Thursday, July 17, 2014


a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc., in electronic communication.
"emoji liven up your text messages with tiny smiley faces"      

The word emoji means “picture letter” in Japanese. But when were these pictures developed? Wasn't it just yesterday I didn't even have a cell phone or computer? According to my lengthy web-based research, "although emoji weren't officially part of the Unicode Standard until 2010, the colorful cartoon symbols have been a major part of Japanese smartphone culture since 1998, when they debuted as a cute software feature on local phones".1 These guys date all the way back to the late 1990s.

What are these annoying little faces, hearts, and animal pictures found in all the text messages, emails, and Facebook posts I see? Why they're emojis, of course. But where did they come from? How did we get from no cellular devices to text messages filled with emojis?

The other day I received a text message from my mother, appropriately (right?) using an emoji.

Am I proud of her? For using an emoji? Not really. Because she is a writer. And because I am a writer. I rely upon the written word to convey message, tone, intention. I have written 20 blog posts in this space and have yet to reply upon the emoji. My mom doesn't need this picture crutch either. I believe she is witty enough to send her love without pictorially kissing me. That's okay, because I do use xx (an emoticon, see explanation below) to send her kisses. 

But it's when someone is trying to convey humor with a jk or lol or even a  that I think "really, that's all you've got?" I wish my texter would come up with some clever wording to express himself. If he did, I'd understand his text was not to be taken seriously. 

So is using an emoji a crutch? Is texting not supposed to be quick, easy, no thoughtfulness in expression techniques needed? I don't know. I suppose the answer is yes. But that only makes me dislike texting, along with the emojis, even more.

I only like emojis for their artistic value. I know this is strange. I don't value the emoji for its ability to wink at me with a cartoon character representation. I enjoy the facial expression that marks the wink.

Oh yes, I almost forgot: what is the difference between an emoticon and an emoji, you ask? Simply put, an emoticon is a symbol made with keypad characters. The ;-) wink I am a fan of (occasionally). 

An emoji, on the other hand, is a cartoon drawing of a face winking, the now present in many of my text messages. And, just in case you are new to the world of emoji, do not worry. There is an Emojipedia, to look up all meanings emoji. You can practice using them thanks to the addition of the emoji language keyboard on smartphones. has emojis for just about everything.

Now that you know what an emoji is, you can feel free to never use one again. No, not seriously. Promoters of emojis (cell phone companies) are pushing the benefits of emojis. "In a time of text messages with 140 or 60 character limits, and emoji being a single character, it could go a long way."2 This makes me sad.



Tuesday, July 1, 2014


I have been applying for jobs. And before every job interview, whether initial phone conversation or in-person, I do some company research. In the past, this has typically involved looking at the company's website, reading more in depth about the job opening/qualifications, and taking a cursory glance at the staff member listing.
But recently I have begun to take my interview preparations one step further: I search out the person I am interviewing with. I not only Google the person, find him or her on the company webpage, and check out a LinkedIn profile, but I really look into the person. I find my interviewer on Facebook, read any article written about him or her, search for press releases, and even Google image search for head-shots. I like to know who I'm going to be speaking (and possibly working) with. I have gone so far in my due diligence that once I actually predicted a director would be leaving the company (I was interviewing to be her replacement) to go on to graduate school. When I mentioned this in the interview, she said I was the second person to make that connection. I guess my behavior is pretty normal.

Which is the main point my internet research is beginning to make clear; I will find out about you. When I worked at my former company, I would search for the current addresses of individual donors who had recently moved. Nine times out of ten, I would find the donor's new address, along with how much she paid for her house, the names of her children, and the city she was born in. I know that sounds creepy, but it was all just to send out an annual appeal letter to the correct address. I did develop a reputation among my co-workers for being able to find anyone, though. But that's because it's easy to be found.
And it is now the norm. I remember interviewing roommates years ago. I'd search out each candidate on social media sites. The same thing was true with someone I was going on a date with, or even with simple acquaintances. I now try to limit my internet stalking for job interviews, as I cannot confidently enter into the interview unprepared. But we all know that being given access to someone's complete and legal name is a free pass to search out the person via Google.

I used to think that it was possible and easy to live off the grid. If you don't want someone to find you, stay off the internet; don't join any social media sites and don't give your name to articles/quotations that may be published about you. While I welcome comments on my blog posts, beware of publishing anything with your full name. You never know what I might (and will) find about you.

I just found out that "off the grid" no longer means what I thought it did; "off grid" now refers to the millions of people living locally. Off Grid is one, among many, such website that includes various bloggers giving tips on how to live locally. Except in the state of Florida, where living off grid illegal. All homes must now be connected to a utility grid. This means all residents must be connected to a system and pay into this system. No more hiding in a cabin the woods, or not having a physical address to receive mail and bills. Everyone leaves a footprint. And there are millions of us on the other end, tracking it.

Not to scare you. I only use my internet stalking powers for good. To get to know you before meeting you and trying to convince you to hire/date/live with me. This is completely normal behavior; and actually, almost to be expected. Almost.

So while there is a fine line between cyber-stalking and conducting research, every single job search website lists researching your interviewers by finding bios and social network links as a "must do." Idealist, Monster, and Indeed specifically recommend, "You may find bio pages or press releases that give you insight into their most visible activities at the company. Then look to LinkedIn or do a general Web search to get some more background information about them." That looks like a green light to continue preparing myself in this fashion for upcoming interviews. But perhaps I'll put my default to research everyone mentality aside. And let real life people show me who they are.

To read more about acceptable job interview preparations, check out:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

memory keeper

You don't take a photograph, you make it.
Ansel Adams

A year ago I bought a camera; my first DSLR. It also happened to be my first single lens reflex camera of any kind. I carefully inspected my dad's Canon SLR from 1978 (the A-1, Canon's a runaway best seller) before finally deciding which camera I should purchase for myself. Even though I can't convert his SLR over to digital, I can convert his lenses. But that's something I may do some day far into the future.

For now, I live in two worlds: the world of digital photography and the world of print photography. I have two different cameras to serve me in these parallel domains. I have two different media. Actually, I have three. I grew up with my father making slides. He even had a mount for his SLR. He'd set the camera up over the open reference book and shoot textbook photos for slides. This is how he gave presentations up until about two years ago. Then he switched to PowerPoint. I never thought I'd say this, but I miss the sound of the slide carriage advancing.

I was home vising my family two months ago when my Aunts came over to go through my grandmother's old boxes. My grandmother passed away 20 years ago, and my dad had stored all her possessions in our crawl space. All her remaining possessions fit into two storage boxes. It took us hours just to go through one box.

My grandmother is the student in the middle of the first row.

What did we find? Important documents, memorabilia, sentimental letters, and many photos. But mostly we found slides. 

We also found a lot of photos in terrible condition. But I couldn't just throw them away. I'll fix them up, I thought, as I put them in my keep pile. I planned to bring them back to San Francisco with me, scan them, and make them beautiful again. 


This is how far I've gotten fixing our old family photos. I don't know how to use Photoshop. I don't have a fancy computer. Honestly, I don't know what I'm doing. But I know I have to keep trying. Because what if it works? What if it turns out technology can not just preserve, but also save, old memories? These memories are so old, the people who actually lived them have long since passed. My grandfather passed away over 33 years ago, his parents long before him. I now have in my possession photos of his parents' parents, going back hundreds of years. 

My great-great-grandmother. Don't get on her bad side.

So what am I fixing the photos for, when all I have are faded photos and hundreds of negatives? How do I even know what I've got? Scanning negatives as a novice is not easy. I'm getting the hang of it, but there are a lot of photos go to through.

In the midst of discovering what is on these negatives, I know that I've got someone's memories. I'll keep going through the negatives until I've scanned them all and seen what's still there. Because somehow these are my memories now too, even if they occurred long before I was born. Unlike digital photos, there is information scrolled on the backside of the photos; names and dates and even phone numbers. I know who, when, and where I'm looking at. What better time is there to make these memories my own as well?

My great-grandmother        The backside of the photo

I'm going to have to score +1 for the real deal photos. And thank my grandmother for keeping them tucked safely away among her most cherished possessions. I can't say I treat any of my digital photos with the same care. I still cherish actual old family photos. So, dust off your photos and look at them. And just because they aren't in good condition, or were overexposed, don't throw them away. Because you have memories that are often worth holding on to. And ones worth discovering; those that you didn't even know existed until now.

More family photos found in the box, restored by yours truly

My Dad's family

Aunt Ferne's graduation

Aunt Robin

Dad's family on vacation

Monday, June 2, 2014

app obsession

I have too many mobile apps on my phone. Or perhaps I don't have enough phone memory. Either way, I frequently find myself running low on phone space. Because I like apps. Well, to be more specific, I like the concept of apps. I like learning about new apps. I like searching for new apps. I like reading reviews of new apps.

Oxford Dictionary Definition of an App

But then I never actually use these apps. Okay, it's not true to say that I NEVER use the apps. I like Yelp. And Facebook. And Instagram. But have I even once opened Yerdle? No. But I might. You never know, it could come in handy. I might suddenly decide to trade something online. So, I'll just keep the app for now.


But I'm running out of memory. Darn 16GB iPhone. Why must I have to delete a selection of already downloaded apps? What if some day my contacts all move to TextMe and I'm behind because I don't have it? Or what if I really want to use Khan Academy and I can't just type "Khan Academy" into a browser on my phone? What will I do then? It'll be a godsend that I already downloaded the app. Wait, what folder did I place it in again? Eeh, I'll just go to Safari and type in the website. This is fastest, and I already have Safari open...

Which begs the question: Are apps even all that important? Or do they just make my phone look busy? And pretty? I have at least 50 apps I'll never use. I'm not exaggerating. I won't join Yerdle. Or TextMe. Or even Blinkist. But I just read about Blinkist. It's supposed to be awesome. If only I could remember what the app does. Oh well, I'll just leave it on my phone for now.

Blinkist: An app about books, maybe? Or blinking?

I checked online to see if my behavior is out of the ordinary. It turns out I am just like all other mobile technology users. Yahoo says that, "between 80 and 90 percent of apps are downloaded, used once, and eventually deleted by users. But deletion often comes only when your device is performing so poorly that a massive overhaul is necessary." Good thing I still have my Yahoo app to research my behavior.

I think it's time to bite the bullet and delete some of these never been used apps. It's true that too many apps slow down your phone. So, goodbye Lens Ink Free. I have no use for you, Symbol. Ohh, but Symbol offers accents. So maybe I won't delete them just yet. I no longer need Cell Splat (I never did), but I'll keep Words with Friends. In my case, it should just be called Words with Mother. She's the only person I play.

And I am not allowing myself to download any new apps this month. Ooh, but I just read really good reviews on the Royal Baby App. So maybe just that one is okay. I'll use it for sure. Princess Kate may be having twins.

You can download the royal baby app here:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


More people in more places can now compete, connect and collaborate with equal power and equal tools than ever before.
~ Thomas Friedman

I'm learning a new language: Spanish shorthand. It's found mostly in texting. It's similar to Spanish, except that spelling doesn't matter, there's no time for adding in accents, and abbrevs. are all the norm. There's a steep learning curve. Or, as we say in Spanish text language, "x apre."

Here's a typical text message from a friend in Playa del Carmen

The same message in regular (aka longhand) Spanish would read 
"no te preocupes" or "don't worry"

My learning of shorthand comes mostly in the form of instant text messages sent to my iPhone through the wonderfully popular global app "WhatsApp?" The beauty of WhatsApp, aside from its surprising dependability, is that all messages are free. It doesn't matter where the messages are sent from or to whom they are sent. All you need is a smart phone, a WhatsApp account, and the phone number of all your friends and acquaintances. It really is that simple. Videos and photos are instantly sent and received via cellular service or an internet connection. I love the pictures I've been getting from Mexico.

Vero sent me a photo of her son Ian making pot holders!
She is great about sending out photos and videos from her phone.

I'd first heard about WhatsApp on the cusp of its impending sale to Facebook. What I've recently learned about WhatsApp is that it has existed for years. And, more impressively, so solidly has the product established itself, that it has become a part of everyday conversation around the world. Its global recognition is up there alongside Facebook. When I'd meet someone new in Mexico, something that happened several times a day, introductions were always followed by "tienes wassap?" I'd pull out my phone and enter in my new friend's contact information. I even got really adept at knowing which country codes to add. +1 in iPhone speak equals 011. Sneaky, huh?

With WhatsApp I am in constant communication with my friends over in Mexico. I love being able to practice my Spanish and learn Spanish texting shorthand. But I don't love the constant pinging of my phone. A ping means I have a new message. Although it's never just one ping. It's typically a steady stream of messages coming through. And the now all too familiar pinging sounds are definitely not restricted to occurrences solely during daylight hours. 

But this is not a shortcoming of WhatsApp. It's the price I pay for keeping my phone on, with the volume up, letting the pings come through and distract me. What can I say? I like being connected.

Want to try WhatsApp?

Look me up and send me a message. (Just try to make it during a reasonable hour). 
I'll get right back to you.