makes it hard to meet people. But I think I’m worth the extra effort.

I think part of the reason I get passed over is that I’m not a girly girl, I’m not a size 3, and I couldn’t give two sh**s about the NFL. But come on, there has to be someone out there who doesn’t care about those things.

I just want a guy who would like to travel, locally and internationally. Someone smart who would be fun to talk to. Someone curious about the world. Someone who accepts me as I am. Is that too much to ask? It would also be nice if the man in question were between the ages of 48 and 60, and lived within 25 miles of Seattle.

I have my deal breakers, too. I will not date a smoker. If your children are under 18 I’ll run screaming in the opposite direction. And I would have absolutely nothing in common with a conservative.

Where are you???? Because believe me, I’m right here.

If you know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone, please pass this along. If they want to know more about me, my daily blog is me. It’s my heart and soul in cyberspace.

As vulnerable as I just made myself, I must be sincere. So please, spread the world.

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Another Story-The Hardest Thing to Say

Whenever possible, I attend a monthly storytelling group here in Seattle called Fresh Ground Stories. Each month it has a theme, and this month’s was “The Hardest Thing to Say”. I decided to tell a story about how hard it has been to remain dignified and polite in the world of internet dating.

You can hear that story below, but for those of you who don’t have that ability, I’m attaching the text I rehearsed. For once I stayed pretty faithful to it.

This is the fifth story I’ve told in front of an audience. It’s always such a rush! If you’d like to hear all my stories, go here.

I once stayed in a very unsatisfying relationship for 16 years because I didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. I am nothing if not polite.

That, and I was terrified of being alone, and wanted a steady date for all major holidays.  I think he stayed with me because he had no idea what love looked like, and didn’t think he deserved better. That relationship  died a long, slow, death, and it taught me what I don’t want.

Then I met Chuck, and for the 4 years before he passed away, I had met my match. We were emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, passionately, and hilariously compatible.

That relationship taught me what I deserve.

So here I am, ready to try again, but with my screwed up work schedule, it’s hard to meet people. So I joined a dating website. Yeah, it’s come to that.

And at first, what a rush! 60 guys viewed my profile in the first day! I started to think that maybe I’d actually get laid before Christmas! Yay! But then I realized that none of them contacted me, so that was more like 60 rejections in the first day. Ouch.

So I decided to stop looking at the guys who were looking at me and just look through profiles, find ones that intrigued me, and then reach out to them. I did see some that looked interesting, and I sent them messages. And most of them ignored me completely. How rude!

Which is when I decided that even if being polite did not serve me well in the past, I would still strive to take the high road. Anyone who took the time to actually read my profile and send me a message would always get a response from me of some kind, even if it was only to politely say, “Thanks for contacting me. I don’t think we’d be a good match, but I wish you the very best of luck in your search.”

The high road turned out to be harder than I thought.

One guy contacted me out of the blue with a graphic description of what he’d like to do to me.  I gave him my stock polite no thanks,  and he said that he had a Ph.D., was a counselor for many years, and it was obvious that I have a generalized anxiety disorder that prohibits me from socializing with anyone. Seriously, thank God for the block feature!

Another was sweet and attractive, and told me I was beautiful but he was also 20 years my senior. He understood when I passed on his, er, pass. But the last thing he said to me was, “That’s a pity, because I was hoping to fall in love one last time.” That still brings tears to my eyes.

I did have a few dates. One turned out to be on the sex offender’s database, due to a “complete misunderstanding” of course. (Isn’t it always a complete misunderstanding?) Another spent 5 minutes trying to get the legs of our dinner table back into the pre-established dents in the carpet.

One guy who contacted me asked me why I didn’t think we’d be a good match, so I told him that I found all the cleavage shots of scantily clad women on his profile to be a bit off-putting. To that he responded that I was obviously flat chested ( I know, right?) and not into real men.

Okay, this was all starting to feel a little bit like abuse. And it caused me to learn something about myself: I do have my limits. I responded, “REAL MEN don’t objectify women. REAL MEN don’t go from zero to hostile after a little bit of polite rejection from a total stranger. And… YOU PROBABLY  LIVE WITH YOUR MOTHER!”

Not my proudest moment, to be sure. But it felt soooo good.

So much for the high road. I told myself that I’d try to do better next time, because believe it or not, I haven’t given up hope. And I have made a few friends along the way. And I am a polite person and I don’t want to lose that quality in this process.

Then just the other day I was tested yet again. I got a message from a guy who called himself BootySmoocher. He said, “Yes, I know I’ve chosen a strange name, but it’s because I like to give r** jobs. Would you like to discuss it over coffee?”

As I stared at the screen, I said to myself, “Take the high road. Take the high road.” Plus, shooting him down would be too easy. So I took a deep cleansing breath and responded, “Thanks for contacting me, BootySmoocher, but as a general rule, I don’t rim on the first date. Good luck with…uh…that, though.”

On Babies and Bathwater

 So, I joined an internet dating website. Yeah, it’s come to that. And at first, man, what a rush! About 60 guys viewed my profile the first day!

But then the only ones that contacted me were calling themselves “TurboTube4U” or “SexMachine1964”. Or they were located in Timbuktu with improbable male model photographs straight out of Shutterstock.com.  I’ll pass.

And then there were a few who I politely declined because you know, you can kind of tell… and one replied, “You’re obviously flat chested and not into real men.” Another said I had generalized anxiety disorder that interfered with normal socialization because I wouldn’t hop into bed with him based on one on-line conversation.

Hooo. Dodged a few bullets with those two.

Needless to say, by now, I was kind of over the whole internet dating thing.

Then I got contacted by a guy who was kind, attractive, and actually knew how to spell, and we chatted for about a week for hours on end. We had a lot in common. Our politics, our interests, our goals, even our crazy work schedules seemed to line up. We began to finish each other’s sentences. He seemed to know what I was thinking. One night we were talking about our religious philosophies, and right in the middle of that he changed the subject and said, “You know, you shouldn’t be self-conscious about your body. You are totally my type.”

Oh my God. I was in love. I mean, if the man had asked me to sign over the pink slip on my car at that moment, I probably would have. (But then, no one would want my car.) For the next few days I was walking around humming The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music.

So finally, we agreed to meet at a public park. No pressure. Just walk around the lake and talk. And it was a fantastic date. We talked for hours. We shared the skeletons in each other’s closets, and we still liked each other. We laughed. And the chemistry, oh, yeah, that was there.

I remember thinking, “Omigod, I might actually get laid before Christmas! Yay!!!!!”

So things were going well. I began to think that maybe my search was over and I could get off that horrible website.

Then, I went to see his condo. And it was gorgeous. He had remodeled it himself and decorated it himself, and it had a spectacular view. It was amazing.

And then he went into the bathroom. And that’s when everything changed. Because when he came back out, he noticed that the coffee table had been moved. He spent several minutes trying to make sure that the legs went back into the pre-established dents in the carpet.

And while he did that, I looked at the place with fresh eyes. It was spotless. All the window blinds were at the exact same level. All the towels were folded identically. Everything was arranged by size. Probably alphabetized, too.

I said, “I don’t think you’d like my house.” And it’s true. It’s not like I have moldy ham sandwiches under the bed or anything, but there are one or two dust bunnies under there. And I’m not a hoarder, but there’s clutter. And I have dogs, so I’ve long since given up on making the bed.

We looked at each other, and you could see the romantic bubble bursting behind both of our eyes. I knew I wouldn’t ever be able to function under all his self-imposed rules and impossible expectations, and he would never be able to comfortably climb into my bed without wrapping himself in plastic from head to toe. Somehow, this particular topic hadn’t come up during our halcyon days.

But oddly enough, I wasn’t sad. I know my mind takes these romantic flights of fancy and they rarely survive the cold light of day. I let him break it to me gently. And I responded, “I completely understand and agree. But I also wanted to tell you I’m glad you came into my life. I think you’re great, and fun to be around, and I hope we can still be friends.

See, I’ve never been one to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and here was this truly wonderful guy that I enjoyed being around, and both our profiles say we were both also looking for friends. He always said he wanted to get out more. I had images of bringing him to my storytelling group, even being his wing man to help him find that special someone. Doing the occasional lunch. Trading pithy banter via text.

So I also said to him, “If you still want to take that drawbridge tour, I’d be happy to see you.”

He thanked me for “being so mature about it.” He said, “maybe some other time.” And I haven’t heard from him since.

The romance bubble burst, as they often do. But what made me sad, what brought a few tears to my eyes, is that after all the things we did have in common he still didn’t find me friend-worthy. So I went from thinking that I could be falling in love to actually feeling sorry for the guy, because I have to say I’m an amazing friend to have.

I can see his condo from my drawbridge. I see the glow of his television. I see him on the dating website, searching… searching… and it just makes me sad, you know? Because real connections are hard to come by in this world, and they shouldn’t be discarded just because they didn’t take the form you originally hoped for.

Gifts are gifts. They come in all shapes and sizes. And I hope I never stop feeling that way, because I really like that about myself.

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