Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How Old? I Mean— How-Old.net ?

In late April Microsoft unveiled a site that for no charge or sign-in will let you upload photos of anyone and have the wizard of facial analysis tell you how old said person appears to be. Not how old he is, but how old he appears.

The thing seemed harmless if vacuous. But days later reports from search engines and Microsoft indicated that all over the world, at homes and offices everywhere, nothing productive got done the day www.How-Old.net was unveiled. Seems everyone was uploading photos all day and gasping at the instant analysis of appearance and age. Microsoft also revealed that most photos were of self. Selfies, in fact. And one per person was not enough. Folks uploaded more and more until they got the result they wanted, or fell off their chairs in exhaustion.

I don’t make a secret that I am not a nubile nymph. Age is now easily found on the Internet, though I would caution this is not as authoritative as you think. Mine appears to be two distinct ages— somehow DH’s slipped onto my online ID and so there is more than one of me out there, age wise. I assure you that the (much) older one is my better half, and the real me is fifteen years lesser. But this aside is about real age, not appearance. The new app is about appearance, and in specific photos.

I had to join the rest of the human race, the vainer among us and possibly not busy enough, and try this new app out.

If there are two of me age-wise out there on search engines, there were many more when I started playing. A few of the photos yielded results that got close, but the range was amazing. Using only clear photos taken within the last two years, I am apparently anywhere from thirty-three to seventy-one years of age.
I’m as vain as the rest, so I decided to quit while ahead. That is, after the HowOld.net said I appeared to be thirty-one. Wouldn't you? Except, of course, if you are twenty-nine.

Well, it was fun, in a masochistic sort of way. Mindless, too. But it brought home how far technology has to go to tell us real things about ourselves and others. Even something as technologically possible as face recognition and a quantifiable attribute as age are not there yet.

I’m doubtful they ever will be.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Say Nay to the Naysayers

You've heard all the “can't-be-done”s to last you a lifetime. Now it’s time to push ‘em back.

When I started writing with the intention to publish, I heard that someone who did not grow up with English as a first language should not expect to do what I set out to do. I heard this from those who supposedly were on my side.

When I set out to find an agent, I heard that since I had published before with small presses, I should not expect to get an agent, as they prefer so-called “debut” authors. This, too, came from helpful voices.

I was warned by writing friends that literary agents are likely to be expensive/uncommunicative/run away with the store. No wonder I took forever to make a decision to look for one.

They were wrong, wrong, and wrong again. But I spent too much time listening to their voices while ignoring the can-do ones. After all, the positive voices came from the how-to books, and they were selling something, right? The can't-be-done voices came from well-meaning friends and colleagues, and they cared enough to tell me the truth.

Only days ago DS graduated from our best public university with a double major, completed in four years. Good he’s young and wasted no time listening to the naysayers. They would have told him that "because of budget cuts" it’s hard to get the classes you need to graduate in four years with a single major, that double majoring will leave him without a social life and in a state of depletion, and certainly no time to also work part-time to help with expenses.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong again. There he is, saying no to the naysayers—

--And heading to get a graduate degree in Paris, France. Oh, yes. They told him Americans are rarely accepted to such.

I’m not just another proud mama, (well, I’m that, too) but a humbled one.
 Pushing away the negative voices, whether outsiders’ or my own, is something I will work on every day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

You don’t Know What You Don’t Know

…Until You Know It

Would you like to know the future? I mean, if a genie granted you the wish to see your timeline on this earth, would you take it?

We live on hope. Hope is an even more important fuel than food. 

You never know. Anything can happen. You could win the lottery. Or sell a book to a great publisher. The book could become a bestseller. The book could change the world, the way Uncle Tom’s Cabin did. The world could become a much better place. Or you could win the lottery. I know, I said that already, but I felt like repeating it just in case a genie was listening. You never know.

You can toil and try and do, and never publish again. Or publish something that will unleash venom in some unstable person. Unstable person would purposely run you over with their car, and you could lose a limb, or more. A loved one could be in an accident, or get sick, or— I don't want to go there.

Helping a friend with metastatic cancer has brought this point home for me. A friend who never smoked and took good care of himself is wracked with lung cancer. You never know.
I know cancer survivors who told me that, while they wouldn’t wish it on anyone, they now appreciate every moment. If only they had known what they now know they would have been in this state before, and without the cancer, thank you very much.

The one thing certain is that everyone will die. To quote the guy who helped me change a tire on the freeway long ago, “Ain’t none of us getting’ out of this here thing alive.” But then he added, “While we’re here we got to help each other.”

People of faith have even more, because hope goes beyond the boundaries of this world. But the mystery about what is next, in this world or the next, is the one thing certain. 

Because you don’t know until you do. Would you want to?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Is Twitter for Twits?

I recently joined Twitter, more out of curiosity, (and a tiny soft suggestion from my agent) and immediately found it overwhelming. It was less than a smidgen of a second later, and I was already in a sheltering mode sending all notifications to my look-at-it-later folder.

It felt like an unfamiliar jungle, and I couldn't remember why I tried it in the first place. 
A few weeks have passed, and I am coming out from under the chair. Gingerly, carefully, I'm picking my head up to glance, but only in small increments.
You see, I remembered that this was my reaction to joining Facebook. I had a page, an account, and it was practically dormant for ages. I made peace with it and like seeing others’ photos there.

I had this reaction to Blogging, which seemed to me fit only for those with too much time on their hands, both on the reading and the writing ends. I committed to a regular schedule, and slowly it became something I love to do. Of all the virtual socializations I felt dragged into it is now my favorite. But it wasn't at first; it took (I should be honest here) at least a year to feel it was more a necklace than a noose.

This is not an endorsement of Twitter. I still don’t get its charms. But it is an endorsement of trying something. It’s about doing it long enough to know what its charms may be before you know how, or if, you fit in. Because, obviously, millions of Twitter users have. I know some of them personally and can vouch they are not twits.

Try it. You may or may not like it. But trying is a positive act.