Facebook, Google +, and my rolling eyes

Tired of SM us vs. them? The battle for more users and a bigger bottom line continues between Facebook and Google+. The mano-a-mano showdown is sickening–so much so that I feel penning this article is almost a complete waste of my time. Maybe it is.

Once again, a two-party system is thriving while members of the social media community sigh in exasperation. Have you ever had a better idea for a personalized network, and even the quirky Inc. name picked out? Too bad. You’re too tiny to carry any clout, even if you’ve already designed a kick-ass icon. Metcalf’s Law suggests that nothing is large enough to compete, especially since Google would be in charge of your stellar new network’s optimization, anyway. Ever heard of Quora? My point exactly. Being a regular Quora-only user would be like believing that your town’s mayor had enough following and campaign funds to be a serious contender in the 2012 presidential race. Such a user likely doesn’t exist.

What happened to social networks functioning as tools meant to satisfy their users? Even though this it what they promise, it seems as though companies are more obsessed with MUVs on the press release pages announcing major content and interface changes than they are concerned with making their current “customers” happy.

This time last week, the chatter seemed to indicate the Facebook approval ratings were actually up when compared to Google+, who saw a decrease in use over the last month. But then, in yet another attempt to hit the ping pong ball back over the table, Facebook went and changed things. Again. AGAIN! You would think that one of the largest networks (with arguably one of the largest cross section of diverse publics) would actually listen to those directly contributing to its success. I’m a fan of the age-old agage: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

This does not mean I’m throwing my hat back into the Google+ ring (feel free to chuckle at my nerdy joke), or that I am vouching for support of either one or the other. To be completely honest, I don’t even use Google+ often enough (if at all) to even be considered viable. But to Google, I’m still a user, and that’s really the only factor that matters to them. It seems that one would really only have time to keep up with either one or the other, though. And this is coming from a chick who tries to use as many social sites as possible (Yes, i’m counting LivingSocial. Don’t judge me).

Like so many others out there, i’m merely suggesting that no change is okay sometimes. How could Facebook possibly have enough time to monitor if a current version is satisfying its followers or not before they go and change it again? If they read ANY of the trending articles on a simple Google search (and the irony continues), they would see that past changes have typically been met with a disgruntled populace.

Another peeve I have with Facebook: how the hell do you know what stories I will want so desperately to read?! No, I do not want my ex-boyfriend’s photos coming up on my homepage as soon as I log in. My computer mine as well slap me in the face and say, “Good morning, Kate! Get ready for a day chock-full of remorse and unrequited love!” Delightful. At least Google+ would allow me to place him in my Circle of Kate’s Missed Opportunities group (I’m kidding).

The most ironic thing is that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is the Google+ user with the most followers (557, 910). What an incestuous industry.

Yeah, I have a fear of change and perhaps commitment sometimes (I swear i’m still referring to social media), but when it comes to my favorite SM outlets, I would just like to stick with one–or none?


Hurricane Irene- What Now?

Last evening while hanging out at one of my local outdoor eating establishments, I overheard some conversations being had about people asking for government funding for damages done to their homes and properties post-Irene. My contribution to the conversation would have been limited, since I was very lucky to remain dry. Many of my neighbors and town compadres weren’t so fortunate, and now some are arguing about the severity of need. What our farms provide for us is often forgotten, and now those that run them need our help.

Up and down the eastern seaboard, farms, homes, and businesses were affected as geographical features shifted (sometimes marked by miles) due to the hurricane. As soon as something more time sensitive and/or “compelling” came down the media byway, those affected by Irene were largely forgotten on the national stage. News coverage, as well as assistance, disappeared as quickly as a trending hash tag. How sad.

Here are some regional NY resources and fundraisers through which you can donate your time and funds:

Albany County and Capital District –

Stuff the Truck Hurricane Irene Fundraiser (though Sep. 30)

News10 Irene Relief Fund (Ongoing)

From Scratch Club: Fundraiser for the Farms (through Oct. 15)

 From Scratch Club: Fundraiser for Amanda (through Oct.15) 

Broome County –

Concert for Flood Relief (Sep. 25)

Delaware County –

Catskills Irene Relief Resources (Ongoing)

Orange County –

Warwick Valley Farm Aid 2011 (Sep. 25) 

New York County –

Dine Out Irene (Sep. 25)

Dine In Irene (Sep. 26-Oct. 2)

Rensselaer County –

Good Night Irene! Eastern NY Farm Aid 2011 (Sep. 24)

Sullivan & Ulster Counties –

Food & Wine in the Orchard (Oct. 8 )

If you are aware of more upcoming NY fundraisers that you would like to include in this listing, please e-mail them to fruitrootlife@gmail.com

Great Pen-name Moments: Successful Pseudonyms Part 2

Real Name: Charles Dickens  (1812-1870) A British author and journalist who did not much care for the way that his name was often used in speech: “What the Dickens!” (meaning “what the devil!” etc.) He is best known for works like Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol.  The name ‘Boz’ was “was actually taken from his youngest brother Augustus Dickens’ family nickname ‘Moses,’ given to him in honour of one of the brothers in The Vicar of Wakefield (one of the most widely read novels during the early 19th century). When playfully pronounced through the nose ‘Moses’ became ‘Boses’, and was later shortened to ‘Boz’ – pronounced through the nose with a long vowel ‘o'”(Wiki).

Real Name: Washington Irving    (1783-1859) Irving is known for being one of the first Americans to make money merely from a career in writing. Under his pen-name, he authored A History of New-York, which made fun of the first Dutch Settlers of Manhattan. Eventually, “Knickerbocker” came to represent anyone who came from NY, and is the name to which the Knicks basketball franchise owes its etymology. You might remember him for authoring The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. (hudsonvalley.org).

Real Name: Francois-Marie Arouet  (1694-1778) Voltaire’s wit with the French aristocracy tended to get him into trouble; he insulted a nobleman in 1726 and had to choose imprisonment or exile. He fled to England to study the philosophies of Locke and the theories of Newton, and spent time studying science with an intellectual woman,  Marquise du Chatelet, for many years. (Lucidcafe). He was quoted as saying: “I was so unhappy under the name d’Arouet that I took another, primarily so that I would cease to be confused with the poet Roi.” It may also have been a reverse of the syllables of a family chateau, ‘Airvault.’ (Wiki).

Real Name: Joanne Rowling     (1965-  ) Rowling came up with idea for her famed Harry Potter Series on a train trip in 1990 from Manchester to London. Her concern that young boys (being her target audience for Potter) might not read a book written by a woman, she added the initials J.K. at her publisher’s insistence. The K is from her grandmother Kathleen, but she also answers to “Jo.”

Real Name: Clive Staples Lewis         (1898-1963) Author of the children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia. His close friends called him “Jack;” among them J.R. Tolkien with whom he created the Oxford literary group called “The Inklings.” He published Spirits in Bondage under Clive Hamilton in 1919, but dropped the pseudonym forever in 1933 after converting to Christianity and publishing The Pilgrim’s Regress under his own name. (A C.S. Lewis Literary Chronology).

Real Name: Steven King (1947-  ) Horror novelist known for many American works including The Stand, The Shining, Carrie, and The Talisman. “In the late 1970s-early 1980s, King published a handful of short novels—Rage (1977), The Long Walk (1979), Roadwork (1981), The Running Man (1982) and Thinner (1984)—under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. The idea behind this was largely an experiment to measure for himself whether or not he could replicate his own success again, and allay at least part of the notion within his mind that popularity might all be just an accident of fate” (Wiki).

Real Name: William Sydney Porter            (1862-1910) Known for his stories with surprise, twist, “Oh Henry!” endings, as in The Gift of the Magi and those appearing in the collection Of Cabbages and Kings. In a 1909 interview with the New York Times, he stated: “It was during these New Orleans days that I adopted my pen name of O. Henry. I said to a friend: ‘I’m going to send out some stuff. I don’t know if it amounts to much, so I want to get a literary alias. Help me pick out a good one.’ He suggested that we get a newspaper and pick a name from the first list of notables that we found in it. In the society columns we found the account of a fashionable ball….We looked down the list and my eye lighted on the name Henry, ‘That’ll do for a last name,’ said I. ‘Now for a first name. I want something short. None of your three-syllable names for me.’ ‘Why don’t you use a plain initial letter, then?’ asked my friend. ‘Good,’ said I, ‘O is about the easiest letter written, and O it is'”(Wiki).

Real Name: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson                          (1832-1898) English Children’s author and mathematician who penned Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. “In 1856 he published his first piece of work under the name that would make him famous. A romantic poem called ‘Solitude’appeared in The Train under the authorship of ‘Lewis Carroll.’ This pseudonym was a play on his real name; Lewis was the anglicised form of Ludovicus, which was the Latin for Lutwidge, and Carroll an Irish surname similar to the Latin name Carolus, from which the name Charles comes” (Wiki). We can only wonder if Carroll would have had the same success if he had kept Dodgson, and we’ll never know. Is it the name or the content that typically brings a sculptor of words to renown? I’m confident that i’ll likely need to drop “Brunkhorst” for something that rolls off the tongue more smoothly if I ever want to make anything of myself!

Real Name: Mary Anne Evans      (1819-1880) Known for her insight and sense of realism, Eliot penned some of the most prominent pieces of the Victorian era including Middlemarch and The Mill on the Floss. “She used a male pen name, she said, to ensure her works be taken seriously. Female authors were published under their own names during Eliot’s life, but she wanted to escape the stereotype of women only writing lighthearted romances. An additional factor in her use of a pen name may have been a desire to shield her private life from public scrutiny and to prevent scandals attending her relationship with the married George Henry Lewes, with whom she lived for over 20 years” (Wiki).

Real Name: Samuel Longhorne Clemens (1835-1910) American humorist and author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. “Twain used different pen names before deciding on Mark Twain. He signed humorous and imaginative sketches Josh until 1863. Additionally, he used the pen name Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass for a series of humorous letters. He maintained that his primary pen name came from his years working on Mississippi riverboats, where two fathoms, a depth indicating safe water for passage of boat, was measured on the sounding line. A fathom is a maritime unit of depth, equivalent to two yards (1.8 m); twain is an archaic term for ‘two.’ The riverboatman’s cry was mark twain or, more fully, by the mark twain, meaning ‘according to the mark [on the line], [the depth is] two [fathoms],’ that is, ‘The water is 12 feet (3.7 m) deep and it is safe to pass”(Wiki).

In selecting your own pseudonym, try inserting the name of the street where you grew up, or the middle name of a close relative or family friend. Initials are always used to appeal to authorship toward a larger, more universal audience. Check out these suggestions from E Zine articles blog.

Great Pen-Name Moments: Successful Pseudonyms Part 1

Why pick a pen-name? Since humans could put pen to paper, we have been assuming false identities for untold reasons. Some do so to avoid persecution, to be respected and appreciated by way of an opposing gender, or to push social and political boundaries. Here is the first part of a list of those whom I consider to be some of the most “successful” (by my definition effective) name and game-changers in the literary realm.

“Now and again an Emily Bronte or a Robert Burns blazes out and proves its presence. But certainly it never got itself on to paper. When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.”

– Virginia Woolf from A Room of One’s Own

Real Name: Edward Irving Wortis (1937-   ) This American author of 70 books, most notably The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991) and one of my favorites Perloo the Bold (1998) used a nickname that his little sister had given him as a boy. His twin sister is also a writer, and his first cousin is Alan Arkin. “Avi’s publisher called one day and asked what name he wanted on the book. ‘That’s an odd question to ask,’ Avi once recalled. ‘It was never an issue, but I thought about it, and I said, ‘Oh well, just put Avi down,’ and that was the decision. Just like that.”(http://biography.jrank.org)

Real Name: Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum
(1905-1982) Russian-American philosopher and novelist most famous for Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. She is credited for creating the ideal of “objectivism.” During her studies at  State Technicum for Screen Arts in Leningrad in 1924 she decided on Rand “possibly as a Cyrillic contraction of her birth surname, and she adopted the first name Ayn, either from a Finnish name or from the Hebrew word עין ayin, meaning ‘eye'” (Gladstein and Heller 2009).

Real Name: Eric Arthur Blair (1903-1950) Journalist and author who was adamant against totalitarianism, best known for Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. To avoid the “potential embarrassment to his family for having spent time as a tramp,” he assumed his pen name for Down and Out in Paris and London. He chose it because, as he told Eleanor Jacques, “It is a good round English name.” (Wiki).

Real Name: Karen Blixen                            (1885-1962) Best known for authoring Out of Africa about her travels through Kenya. Early on, she wrote in Danish periodicals under the Seminole name Osceola. She wrote in Danish, English, and  French. In 1933, she wrote to American author Dorothy Canfield Fisher stating: “I don’t want the book to come out under my own name, and at the same time I don’t want people to know that it is myself who has written it, even though that is not a serious problem in America!–I’m going to have to find a name to publish it under.” (KarenBlixen.com).

Real Name: Daniel Handler    (1970-  ) American author of A Series of Unfortunate Events for children. He appears as a character in one of the installments. “The name Lemony Snicket originally came from research for Handler’s first book, The Basic Eight. Handler wanted to receive material from organizations he found ‘offensive or funny,’ but did not want to use his real name, and invented ‘Lemony Snicket’ as a pseudonym. The name’s similarity to Jiminy Cricket, whom Handler described as ‘exactly the kind of overly moralistic, cheerful narrator who I despise,’ was ‘likely a Freudian slip.’ When writing A Series of Unfortunate Events, he and his editor thought that the books should be published under the narrator’s name, rather than his.” (Wiki).

Real Name: Ricardo Eliecer Neftali Reyes Basualto (1904-1973) A poet and politician from Chile who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971. Thousands of Chileans illegally broke curfew and attended his funeral. He always wrote in green, which he considered to be his “color of hope.” His pen name is chosen after Czechoslovakian writer Jan Neruda.  He crafted many surrealist poems, epic tales and political manifestos praising the Communist Party,  of which he was briefly a senator.

Real Name: Alice Sheldon                          (1915-1987) She is credited for helping to break down the barriers between what is considered to be “male” and “female” writing voices, as it was not known until 1977 that she was a woman. She is best known for her works of science fiction, like The Last Flight of Doctor Ain. “She adopted the pseudonym of James Tiptree Jr. in 1967. The name ‘Tiptree’ came from a branded jar of marmalade, and the ‘Jr.’ was her husband’s idea. In an interview, she said: ‘A male name seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damned occupation.’

Real Name: Stanley Martin Lieber     (1922-  ) Comic book writer and former President and Chairman of Marvel Comics. He “made his comic-book debut with the text filler ‘Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge’ in Captain America Comics #3 (May 1941), using the pseudonym, which years later he would adopt as his legal name. Lee later explained in his autobiography and numerous other sources that he had intended to save his given name for more literary work” (Wiki).

Real Name: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) A false persona of a middle-aged widow that he created to get his work published in the New England Courant via the print shop where his older brother James worked. He created a background for Silence, and her letters poked fun at Colonial America overall. They gained renown throughout Boston, and Ben chose to leave as a fugitive once James found out that he was the true author.

Real Name: Theodor Seuss Geisel                              (1904-1991)The author of many beloved children’s stories, most notably, The Cat in the Hat. “While at Dartmouth, Geisel was caught drinking gin with nine friends in his room. As a result, Dean Craven Laycock insisted that he resign from all extracurricular activities, including the college humor magazine. To continue work on the Jack-O-Lantern without the administration’s knowledge, Geisel began signing his work with the pen name ‘Seuss.’ His first work signed as ‘Dr. Seuss’ appeared after he graduated, six months into his work for The Judge where his weekly feature Birdsies and Beasties appeared” (Wiki).

Check back tomorrow for numbers 10-1!

Cape Cod Living

My family has been spending time each year on the Cape since the 1930s. It is still our favorite place to be, and every time we go it feels more and more like home. This year, we rented out a beautifully restored (yet delightfully intact) rental on a Pond. There’s something so comforting about spending time in a place that was completed before the Revolutionary War was even over! You could feel the generations of people who had existed in the space just by walking through the door.



































The cottage was a bit tight for 15 people, but it was a mere 2 hour bike ride to Coast Guard Beach. We could kayak, canoe, or go for a swim in nearby Pilgrim Lake.

The Monday Blah Blah

Here are a list of the things that I recommend checking out to get you through everyone’s least favorite day of the week:

A Ballin’ Book: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America It’s the tenth anniversary of the release of Barbara Ehrenrich’s bestseller. Pick up the updated edition and rediscover Barbara’s journey trying to make it on the salary of a maid, Walmart associate, waitress, house cleaner, and a nursing home aide. You can also check out her appearance on Democracy Now! this morning with Amy Goodman. 

Video: “Our Deal” by Best Coast Drew Barrymore is back at it, directing this West Side story-esque version starring Chloë Moretz. You can see it here on Stereogum.

Link: The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting provides grant monies to assure that independent media outlets can share the often-silenced stories of our global society. Check out the article by Nicole Salazar on the state of Egypt on the untold stories page.

Movie Worth Watching: Crazy Stupid Love Despite the somewhat annoyingly repetitive trailer, this was one Steve Carell flick that I didn’t mind sitting through. A twist towards the end made it somewhat endearing, and it was only slightly cheesy. Besides, Emma Stone is in it–I repeat–Emma Stone. Enough said. 

Song Stuck in My Head: “What’s Now is Now” off of Cake’s Showroom of Compassion album

Have a not-so-miserable Monday everyone. 

Backpacks and Totes

I hate how early the “back to school” shopping season begins, but this may be the first one where I’m feeling left out.

If you buy a pack on the early side, you’ll save some cash and strap something onto your kid or yourself that won’t be seen all over the hallways. It’s always worthwhile to give back or go green to break the supply list routine. (Ignore my rhyming).

Aren’t you sick of donating to Jansport and L.L. Bean every few years? I’m a fan, don’t get me wrong, but they get boring. I’ve compiled my list of bags and totes that I would buy if I were ten, sixteen, or….(mumbles)….

1) Ugly Doll Tote- Orange $6 A recyclable, green, and Ugly yet cute tote uglydolls.com

2) I ‘Heart’ NPR Insulated Tote $18 Support excellent programming while keeping your lunch fresh shop.npr.org

3) Paint-Splatter Tote $60 For the newspaper buff who just can’t throw them away momastore.org 

4) Elephant Tote Bag $28 From a fair trade site you won’t forget tenthousandvillages.com

5) ‘Mudra & Lotus’ Monk Backpack $42 Lightweight and definitely something to contemplate zenike.org

6) Scoop Backpack $50 A kid’s classic that is guaranteed to be durable                      kipling-usa.com

7) Aliens Kids Backpack $30 Great for guys, but girls can dig aliens, too nationaloutdoors.net

8 ) Tiger Tribe Backpack-Owl in Tree $32 It has a tree on it, and it’s pink. I need not explain. littletots@teens.com.au

9) Mimi the Sardine Organic Cotton Kids Backpack-Propeller $40 Works as a tote and a backpack ecocentricbags.com

10) Skip Hop Zoo Pack $20 If you want to force your kid into hipsterdom…for better or worse amazon.com

Southbound Shakedown Shoutout

Okay, so I’m a little bit biased, but my delightful friend Claire Pettit is apart of a bluegrass band out of Amherst, Massachusetts that is incredibly share-worthy. She may kill me for posting this, but que sera.

She was in town for just a few days and I was privileged to spend even an afternoon with such an intrepid and independent young woman (sorry, I’m getting gushy).  After sitting on our village green for a while discussing life’s simple pleasures, we sat in her car listening to Southbound Shakedown’s entire first album.

The tracks felt like home, but also like a camping trip to a place that I’d never been to and probably wouldn’t want to leave behind. “Roll Up the Rugs” is a comfortable live album that, for me, epitomizes transitioning into “real world living” without giving up all the best parts about being young. Thanks guys (and especially Claire) for reminding me what great music with a pinch of camaraderie sounds like!

Please buy their album on Band Camp; you will not regret this purchase. Thanks!